At 6:00 on this brisk morning as National Geographic Quest makes her way downstream on the Snake River, the constellation Orion stands high in the southern sky as the palest light of dawn glows on the eastern horizon. By 7:00 we are dropping anchor at the Palouse River’s confluence with the Snake. In the growing light we see, rising on either side of the river, dark, layered basalt cliffs trimmed out by the pale, buff-colored grasses of autumn. Here we make preparations for our day of adventures: visiting Palouse Falls where the water of the Palouse River leaps over a precipice of basalt and plunges 198 feet down its tumultuous green plunge pool below; kayaking on still water with Canada geese; taking Zodiac tours upstream into the Palouse River and into the rugged and beautiful Palouse Canyon, carved by Ice Age floods into bold cliffs that rise high above the river.
National Geographic Sea Bird
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
In the morning, passengers aboard National Geographic Sea Bird visited the beautiful Multnomah Falls and the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. The falls, located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, provided a stunning backdrop for the excursion. Guests were thrilled to see the waterfall in person. It is considered one of the most beautiful and popular natural attractions in the region. The falls were particularly breathtaking due to recent rainfall in the area, which created a misty, ethereal atmosphere around the waterfall. Perhaps the most unbelievable part of the morning was the weather; many of us wore shorts as we admired the snowcapped peaks beneath warm, bluebird skies. After the falls, we navigated downhill toward the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. Named for the adventurous Benjamin Bonneville, the hatchery’s most famous inhabitant is a guy of adventure himself. Herman the Sturgeon is over 80 years old, and he has survived the construction of a dam, pollution, a kidnapping attempt, a stabbing, and even an explosion. Despite his age and hardships, Herman remains a beloved icon of the region, and efforts continue to protect and conserve his species. After a delicious lunch, we hiked the Mosier tunnels, where guests were excited to go birdwatching and learn about the rich history of the tunnels. Much like Herman the Sturgeon, those trapped in the tunnels during the blizzard of 1921 endured great hardships, but they, too, have become regional symbols. Soon after, the ship cruised toward Portland for disembarkation. As we made our way along the river, passengers were treated to stunning views of the surrounding landscape, including the iconic Portland skyline. Naturalists Jesse Humbert and Larry Prussin provided commentary on the history and culture of the region, pointing out landmarks and answering questions from the passengers. As the ship drew closer to Portland and our expedition draws closer to its finale, the memories made on this final day are sure to stick with us for years to come.