Jim Pfitzer, Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor
02 Oct 2021
Astoria, Oregon, 10/2/2021, National Geographic Sea Lion
National Geographic Sea Lion
The day dawned foggy misty and rather cold, and like all days on the National Geographic Sea Lion, things just got better and better. We zipped all over the lower Columbia Valley and visited Fort Stevens, the only place on the U.S. mainland shelled during WW2. We learned about the gun emplacements and the guns themselves and some of the men who operated them. The grounds of Fort Stevens proved to be the best cedar waxwing viewing grounds we have come across, also lots of ravens. We then visited the forlorn wreck of the Peter Iredale, beautiful and poignant.
Fort Clatsop is always a sort of a high-energy place to visit because Lewis and Clark were right here! We talked Lewis and Clark and all things temperate rain forest. We identified some useful plants that grow near the fort and what they are used for both then and now. A very good day on the lower Columbia!
Owen B Walker was born in Moab, Utah and raised in very rural North Idaho. He graduated high school in Palmer, Alaska, where Northwest Native Art first stirred his soul. After achieving a degree in Sociology/Anthropology from Western Washington Unive...
An autodidact, Jim has spent a lifetime studying and exploring what he refers to as “the intersection of human progress and wildness.” Stumbling on the writings of Aldo Leopold in his early twenties—namely Leopold’s essay Thinking Like a Mountain —la...
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.
A foggy morning greeted National Geographic Sea Bird as it sat along the Lyons Ferry State Park at the confluence of the Palouse River. After breakfast, guests departed for the shore to transfer to a shuttle to Palouse Falls State Park. The remaining guests departed for a Zodiac tour of the river and canyonlands below Palouse Falls. To access the river system, skilled drivers were required to navigate through a series of shallow areas created by the deposition of loess from the Missoula floods. Before entering the tributary, Zodiacs passed by the site of a major archeological discovery within North America. The excavation of Marmes Rockshelter revealed evidence of human occupation from as many as 11,230 years ago, including evidence of extensive trading and a cremation hearth, a common burial practice for Stone Age peoples. As Zodiacs quietly moved up the river system, several animals were discovered throughout the riparian zone, including golden eagles, porcupines, waterfowls, woodpeckers, pheasants, and even mule deer. After lunch, groups switched locations to give everyone a chance to explore the surrounding area. When guests arrived back at the ship, National Geographic Sea Bird pulled anchor and departed for the Clarkston location with only three bridges and two dams left along the journey.
National Geographic Sea Bird climbed up the Columbia River. The ship made its way from the temperate rainforest across the deep and narrow basalt cliffs of the Columbia Gorge and into the dry sagebrush-steppe landscape of Crow Butte. The transformation took just a few hours. As the sun rose across the sharply edged riverine lines, guests sipped coffee and enjoyed breakfast. Afterwards, we enjoyed an expert talk on “Soils and Raptors” by naturalist and “Raptor Extraordinaire,” Zoey Greenberg. Emerging from Celilo Falls and the Long Narrows, we shuttled upstream to Crow Butte Island. Guests enjoyed aerobic nature walks around the island in the morning. Returning to National Geographic Sea Bird , guests enjoyed an afternoon of cruising through the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge and educational presentations on “Salmon, Dams, and the Columbia River Treaty,” by Patrick MacQuarrie, river historian, and “Geology of the Columbia River Basin,” by the multitalented naturalist wizard, Jesse Humbert. Crow Butte and the refuge offered a plethora of birdlife for the guests’ enjoyment, including grebes, great blue herons, double-crested cormorants, American white pelicans, bald eagles, northern harriers, red-tailed hawks, kestrels, and several types of geese, including snow geese, cackling geese, and Canada geese. We also spotted buffleheads, widgeons, mallards, coots, gulls, and several sparrows. While naturalists wooed the “Sea Bird Nation” with natural science and history stories, the ship transited McNary Lock. The lock lifted National Geographic Sea Bird up 75-feet into Lake Wallula, eventually passing Wallula Gap and entering the Snake River by dinner. Once again, National Geographic Sea Bird made the once impossible journey possible. This was first accomplished by Lewis and Clark in 1805 and 1806 on their historic journey to open the West to a young and eager country. Photographers: Patrick MacQuarrie, River Historian and Naturalist ; Dr. Robert Jason, Guest ; and Kim Nesbitt, Photo Instructor