During the evening we met the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers and turned south onto the Columbia. By morning we were on approach to McNary Lock. There was virtually no wind, making it a perfect day to bring National Geographic Sea Lion through the lock for the first time, as our Third Mate Candace did so ably. Everything went flawlessly, and soon we dropped roughly 95 feet as the lock drained and continued our way westward.

The Umatilla Wildlife Refuge was our destination for Zodiac cruising and across the river we explored by kayak. With the early autumn sun on our face, we looked skyward for birdlife, but there was no need to look that high: Snow geese, Canada geese and white pelicans lined the shore and island fringes. The call of belted kingfisher, red-winged blackbird and Canada geese rang through the air.

In all a perfect day for embracing the relaxed pace of river time, cruising at water-level with Zodiacs and kayaks.