We awoke this morning to tall cliffs of basalt glowing orange in the early morning light as they rose above the Columbia River. After breakfast, we set sail and passed through the Wallula Gap, a narrow opening in a large wall of rock that rises above the river. We learned about the fascinating geological history of this area and its relationship to the ancient cataclysmic floods that carved the surrounding landscape before we continued up the river for the rest of the morning. Just before lunch, we passed through the locks at McNary Dam and got a quick look at the large fish ladder that allows migrating salmon to bypass the dam. After lunch, we made our way down the river to the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge for an afternoon of exploration. We explored the shoreline by kayak and got a close-up perspective of the riverside vegetation, including sedges, legumes, willows, and cottonwood trees. As the sunny afternoon continued, we gathered on Zodiacs to explore the channels around the small islands in the wildlife refuge. We saw an amazing diversity of migrating birds and waterfowl, including coots, white pelicans, bald eagles, osprey, crows, ducks, flickers, and Canadian geese. We crossed the river and were amazed to watch thousands of snow geese take flight and fly overhead along the river. After this incredible display of wildlife, we headed back to the ship to unwind with some drinks and a view of a stunning sunset. After dinner, we learned about the Lewis and Clark expedition along the Columbia River before we headed off to bed.
National Geographic Sea Bird
O! the Joy! Hmm, we needed to rethink that one this morning, as we woke to a rainy and blustery Astoria. What this weather did give us was a taste of historic authenticity in relation to the Corps of Discovery and their experiences here in the winter of 1805-06. Our first activity this morning was amongst the magnificent exhibits of the Columbia River Maritime Museum. This world-class facility tells the story of the mighty Columbia and the treacherous results to mariners when the river shoves against the incoming tides of the Pacific Ocean. As our day progressed, we crossed the Astoria-Megler bridge to the state of Washington. At the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center the winds continued but the rain subsided, and we enjoyed a sun-drenched afternoon with an option to walk a forest trail down to Waikiki Beach. The sun and sand were a siren to us and we made an additional stop at the North Jetty to get a water-level view of the waves crashing against the rocks of the Cape Disappointment lighthouse. The day turned out anything but disappointing.