Our final full day of excursions was based in Astoria. The oldest continuously occupied settlement west of the Rocky Mountains, it has been a key access point for maritime trade for goods and natural resources throughout the Columbia River Basin. We have reached the westernmost limit of our journey, as it was for the Corps of Discovery during the winter of 1805–6. We began with a visit to the Columbia River Maritime Museum, then had a fine day out, visiting the historic site of Fort Clatsop, Fort Stevens, and the beach at the wreck of the Peter Iredale, an iron bark driven ashore during a storm in 1906. With unusually clear skies and a stiff offshore breeze, how fitting to conclude the day and our week of exploration with a sunset cruise out towards the mouth of the "Great River of the West." We safely returned, of course, avoiding any difficulties in an area known for its swirling currents and shifting sands, then started the overnight transit, up river, to our last port-of-call in Portland, Oregon.
National Geographic Sea Lion
This morning the wind and rain at the western end of the Columbia River Gorge did not deter our ensemble from gathering on the bow in bright and waterproof colors to witness our eighth and final lock and dam – the mighty Bonneville Dam, completed in 1938. We then passed by Beacon Rock on the Washington shore, followed by the iconic Multnomah Falls on the Oregon side. After lunch the weather turned sunny and guests gathered on the aft 100 level to enjoy hot apple cider with additional libations of their choice. Mount St. Helens made a brief surprise appearance, peaking above the clouds as we narrowed the distance to the mouth of the Columbia.