Travel Back to the Victorian Era with Un-Cruise Adventures
Most travelers who take a river cruise immediately become hooked on this fun and relaxing way to see the world. European river cruises have really taken off in the last decade, but North Americans who want to take a vacation closer to home should consider a river cruise in the Pacific Northwest.
I sailed a seven day cruise of the Willamette, Columbia, and Snake Rivers roundtrip from Portland on an Un-Cruise Adventures riverboat, and loved the diverse scenery, geology, activities, and especially the historical aspect of the cruise. Re-learning about the Lewis & Clark expedition of the early 1800's while visiting some of the places they camped and traveled gave me a new appreciation of how brave and adventuresome these explorers were.
Our journey was on the SS Legacy, an 88-guest replica coastal steamer, which enhanced the experience. The ship's interior and exterior is reminiscent of Victorian era riverboats, and the guides dressed in costumes, adding to the ambiance. The SS Legacy even has a western saloon called the Pesky Barnacle with draft beer and a poker table for those who want to immerse themselves even more into the history of the Pacific Northwest.
The Un-Cruise Adventures trip began in Portland, and the ship sailed down the Willamette to where it joined the Columbia River. Over the next week, the SS Legacy traveled upstream over 350 miles on the Columbia and Snake Rivers all the way to Lewiston, Idaho, passing through 8 locks on its voyage. In Lewiston, the ship turned around and we traveled back downstream about 465 miles all the way to Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia where it empties into the Pacific Ocean. This journey traced much of the last section of Lewis & Clark's adventure. Leaving Astoria, the SS Legacy sailed back upstream to Portland where we disembarked. The ship traveled through green mountains, rich agricultural areas, and dry desert--quite varied scenery!
Un-Cruise Adventures has two different itineraries on the SS Legacy that sail round-trip from Portland on 7-day cruises. The first is the "Legacy of Discovery" itinerary described in this article, and the second is the "Rivers of Wine", which features more wine tasting opportunities.
I'm not the only About.com Expert who has enjoyed a cruise on the SS Legacy. The About.com Tourism Expert sailed the same itinerary on the riverboat in 2013 and posted this review of the SS Legacy.
The next dozen pages provide detailed information on the ports of call, activities, and terrific meals we enjoyed on the SS Legacy of Un-Cruise Adventures.
Embarkation in Portland
Embarkation in Portland on the SS Legacy of Un-Cruise Adventures was easy. The company had set up a hospitality room at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel, which was conveniently located less than a block from where the riverboat was docked at the waterfront park on the Willamette River. The hospitality room had water and coffee, and the hotel had free WiFi in the lobby. (Reviews of Marriott Waterfront Hotel on TripAdvisor)
Many guests had a pre-cruise night at the hotel and just moved their bags downstairs to this secure room before going off to explore Portland. Others who had stayed elsewhere came to the hotel, dropped off their bags with the hospitality staff and also went off to tour this fascinating city. The hotel was close to the historic area of downtown and the Saturday market, so it was easy to find things within walking distance. Some on our ship booked a city tour from the hotel concierge to visit the famous rose garden, the Pearl District, trendy shopping areas, and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. I think everyone enjoyed the day in this city, and it was facilitated by having our luggage secured.
Everyone gathered at the hospitality room in the late afternoon for the 4:30 briefing. The Heritage guides and hotel director provided an overview of the rest of the day's events--mostly unpacking, a sunset sail away, dinner, and a briefing of the next day's activities.
Most of us walked the short distance to the ship, but a few rode a bus provided by Un-Cruise Adventures. As we boarded the ship, it was delightful to find our luggage already in the cabins. Like other Un-Cruise ships, cabins on the SS Legacy are not locked unless a guest specifically asks for a key. This promised to be a casual, relaxing vacation, so no fancy jewelry or clothing was needed!
