There are benefits to touring in the “off” season. We were able to secure seats on the “Landmarks of the Gorge” cruise on the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler this morning. Normally reservations are needed well in advance, but this time of year no problem. It can hold 500 passengers, but today there were only about 100 aboard. This was a 5 hour cruise that included continental breakfast and lunch buffet.
The Columbia River runs along much of the border between Washington and Oregon. We boarded on the Oregon side. The first thing we did was head down stream through the Bonneville Lock and Dam. We dropped 70 feet in about 12 minutes.
In the spring when the water level is higher the bridge at the end of the lock is not high enough to allow the sternwheeler to pass under it, so the bridge pivots to allow it to pass through. I would like to see that.
Just after the lock and dam is a fish by-pass. A screen upstream from the dam diverts the fish through tubes and they come out downstream here. There are fish ladders by the dam for the salmon that want to go upstream. They use the lower tube when the water level is lower and the upper tube when the water level is higher.
Beacon Rock is the exposed core of an ancient volcano and is considered the second largest monolith in the world, next to Gibraltar. The captain told us an interesting story of how the state wanted to blow it up to use it for road material, and how it became a state park instead.
We did see a few American Bald Eagles and a few sea lions. This one looked up at us and then went back to his nap.
Statues of Sacagawea and Seaman are on the grounds near the dock. Both were companions to Lewis & Clark when they explored this area.
After the cruise we took the scenic drive home, that brought us by several tall waterfalls.
We stopped at a few scenic viewpoints, it really was breathtaking to see it all like that. Vista House was opened in 1918 as a rest area and observatory and as a memorial to “the trials and hardships of those who have come into the Oregon country”, you can see up and down the Columbia River Gorge from here.
At Chanticleer Point we can see the Vista House on the bluff (Crown Point) in the distance.
- Gasoline: $30 @ $3.59
- Lodging: $15 (Passport America 50% discount)
- Cruise Cost: $169