This morning on the National Geographic Quest, we woke at anchor on the shore of Crow Butte Island. This section of the Columbia River is comprised of Lake Umatilla, a reservoir created by the construction of the John Day Dam. Finished in 1971, the John Day is the newest of the Columbia River dams and resides some 30 miles downstream to our west.
As the backwaters of the dam rose, Crow Butte was isolated from the mainland and became an island. To utilize this significant landscape, the Army Corps of Engineers built a causeway to connect the island to mainland and develop it for recreation. Named for the early pioneer Crow Family who resided on this piece of land, it is now a complex of trails including a campground and docking area for pleasure craft.
Guests enjoyed exploring the area on guided hikes through rich sagebrush on rolling hills. We saw numerous species of birds and found signs of black-tailed deer with sightings in the distance. In addition to land-based operations, we explored the coastline via Zodiacs and braved the winds as we bounced along the waves.
After lunch, our ship weighed anchor and we cruised downstream to the John Day Dam. The lock we transited consists of the tallest drop of our voyage. At 110 feet we slowly descended the lock furthering our journey toward sea level. As the sun set, we continued west and reflected on a day well spent on the Columbia River.