The familiar sounds of National Geographic Sea Lion smoothly pulling up to dock woke us this morning as we approached our mooring in Clarkston, WA. Our final full day has brought us to the limits of navigability on the Snake River, where it pours out of Hells' Canyon to the south and meets the Clearwater River rushing down from the Rocky Mountains to the east. Near here the Corps of Discovery had found friendly Nez Perce people, and a welcome respite after their perilous crossing of the mountains in the autumn of 1805. We have a chance today to explore some of this history, as well as gain a glimpse into the modern culture and economies of the valley.
National Geographic Sea Lion
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.