After un-packing, we gathered at 5:30 for happy hour in the lounge before dinner. The lounge opens onto the outdoor decks, so many drifted outdoors to say farewell to Portland. During the cocktail hour, we had the mandatory lifeboat drill and then had open seating dinner with tables of 4 or 6. Dinner was excellent. This first night we had a spinach salad with goat cheese and strawberries, followed by a choice of grilled salmon, pork tenderloin, or a vegetarian option. Dessert was a chocolate concoction. Since the cruises focus on the history of the Pacific Northwest, Lewis & Clark, Native American cultures of the region, and the Columbia and Snake Rivers, the SS Legacy has a “Heritage Leader” rather than a cruise director. He has three assistants or Heritage Guides who also do the nightly programs with him. The first night was kind of an overview of the cruise and the next day's schedule and was about 45 minutes long.
Those of us from the east coast were in bed early since we still hadn't acclimated to the Pacific Time Zone. Early the next morning the SS Legacy passed through the first of eight locks on the Columbia and Snake Rivers and we were at the Bonneville Lock and Dam.
More on Portland
Bonneville Lock, Dam, and Power House
After sailing about 40 miles overnight from Portland, the SS Legacy arrived at the Bonneville Lock and Dam, which is operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Before disembarking for a tour of the Bonneville Dam Visitor Center, the small Un-Cruise Adventures ship passed through the first of eight different locks on the Columbia and Snake Rivers that we saw over the next two days (and nights) on the ship.
Each day, the ship had early riser breakfast starting at 6:30 am in the lounge and a stretching class on the sun deck at 7:30. Breakfast was served in the dining room at 8:00 am each day. It always featured a special egg dish (usually an omelet of some sort) and a second special like pancakes, biscuits and gravy, or French toast. Other items were also available, and some guests just asked for a "half and half"--some of each special. This option was also popular at lunch and dinner. Our first breakfast specials were a spinach and Mozzarella omelet and pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes.
Tour of Bonneville
The goal of the Bonneville project was to improve navigation on the Columbia River and to deliver hydroelectricity to the Pacific Northwest. At the time Bonneville was completed in 1938, the powerhouse, spillway, and navigation lock were one of the country's largest public works projects and part of President Roosevelt's program to provide jobs to American workers during the Depression. About 3,000 people worked at Bonneville from 1933 to 1938, and many other jobs were added in other locations around the USA to build the turbines, generators, etc. The government completed a second powerhouse in 1981, and a larger navigation lock in 1993. The first powerhouse had two generators, the newer one has ten.
Passengers on the SS Legacy boarded a bus for the short ride to the Bonneville visitor center, and one of the Corps of Engineers park rangers gave a briefing about how hydroelectricity works. He said it was the same briefing given to elementary school groups, so most of us got the gist of the information. We then toured the facility, checking out the fish ladder used by salmon and other fish to go around the powerhouse turbines. Everyone enjoyed going downstairs in the visitor center to view the fish going up the ladder and learning how the fish are hand counted by humans who have to also identify the species. It's harder than it sounds.
I especially enjoyed seeing Table Mountain and hearing how a humongous landslide, believed to be the largest on North America, once spilled down this mountain and blocked the Columbia River. Scientists have used radiocarbon dating of a large fir tree buried at the bottom of the rubble to determine that the landslide probably occurred between 1550 and 1750, so it wasn't that long ago in geological time. They are certain that the landslide was caused by an earthquake, perhaps one offshore in the Pacific Ocean. This landslide formed a dam whose undercarriage was ultimately eaten away by the water and evolved into a land bridge over the Columbia. However, the river was significantly narrowed, which led to the Cascade Rapids that travelers like the Lewis and Clark expedition had to portage around.
Those visiting Bonneville might be surprised (as I was) to see sea lions at the base of the powerhouse. These sea mammals swim 145 miles upstream from where the Columbia River pours into the Pacific Ocean for a feast of disoriented fish who have come through the turbines or out of the fish ladder. This has to be somewhat upsetting to those who have worked so hard to restore habitat and increase the numbers of salmon moving upstream to spawn.
Before returning to the SS Legacy for a delicious lunch, the buses stopped at Multnomah Falls.
