From Portland to Multnomah Falls

Sep 24, 2019 - National Geographic Quest

Leaving Portland before dawn, we sailed down the Willamette River towards its confluence with the Columbia. Passing under several bridges, we glimpsed workers beginning their day on the waterfront. One of the more interesting sights was the huge floating dry dock located on the northern end of Swan Island. This immense structure, the largest in the world, is a floating platform used to service and repair ships from many countries. We saw the American naval vessel Cape Horn in the dock. Numerous workers were already hard at work as we sailed passed in the early morning light.

Upon reaching the Columbia River, we turned right and sailed eastward toward our destination near the Bonneville dam. Along the way, we kept our eyes open for interesting landmarks, birds and other wildlife. A light mist outside kept the crowd low on the bow and many stayed inside to enjoy lectures from our naturalists. Jeff Grover spoke on the geology of the Columbia River, and Adam Maire spoke about the pros and cons of dams on the Columbia and the Snake River.

We left National Geographic Quest after lunch to explore two local sites, Multnomah Falls and the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. The falls are an amazing site and one of the most popular attractions within the Columbia River Gorge. The water, sourced from perennial springs near Larch Mountain, falls from a hanging valley 620 feet above the river: It is the tallest waterfall in the gorge and the sixth tallest in the world.

Our other stop at the fish hatchery provided guests an opportunity to view the rearing pens for salmon and rainbow. We also saw the amazing Herman the sturgeon – a 10-foot-long, 500-pound, 75-year-old sturgeon and local Columbia River celebrity. As Holly Murry would say, it was an amazing sight and another wonderful day in a world-class location!

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About the Author

Jeffrey Grover


Jeff's early introduction to the science of geology came from exposure to his grandfather’s extensive mineral collection and his vivid stories of work in the mines of Aspen Colorado.  From this informal beginning, Jeff earned degrees in geology from the University of Southern California (B.S.) and the University of Arizona (M.S.) where he focused on tectonics and structural geology.  Upon graduation, he worked as a petroleum geologist, and as an engineering geologist engaged in landslide and earthquake hazard mitigation.  He is licensed as a registered geologist in California.

About the Photographer

Brenda Tharp

Brenda Tharp

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

For over 20 years, Brenda has used her photographs of the world to celebrate its beauty, and inspire others to protect what we have. Brenda grew up exploring the woods, lakes, and coastlines of New Jersey and New England and her family traveled regularly throughout the eastern U.S., camping, hiking, backpacking, and canoeing. She spent most of her childhood engaging with nature in some form or another and learning about animal behavior. When her father taught her some photography at 13, Brenda soon combined her love for nature with her newfound passion, and several years later her adventure began as a freelance photographer, teacher, and writer.

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