Our final full day of excursions was based in Astoria. The oldest continuously occupied settlement west of the Rocky Mountains, it has been a key access point for maritime trade for goods and natural resources throughout the Columbia River Basin. We have reached the westernmost limit of our journey, as it was for the Corps of Discovery during the winter of 1805–6. We began with a visit to the Columbia River Maritime Museum, then had a fine day out, visiting the historic site of Fort Clatsop, Fort Stevens, and the beach at the wreck of the Peter Iredale, an iron bark driven ashore during a storm in 1906. With unusually clear skies and a stiff offshore breeze, how fitting to conclude the day and our week of exploration with a sunset cruise out towards the mouth of the "Great River of the West." We safely returned, of course, avoiding any difficulties in an area known for its swirling currents and shifting sands, then started the overnight transit, up river, to our last port-of-call in Portland, Oregon.
National Geographic Sea Bird
In the morning, passengers aboard National Geographic Sea Bird visited the beautiful Multnomah Falls and the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. The falls, located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, provided a stunning backdrop for the excursion. Guests were thrilled to see the waterfall in person. It is considered one of the most beautiful and popular natural attractions in the region. The falls were particularly breathtaking due to recent rainfall in the area, which created a misty, ethereal atmosphere around the waterfall. Perhaps the most unbelievable part of the morning was the weather; many of us wore shorts as we admired the snowcapped peaks beneath warm, bluebird skies. After the falls, we navigated downhill toward the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. Named for the adventurous Benjamin Bonneville, the hatchery’s most famous inhabitant is a guy of adventure himself. Herman the Sturgeon is over 80 years old, and he has survived the construction of a dam, pollution, a kidnapping attempt, a stabbing, and even an explosion. Despite his age and hardships, Herman remains a beloved icon of the region, and efforts continue to protect and conserve his species. After a delicious lunch, we hiked the Mosier tunnels, where guests were excited to go birdwatching and learn about the rich history of the tunnels. Much like Herman the Sturgeon, those trapped in the tunnels during the blizzard of 1921 endured great hardships, but they, too, have become regional symbols. Soon after, the ship cruised toward Portland for disembarkation. As we made our way along the river, passengers were treated to stunning views of the surrounding landscape, including the iconic Portland skyline. Naturalists Jesse Humbert and Larry Prussin provided commentary on the history and culture of the region, pointing out landmarks and answering questions from the passengers. As the ship drew closer to Portland and our expedition draws closer to its finale, the memories made on this final day are sure to stick with us for years to come.