More on Bonneville Lock and Dam
- Bonneville Photo Gallery
- Columbia Gorge and Bonneville Photo Gallery from About.com Guide to Walking
- Historic Columbia River Highway
- Fun Things to Do on the Oregon Side of the Columbia River Gorge
- Outdoor Activities on the Oregon Side of the Columbia River Gorge
Stopover at Multnomah Falls on the Columbia River
Multnomah Falls is just a short distance from the Bonneville Lock and Dam but it's also less than an hour's drive from Portland and just off I-84, so is often busy with visitors. However, this spectacular 611-foot cascade is worth a stopover.
The historic lodge that sits at the foot of the falls was designed by the architect A.E. Doyle, completed in 1925, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. We only had about an hour at the falls, so not enough time to do any hiking. Our group did have free time to walk up to Benson's Bridge over the falls, take photos, and browse the gift shop.
The buses got us back to the SS Legacy of Un-Cruise Adventures just in time for lunch, and the ship continued its upstream voyage on the Columbia River.
More on Multnomah Falls
- Multnomah Falls Photo Gallery
- Multnomah Falls on the Columbia River Highway
- Multnomah Falls Hikes
Sailing on the Columbia and Snake Rivers
Columbia River Gorge
Leaving Multnomah Falls, the SS Legacy of Un-Cruise Adventures sailed through the spectacular Columbia River Gorge. The weather was gorgeous and the scenery breath-taking. We enjoyed our first lunch on the ship, a choice of a tuna salad or chicken teriyaki, with an apple crisp for dessert. Very tasty.
After lunch, many of us stayed outside on the decks, taking photos of the gorge as the scenery changed from mountains covered with trees to a drier climate. I love to watch the passing river views, and in addition to the dramatic riverbanks, we sailed through locks, under bridges and alongside trains. We sailed past Hood River, Oregon, and even caught a glimpse of Mt. Hood.
The afternoon passed by quickly, and soon it was time for cocktails followed by dinner. Dinner was a lentil soup, followed by a Balsamic rack of lamb, a seared Chilean sea bass with crispy garlic vinaigrette, or a Mediterranean quinoa stuffed Portobello mushroom. The main courses were accompanied by roasted Brussels sprouts and risotto. Many at our table got a half serving of the lamb and the sea bass or the sea bass and the mushroom. We also ordered extra Brussels sprouts since they were a favorite of several at the table. All were delicious, and the gingerbread cake with candied cranberries was a nice autumn dessert.
The presentation after dinner was an interesting one. Two of the Heritage guides participated. These professionals were quite informative and entertaining. The first played a Captain in World War II who worked at the Hanford Site on the Columbia River in Washington. This 500 square mile facility was established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project to develop a nuclear weapon. At one time Hanford had over 50,000 workers in 500 buildings, but only a handful knew exactly what they were working on.
The second Heritage guide played one of the "Rosie the Riveters" from World War II. She played the part of a welder at the Kaiser Shipyards in Portland. These brave women took on jobs previously held by men so that the men could enlist in military service. They were like the pioneers of the 19th century--going places and doing jobs no one dreamed a woman could do.
Both of these presentations set the stage for the rest to come over the week we were on the ship. Very enjoyable evening.
Lower Snake River
The next day we sailed all day. Just as the day started, we passed by the junction of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The SS Legacy took the Snake and we continued into a drier, more desolate land. The farm houses were few and the highways even fewer. The dry desert shoreline was mesmerizing, and many of the rock formations had unusual shapes. Many of these formations were given names by the early explorers to assist others on their river journeys. Travelers get creative in identifying landmarks when they can't provide GPS coordinates to those who follow. For example, does this look like a ship rock? Or a jelly fish rock?
After the morning stretch class and breakfast, we had a knot tying class that was as humorous as it was educational. That class was followed by a poker tournament in the Pesky Barnacle Saloon. Seven of us donned costume pieces from the box in the saloon (hats, vests, boas, etc.). The Captain was the dealer, and the game was Texas Hold 'Em. Although we didn't play for money, I am thrilled to report that I was the winner and therefore entitled to bragging rights the rest of the cruise.
