Our final day on this remarkable river trip is based in Clarkston, at the confluence of the Snake and the Clearwater Rivers, near the heart of Nez Perce country. First thing in the morning, we boarded locally operated jetboats for a tour deep into Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. The tour went south into the narrowest and deepest part of the canyon, beyond the junction with the Salmon River, the “River of No Return,” which flows freely throughout its entire length, crossing the mountains of Idaho. Lunch was catered at Garden Creek Ranch, a remote oasis of orchards and greenery, right where Idaho, Oregon, and Washington meet. Upon return to National Geographic Quest, we were treated to two aspects of local history and culture: stories and music of the Nimiipuu, or the Nez Perce people, and insights into winemaking and wine tasting from Coco Umiker, owner and winemaker at the local estate vineyard, Clearwater Canyon.
National Geographic Sea Bird
Our morning began alongside the dock in our final port of Clarkston, Washington with a glowing sky and flocks of migrating waterfowl inscribing Vs through the air. After breakfast, guests boarded 34-foot-long jet boats for an excursion along the Snake River to its confluence with the Salmon River, fondly known as the River of No Return. Along our journey we saw bighorn sheep, great blue herons, common mergansers, belted kingfishers, Canada geese, petroglyphs, wild turkeys, columnar basalt, swimming mule deer, and a bald eagle flying with a large salmon. We also enjoyed fortuitous timing and witnessed a fisherman hook an eight-foot-long sturgeon. After a long battle, he finally pulled it to the shallows for his whole family (and us) to see. As evening approached, we settled into the lounge for our final series of educational talks, featuring Nez Perce storyteller James Spencer and winemaker Coco Umiker, both of whom illuminated important contexts of the beautiful basin. Following our wine tasting with Coco, guests set off for their final on-board dinner. After dinner, we bid farewell through photos. Our photo instructor showcased a mosaic of moments from the week, otherwise known as the Guest Slideshow. Included in the slideshow were praying mantises, birds of prey, sunsets, and staff members being goofy, as per usual. We couldn’t be more grateful for our time together, all of us, during this last week of October 2022.