In the growing light of morning, National Geographic Quest makes her way downstream toward our destination at the confluence of the Snake and Palouse Rivers. Dark cliffs of layered basalt trimmed with the buff-colored grasses of autumn loom on either side of the river. The rounded hills, covered with these grasses, were described by Lewis and Clark as, “Those brown velvet hills,” and that describes them beautifully. On this sunny and beautiful fall day, we anchor on the Snake River, take Zodiacs to shore, and set out on our motor coaches to Palouse Falls. This cataract falls 198 feet into a green plunge pool below. We have time to investigate the local plants and do some birdwatching, and we take many photos of the falls and the gorgeous Palouse River Canyon.

The weather holds in the afternoon, and Palouse Canyon awaits us. We launch our Zodiacs again for a ride upstream on the Palouse River. Bold basalt cliffs rise steeply on either side of the river as eagles soar overhead, and we see a coyote crossing a talus slope on its way over the hill. This is perhaps the most beautiful part of our journey, and the scenery is unsurpassed.