Sometimes the best stops on the river are right in the middle. Umatilla Wildlife Reserve is a series of small wetland isles created when the John Day Dam was constructed. The flooding of the area destroyed wildlife habitats, so the state of Washington set aside over 23,000 acres of protected lands. Guests enjoyed a morning Zodiac cruise around the islands in search of raptors and waterfowl.

Later in the afternoon, we explored another mid-river gem. Crowe Butte offers a spectacular chance for guests to experience the scrublands of Eastern Washington. The building of a downriver dam has swollen the Columbia River, turning Crowe Butte into an island when it used to be bluff with the Columbia River running to the south. Bridge access allows for weekend warriors to drive a trailer with a boat or an RV to the area for camping or recreation, while trails provide great views of the surrounding area. Western meadowlarks sing their melodies on the grassy hillside and great horned owls can be seen near the campground where they have made a nest.