Travelling up the Columbia River is a story of changes. Over broad swaths of time, the building of the continent, the laying down of the basalt rocks, the uplift of mountains, and the scouring of the landscape by sweeping floods, all set the stage for the landscape we see. The vegetation and the associated fauna have dramatically changed from the wet and mild coastal climate to a rain shadowed dry oak forest and grasslands. The human imprint of different people, their movements, their industry and trade, their imagination, are strong here. We are in Hood River with a full day of excursions before returning to the upriver journey of National Geographic Sea Lion.
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.