By dawn, our ship is anchored at the mouth of the Palouse River. This is a clear and gentle tributary to our main route on the Snake River. Today’s activities are ready to begin. Voyagers travel up the Palouse in inflatable boats. They pass through the rushes and around the bend to view birdlife in the cottonwood, hackberry, and red sumac. Both golden eagles and American bald eagles live here.

 We then bus five miles upriver to the Palouse Falls, where we walk around its upper edge in amazement. The 205-foot falls begins about 150-feet below the lip of the canyon, falling into a deep, circular cup. The pool at the bottom of the falls is surrounded by a ring of green plants that contrast with the surrounding tans and browns of the spent plants at the end of a hot summer. The theory is that the falls create mist, and the freezing and thawing of that moisture on the neighboring rocks cause them to erode in this rounded way.

Back to the ship, the adventurous climb into kayaks to paddle the reflective waters. Others hike through the park in search of the California quail hiding in the shrubs. Our day ends with a passage through Lower Monumental Lock, which draws viewers to the bow.

Locks are like an elevator of water that move National Geographic Sea Bird, massive barges, or cargo ships down the steepest parts of the river without harm.