This morning, we left National Geographic Sea Bird anchored at the confluence of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Our destination was Walla Walla, Washington. The local saying is, “the town is so nice, they named it twice.” Our visits included Fort Walla Walla, Three Rivers Winery, and the Whitman Mission Site. We successfully dodged the moisture-laden clouds that dusted the mountains to the east of us with a late spring snow. It was a beautiful backdrop to our day of exploration.
National Geographic Quest
After departing Portland, Oregon last evening, National Geographic Quest sailed down the lower Columbia River in lovely, calm, and clear conditions to Astoria, where the “Great River of the West” meets the North Pacific Ocean. We spent the day exploring both the human and natural histories of this region. Although the area was home to Native Americans for thousands of years, much of the northwestern portion of North America was unknown to Europeans until the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Not long after ship-borne explorers from Spain, Russia, Great Britain, and the United States drew in the outlines mapping the coast, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the Corps of Discovery across the plains, over the mountains, and down the river from the east to this area, their westward most point. For us, a short bus ride away on the north side of the mouth of the Columbia River, the Washington State Park at Cape Disappointment includes dramatic headlands, massive spruce trees, sandy beaches, and the fascinating story of the expedition as told at the Lewis and Clark Discovery Center. In Astoria, we visited the Columbia River Maritime Museum, which filled in the story of exploration, commerce, fishing, and timber that shaped this region. We reveled in the expansive views at the Astoria Column perched on a hill above town.