The Snake & Palouse Rivers

An Ice Harbour lock passage was the first event of a busy day. To our immense pleasure, the skies were clear and temperatures brisk as we made our way north, then east, on the Snake River. Time on the bow watching for bird life and river life was interspersed with a presentation about what exactly Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery ate while on their epic journey in these lands, and an eye-opening explanation of the Ice Age floods of over 12,000 years ago.

As a deck barbecue was served, we sailed under the longest, tallest, narrowest trestle train bridge in North America before dropping anchor in Lyons Ferry State Park.

This was all in preparation for our afternoon visit to Palouse Falls. To us in our diminutive human scale and perspective, the fall of water over the rim into a canyon seems huge and over-powering. However, put into the scale of what occurred those thousands of years ago, one has to accept it is today merely a trickle of water. During the Missoula floods, barely a dimple would have been noticeable in the surface mass of water to indicate where the 600 foot waterfall now stands. While on its race to the sea, the water below the surface of the roiling floodwaters dug a deep pit, now a large pool which receives the fall of water as easily as a faucet stream into a bucket.

On return to the banks of the Palouse, the Zodiacs were ready to carry us off down the tranquil lake created by the Lower Granite dam a few miles below us. The Palouse River was originally a small, modest river when Lewis and Clark passed by in 1805 on their way down the Snake on their way to the coast. Today the water backed up by the dam has created an area of wetlands, still, deep water and cliffs. Without a breath of wind, columnar basalt walls reflected in this most liquid of mirrors. Western grebes and coots made the only ripples as they dove, flew and paddled.

Kayakers started from close to the upper end of the lake and paddled all the way to the ship, so calm were conditions. On our way home for wine and fruit-tasting, a bald eagle started chasing coots instead of fish. They managed to defy his superior flying skills by diving to escape. We admit to rooting for the eagle, as there seemed to be plenty of coots in the area.