Columbia River, McNary Lock & Dam, Umatilla Refuge, 10/13/2021, National Geographic Sea Lion
National Geographic Sea Lion
Early this morning National Geographic Sea Lion was steaming downstream on the Columbia River toward the first of four dams and locks that we would be passing through on our voyage west. This lock, McNary, was opened in 1957 and created Lake Wallula on the upstream side of the dam. After transiting through the lock we continued down past the town of Umatilla, then on past the town of Irrigon, to the site of our afternoon activities: Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge!
Even though the wind was blowing a bit strong, our hearty guests ventured out in the Zodiacs to see what might be found on this large refuge. They were not disappointed, an assortment of waterfowl was staged on the waters, including at least several thousand snow geese, which put on a magnificent show as they exploded into the air en masse, circling overhead. Another great day on the Columbia River!
Rich Kirchner has worked as a naturalist in Antarctica, Alaska, the Bering Sea, Baja and the High Arctic, including Svalbard, Greenland, the Canadian Arctic and Iceland, along with other destinations. His 33 years as a professional wildlife photograp...
David Pickar is a native of Portland, Oregon. He studied anthropology at the University of Oregon, then spent several years working as a field archaeologist. Participating in excavations in countries like Jordan, Belize and Italy and in every corner ...
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.
A foggy morning greeted National Geographic Sea Bird as it sat along the Lyons Ferry State Park at the confluence of the Palouse River. After breakfast, guests departed for the shore to transfer to a shuttle to Palouse Falls State Park. The remaining guests departed for a Zodiac tour of the river and canyonlands below Palouse Falls. To access the river system, skilled drivers were required to navigate through a series of shallow areas created by the deposition of loess from the Missoula floods. Before entering the tributary, Zodiacs passed by the site of a major archeological discovery within North America. The excavation of Marmes Rockshelter revealed evidence of human occupation from as many as 11,230 years ago, including evidence of extensive trading and a cremation hearth, a common burial practice for Stone Age peoples. As Zodiacs quietly moved up the river system, several animals were discovered throughout the riparian zone, including golden eagles, porcupines, waterfowls, woodpeckers, pheasants, and even mule deer. After lunch, groups switched locations to give everyone a chance to explore the surrounding area. When guests arrived back at the ship, National Geographic Sea Bird pulled anchor and departed for the Clarkston location with only three bridges and two dams left along the journey.
National Geographic Sea Bird climbed up the Columbia River. The ship made its way from the temperate rainforest across the deep and narrow basalt cliffs of the Columbia Gorge and into the dry sagebrush-steppe landscape of Crow Butte. The transformation took just a few hours. As the sun rose across the sharply edged riverine lines, guests sipped coffee and enjoyed breakfast. Afterwards, we enjoyed an expert talk on “Soils and Raptors” by naturalist and “Raptor Extraordinaire,” Zoey Greenberg. Emerging from Celilo Falls and the Long Narrows, we shuttled upstream to Crow Butte Island. Guests enjoyed aerobic nature walks around the island in the morning. Returning to National Geographic Sea Bird , guests enjoyed an afternoon of cruising through the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge and educational presentations on “Salmon, Dams, and the Columbia River Treaty,” by Patrick MacQuarrie, river historian, and “Geology of the Columbia River Basin,” by the multitalented naturalist wizard, Jesse Humbert. Crow Butte and the refuge offered a plethora of birdlife for the guests’ enjoyment, including grebes, great blue herons, double-crested cormorants, American white pelicans, bald eagles, northern harriers, red-tailed hawks, kestrels, and several types of geese, including snow geese, cackling geese, and Canada geese. We also spotted buffleheads, widgeons, mallards, coots, gulls, and several sparrows. While naturalists wooed the “Sea Bird Nation” with natural science and history stories, the ship transited McNary Lock. The lock lifted National Geographic Sea Bird up 75-feet into Lake Wallula, eventually passing Wallula Gap and entering the Snake River by dinner. Once again, National Geographic Sea Bird made the once impossible journey possible. This was first accomplished by Lewis and Clark in 1805 and 1806 on their historic journey to open the West to a young and eager country. Photographers: Patrick MacQuarrie, River Historian and Naturalist ; Dr. Robert Jason, Guest ; and Kim Nesbitt, Photo Instructor