National Geographic Sea Bird passed through the lock at McNary Dam on a bright and beautiful morning. In the early hours, we departed the confluence of the Snake River and the Great River of the West, the Columbia. We were bound for Crow Butte State Park. Dropping the anchor near Crow Butte Island, we launched Zodiacs and headed to shore for hikes in sagebrush steppe country. Big sagebrush, rabbit brush, and Russian thistles (or tumbleweeds), lined much of our path. The warm afternoon air through and around the sagebrush became more aromatic as the temperature rose. Meadowlarks sang their flute-like songs and it felt good to walk the landscape we had been seeing by ship.
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.