After departing Portland, Oregon last evening, National Geographic Quest sailed down the lower Columbia River in lovely, calm, and clear conditions to Astoria, where the “Great River of the West” meets the North Pacific Ocean. We spent the day exploring both the human and natural histories of this region. Although the area was home to Native Americans for thousands of years, much of the northwestern portion of North America was unknown to Europeans until the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Not long after ship-borne explorers from Spain, Russia, Great Britain, and the United States drew in the outlines mapping the coast, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the Corps of Discovery across the plains, over the mountains, and down the river from the east to this area, their westward most point. For us, a short bus ride away on the north side of the mouth of the Columbia River, the Washington State Park at Cape Disappointment includes dramatic headlands, massive spruce trees, sandy beaches, and the fascinating story of the expedition as told at the Lewis and Clark Discovery Center. In Astoria, we visited the Columbia River Maritime Museum, which filled in the story of exploration, commerce, fishing, and timber that shaped this region. We reveled in the expansive views at the Astoria Column perched on a hill above town.
National Geographic Sea Bird
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.