This morning aboard National Geographic Sea Bird, we awoke at anchor on the Columbia River. We were greeted by clear skies, cool temperatures, and a fantastic view to the west of Mount Hood. Shortly after breakfast, our bridge team navigated the vessel with skill and precision under the large guillotine-type lock gate as we made our way into the John Day Lock.

The John Day Lock, opened in 1971 at a cost of over 500 million dollars, is positioned over 200 river miles upstream from the mouth of the Columbia River near Astoria, Oregon. During our transit east, the vessel gained 113’ of elevation in one fell swoop. We also spent time on the bow, where we had informal discussions about green power generation in the Pacific Northwest. This led us to some mind-boggling statistics about the John Day Dam, including the annual power generation, which is over 8,400 gigawatt hours. If our back-of-the-envelope calculations are correct, this one dam could power over 700,000 homes when we assume the national average of 11,000-kilowatt hours per home.

The morning continued to deliver the gifts of exploration–lovely scenery, calm winds, bright sun, and clear skies. We are also starting to get a sense that we have left the wet, coastal vegetation behind and have entered into a more arid environment. A few naturalists spotted bighorn sheep on a talus slope on the Oregon side. We also enjoyed a few informative talks from our historian Robert Heacock and National Geographic guest speaker Stephen Cunha.

After lunch, we anchored near Crow Butte, a small island in the Columbia River just west of Boardman, Oregon. The group split up for a variety of walks across the expanse of sagebrush, typical vegetation of the region. After our walks, a few adventurous travelers took to the water and explored the shoreline by kayak.

Overall, it was a fantastic day spent traveling, learning, and exploring. Today has left us with a growing sense of curiosity. We are looking forward to a great evening and an action-packed day tomorrow as we continue to learn about this fascinating region.