As the sun rose across the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers, guests sipped coffee with breakfast on their first day aboard National Geographic Sea Bird. Fishing boats scuttled across the water while the first group of excited guests boarded jet boats that transported them 54 miles up the Snake River in Hells Canyon. Upriver, we spotted a majestic golden eagle perched upon a basalt outcrop along the river. This was a rare sight, as the eagles are usually found soaring high above the cliffs in the canyon. We passed several historic outposts, including Dug Bar where Chief Joseph led the Nez Perce across the Snake River from Oregon to Idaho.

Crossing the border into Oregon, we stopped at Cash Creek to enjoy a snack and beverage before continuing upstream to the confluence of the Salmon and Snake Rivers. Returning downriver, we enjoyed a rustic lunch at Garden Creek Ranch owned by the Nature Conservancy, then rocketed downstream to see a set of spectacular Native American petroglyphs estimated at over 7,000 years old. To cap off the day, we spotted bighorn sheep roaming down the steep slopes of the Snake River Canyon.

The other group of eager guests ventured into Nez Perce country on a wine and history tour. Driving up the Clearwater River, guests stopped to hear the Nez Perce story of “The Aunt and Yellow Jacket” before continuing onward to the Nez Perce National Historic Park. At the park, the history of the Nez Perce and their relationship to the land was passionately told through film and by informative park rangers. Guests were able to walk the grounds and visit native streams and the burial sites of Henry and Eliza Spalding, the earliest Presbyterian missionaries in the Pacific Northwest. After visiting the historic park, guests were treated to sumptuous wines and breathtaking landscapes at Rivaura and Lindsay Creek Wineries.

Today was a wonderful start to an epic, weeklong journey down the Snake and Columbia Rivers.

Photographers: Patrick MacQuarrie, Naturalist and River Historian, and Kimberly Baldwin, Naturalist