Lunch was followed by a workshop where we strung bead necklaces. Many Native American tribes collected beads and the early explorers brought beads as gifts and to trade. What Lewis and Clark and others didn't know was that the Natives in the Snake River valley greatly preferred the blue beads to any other color. Interesting that they didn't bring just blue beads, but who would have guessed?
The rock formations of the region were so fascinating that I wasn't surprised to see a "Geology of the Northwest" presentation on the afternoon schedule. Science is always more interesting when you are seeing it first hand. Being inland on an Oregon river can make one forget the region is part of the geologically-active Pacific Ring of Fire. Just looking at the numerous volcanoes of Oregon and Washington is an excellent reminder.
In the late afternoon, we had a small Zumba class on the sun deck. I love to do Zumba at home, and it was enjoyable outside in the afternoon sun.
Between watching the river scenery slide by and attending activities on the ship, it was cocktail time before we knew it. The galley crew always had interesting snacks to go along with the evening drinks. Dinner was another good one--spinach salad with mandarin oranges, toasted pecans, and manchego cheese for an appetizer; chili braised osso buco or pan grilled rock fish with shitake slaw or chick pea au gratin for the main courses; herbed polenta and baby carrots for the vegetables; and raspberry rhubarb slump (like a cobbler) for dessert.
The after dinner presentation was "The Indianization of Lewis and Clark", where the Heritage Leader Ryan shared information about this significant expedition. I knew that Sacagawea played an important role, but never thought about how much copying the shoes and clothing of Native Americans facilitated the team's journey. Ryan's source of information was primarily a book of the same name written by Dr. William R. Swagerty Ph.D.
We had a busy day scheduled the next day--a jet boat ride up into Hells Canyon.
More on the Columbia and Snake Rivers
Hells Canyon on the Snake River
Lewiston, Idaho is at the end of the navigable section of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Lewiston has over 30,000 residents, is reachable by ocean-going vessels, and is Idaho's only sea port. I bet most people don't even know that seemingly-land-locked Idaho has a sea port! Of course, the town is 465 river miles from the Pacific Ocean, but river boats and cargo vessels make the trip routinely, passing through 8 locks with an elevation change of 725 feet above sea level going upstream from Astoria. In contrast, the locks of the Panama Canal only go up a total of 85 feet, so these are some deep locks!
The SS Legacy of Un-Cruise Adventures docked on the outskirts of town, within walking distance of a motel with WiFi and a Walmart. What more could river boat travelers ask for?
The SS Legacy docked in the early morning, and I enjoyed my now-usual routine of stretch class followed by breakfast. After breakfast, JR Spencer, a local Nez Perce Native American, come onboard to talk about his ancestors and perform some traditional songs. He was quite witty, and everyone enjoyed the presentation.
Hells Canyon on a Jet Boat
At 10 am, two small covered jet boats from Riverquest Excursions pulled along side the SS Legacy, and we boarded the boats for the long ride up the Snake River into Hells Canyon. Like all the other tours on this cruise, this one was included in the basic fare. Since we only had some class 1 and 2 rapids, the ride was smooth but still exhilarating as the narrow boats made their way upstream. The canyon scenery was spectacular.
We zipped along the river for about an hour and a half before stopping for lunch at Garden Creek Ranch, which was about 50 miles from where we started and on the Idaho side of the Snake River. We enjoyed a nice hot lunch at Garden Creek and had time to walk the grounds, check out some wild turkeys, stick our feet in the river, and even see a buck deer bedded down in the barn next to a John Deere tractor and a porta-potty!
