At 6:00 on this brisk morning as National Geographic Quest makes her way downstream on the Snake River, the constellation Orion stands high in the southern sky as the palest light of dawn glows on the eastern horizon. By 7:00 we are dropping anchor at the Palouse River’s confluence with the Snake. In the growing light we see, rising on either side of the river, dark, layered basalt cliffs trimmed out by the pale, buff-colored grasses of autumn. Here we make preparations for our day of adventures: visiting Palouse Falls where the water of the Palouse River leaps over a precipice of basalt and plunges 198 feet down its tumultuous green plunge pool below; kayaking on still water with Canada geese; taking Zodiac tours upstream into the Palouse River and into the rugged and beautiful Palouse Canyon, carved by Ice Age floods into bold cliffs that rise high above the river.
National Geographic Sea Lion
From our docking in the Dalles, Oregon, guests from National Geographic Sea Lion traveled in buses along the Columbia River Historic Highway up to Rowena Crest. Commanding views from Rowena Crest highlighted the rapid change in vegetation from the temperate rain forest climate to a semi-arid steppe climate. Leaving Rowena Crest, guests next arrived at the Mosier Tunnels. Built in the early 1920s, the tunnels incorporate designs from Europe and connect the west-to-east passage on the Columbia River Historic Highway. One group of guests hiked 4.5 miles east while the others hiked west up to the tunnels and walked back. Along the way our guests spotted turkey vultures, Steller’s jay, scrub jay, and a variety of plants beginning to wind down for autumn and winter. The afternoon started with a visit to the Columbia Discovery Center; we enjoyed a raptor presentation, as well as fascinating exhibitions on the natural and cultural history throughout the Columbia River Basin Gorge. Leaving the museum, guests were invited to visit Rock Fort where Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery camped on both their outbound and return journeys from the Pacific Ocean. Next we returned to National Geographic Sea Lion , where guests joined staff on the bow as we transited The Dalles Lock and Dam. Afterwards we enjoyed cocktail hour, recap, and dinner. We finished the evening with an expert presentation on smartphone photography from our certified photo instructor, Chelsea Mayer.