Before dawn, National Geographic Quest passed through the Ice Harbor Dam. This was the last lock on the Snake River before the confluence with the mighty Columbia. As the sun began to rise, both sides of the basalt feature known as Wallula Gap were glowing. Grace Winer gave a presentation to further explain the observable geologic features we will see as we sail westward toward the Pacific. We reached McNarry Lock and Dam before brunch and most people were on deck to observe our descent. The entire day was spent onboard and offered informative talks, gorgeous scenery, or the perfect opportunity for a nap. The John Day Dam came into view in the late afternoon. This lock has the highest lift-to-drop in the United States at 110 feet, and is the most recent to be completed on the Columbia River in 1971.
National Geographic Sea Bird
Our morning began alongside the dock in our final port of Clarkston, Washington with a glowing sky and flocks of migrating waterfowl inscribing Vs through the air. After breakfast, guests boarded 34-foot-long jet boats for an excursion along the Snake River to its confluence with the Salmon River, fondly known as the River of No Return. Along our journey we saw bighorn sheep, great blue herons, common mergansers, belted kingfishers, Canada geese, petroglyphs, wild turkeys, columnar basalt, swimming mule deer, and a bald eagle flying with a large salmon. We also enjoyed fortuitous timing and witnessed a fisherman hook an eight-foot-long sturgeon. After a long battle, he finally pulled it to the shallows for his whole family (and us) to see. As evening approached, we settled into the lounge for our final series of educational talks, featuring Nez Perce storyteller James Spencer and winemaker Coco Umiker, both of whom illuminated important contexts of the beautiful basin. Following our wine tasting with Coco, guests set off for their final on-board dinner. After dinner, we bid farewell through photos. Our photo instructor showcased a mosaic of moments from the week, otherwise known as the Guest Slideshow. Included in the slideshow were praying mantises, birds of prey, sunsets, and staff members being goofy, as per usual. We couldn’t be more grateful for our time together, all of us, during this last week of October 2022.