Our group from the SS Legacy reboarded the boats and went further upstream into the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, stopping to watch some Rocky Mountain big horn sheep scampering across the cliffs. We turned around near the point where the Salmon River ran into the Snake (about a dozen miles into the Recreation Area), but were still over 60 miles from the Hells Canyon Dam. On the way back to Lewiston, we stopped at Cache Creek Ranch at the northern end of the Recreation Area. This is an administrative office, and we primarily stopped to take advantage of the pit toilets, but also had fun picking and eating figs and very sweet plums right off the trees. We left Cache Creek a little after 2:30 and stopped to look at some ancient petroglyphs from the boats before heading back to the SS Legacy, where we arrived by 4:30. I asked the boat driver how much fuel the jet boats used on this half-day adventure, and he said about 100 gallons--64 for the upstream trip and 36 back downstream. Quite a ride, and this is a trip that all ages can enjoy.
We had about an hour before sailing, so I walked over to the nearby motel and had a local beer in the bar while checking my email and this Website. Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres were at 5:30 (as usual) and dinner followed. It was another good meal with a butternut squash soup, honey mustard roasted leg of duck, zesty cilantro lime seared halibut, roasted tomato mushroom faro risotto, wild rice pilaf, broccolini, and pumpkin spice creme brulee. Yummy!
The program focused on the Whitman Mission where we visited the next afternoon after exploring Fort Walla Walla in the morning. As expected, the Heritage guide team did an excellent job of conveying this tragic story.
More on Hells Canyon
- Jet Boat Ride in Hells Canyon Photo Gallery
- ROW Adventures Whitewater Rafting in Idaho
- Idaho Travel Resources
- Walking with Llamas in Hells Canyon
Fort Walla Walla Museum
Walla Walla Overview
Walla Walla is a town of about 32,000 residents in the southern part of Washington only 13 miles north of the Oregon line. The town is 30 miles east of the Columbia River, so river boats like the SS Legacy of Un-Cruise Adventures dock in Burbank and guests are bused to Walla Walla. Other than its great name, Walla Walla was honored by USA Today and Rand McNally as the friendliest small town in the United States in 2011.
Walla Walla is also famous for its sweet onions and for the over 100 wineries in and around the town. (For those of you who are wondering, I'm not sure if there is a correlation between the "friendliest town" and the 100 wineries). Our group left the riverboat soon after breakfast and drove to visit Fort Walla Walla. The Heritage guides provided information on what we were to see and do on the bus ride, so the time passed by quickly.
Our visit to Walla Walla consisted of three very different activities: Fort Walla Walla, wine tastings, and the Whitman
Fort Walla Walla Museum
The Fort Walla Walla Museum is found on the grounds of a 19th century fort near the town. This museum includes galleries of Lewis & Clark, regional Indian peoples, military artifacts and a room of special exhibits in the main building; three exhibition halls filled with early farm equipment and videos of farming practices from the early 20th century; one exhibition hall with an antique fire engine and a mock-up cell from the Washington Territorial Prison in Walla Walla; and a pioneer settlement with over 15 buildings dating back to when the area was first settled by those who arrived by wagon train. Many of these old pioneer buildings have docents who provide information on their exhibit.
Although the grounds are quite large, visitors can ride between the various areas on golf carts driven by Walla Walla volunteers. Fort Walla Walla is a fun place to visit for all age groups. There were some school children there the day we visited, and they stood with mouths open gaping at the blacksmith demonstrate his skill and were amazed at the small size of the old one-room schoolhouse. A docent in one of the old one-room pioneer cabins said the children are always amazed to learn that everyone ate and slept in the same room. Guess the pioneers were the first to appreciate the "open-concept" home now deemed so desirable today. (Although open-concept homes do have separate bedrooms and indoor baths.)
After a couple of hours at Fort Walla Walla, the buses took us into town for a box lunch (prepared by the ship), wine tastings, and a visit to the Whitman Mission National Historic Site.
More on Walla Walla
Whitman Mission near Walla Walla
Walla Walla Wineries
Leaving Fort Walla Walla, the passengers from SS Legacy of Un-Cruise Adventures visited 2 of the over 100 wineries in Walla Walla. Not enough time to see them all! We were on two buses and each bus visited a different winery first, and then we switched.
