Our journey began a week ago in Portland, Oregon. We made our way down the Willamette River to the confluence with the Great River of the West, the Columbia. Passing through eight locks on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, exploring along the way, we began today in Clarkston, Washington, just across the Snake River from Lewiston, Idaho.
Two jet boats took us into spectacular Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in North America, far surpassing the depth of the Grand Canyon. Our captains not only navigated the vessels up and down the river and through rapids, they also provided commentary throughout the day. Hells Canyon is far more than the great magnitude of its depth. With a long human presence, there are layers of history and culture. Natural history is rich and exciting. The scenery is stunning, sublime, and spectacular. Garden Creek, a Nature Conservancy preserve was our lunch stop. In addition to a great meal, Garden Creek offered nice walking opportunities.
Bighorn sheep and mule deer were the star mammals of the day. A bald eagle and large numbers of American white pelicans highlighted the avian sightings. Among the wildflowers, arrowleaf balsamroot stood out, occasionally covering hillsides with their bright yellow inflorescences.
Upon returning to National Geographic Sea Bird, Nez Perce storyteller JR Spencer (aka White Bull) spoke seriously, humorously, captivatingly, and inspiringly about the history and culture of his people. Coco Umiker of the Clearwater Canyon Cellars winery led a tasting. Ending a full and fulfilling day, our Guest Slideshow had its world premiere after dinner. A fitting end to a memorable voyage.