Our bus visited the Foundry Vineyards first, where we had a box lunch and then enjoyed tasting some of the wines. This owner of the winery has been growing grapes in his vineyard since 1998 and opened this winery on the site of an old foundry in 2003. The building is particularly interesting since it also features some interesting, eclectic artwork.
Dunham Cellars was the second winery we visited. Its winery and wine shop are located in an old hangar at the Walla Walla airport. Like the Foundry, this building also has a very interesting decor. I think everyone enjoyed this "taste" of Walla Walla, and it certainly makes Un-Cruise Adventures' wine-theme cruise even more appealing.
History of the Whitman Mission
The Whitman Mission National Historic Site is 7 miles west of Walla Walla at Waiilatpu, "the place of the people of the rye grass". Marcus and Narcissa Whitman were newlywed missionaries in 1836 when they took their covered wagons west to start a Protestant mission. Along with another couple, Henry Spalding and his wife Eliza, they were the first American families to cross the continent overland. Their journey inspired many others to follow them on the Oregon Trail.
The Whitmans started their mission among the Cayuse at Waiilatpu and the Spaldings began theirs with the Nez Perce 120 miles to the east. The Whitman mission gradually expanded, adding a house, gristmill, traveler's house, and blacksmith shop. The Cayuse did not embrace religion or schooling, and by 1842 the Mission Board in Boston ordered the Whitman and Spalding missions closed because of dissension reports. Despite the arduous trip, Marcus Whitman went east, plead his case, and convinced the board to rescind the decision. This was unfortunate.
Marcus returned to Waiilatpu by wagon train in 1843, and he and Narcissa continued their work. However, the Cayuse grew tired of the increasing numbers of immigrants and worried that their way of life was going to change. The situation came to a head in 1847 when a measles epidemic struck. Over half the Cayuse tribe died since they had no resistance to the disease. Whitman's medicine seemed to help the white children, but not the Cayuse, and they soon believed that Whitman poisoned them.
On November 29, 1847, the Cayuse attacked the Whitman mission, killing 13 including Narcissa and Marcus. About 50 others living at the mission were taken captive. Although most of the captives were ransomed (three died from measles), this raid and killings ended the Protestant missions in Oregon.
When the news of the killings reached Washington, DC in the spring of 1848, many people began pushing Congress to grant Oregon territorial status. In August 1848, Congress created the Oregon Territory, which was the first formal territorial government west of the Rockies.
Whitman Mission National Historic Site
Today the Whitman Mission is a national historic site. The site is quiet and the rye grass has been restored, giving the whole place a rural, peaceful appearance. Visitors can tour the Visitor's Center and learn more about the missionaries, the Nez Perce, the Cayuse, and the Oregon Trail. In addition, a 27-foot monument honoring the Whitmans sits on a hill overlooking the Walla Walla Valley. The view from this hill is quite lovely and worth the hike up. Visitors can also see the site of the Mission House and other buildings although none of the originals still exist. The Great Grave contains the remains of those who died in November 1847. Be sure not to miss the wagon ruts that can still be seen in the old Oregon Trail route. There's something about seeing these marks that invokes memories of all the explorers and settlers who made their way west.
Passengers on the SS Legacy spent over an hour at the Whitman Mission before returning to the ship on the bus. Dinner was a spring mix salad with pickled fennel and apples, herb roasted tenderloin with a red wine demi glace, seared sea scallops with roasted tomato salad, a balsamic vegetable tofu Napoleon tower, toasted orzo, roasted zucchini and squash, and a west coast cheese cake with caramel sauce.
The SS Legacy was in The Dalles the next morning and the first place we visited was Sam Hill's Stonehenge.
More on Walla Walla and the Whitman Mission
Maryhill Stonehenge War Memorial near The Dalles
The Dalles is a Columbia river town in Oregon near the historic site of the Celilo Falls on the Lewis and Clark Trail. The town's official name is The Dalles, which came from the US Post Office. Oregon also has a town named Dallas (like the city in Texas), and many people misspelled both names, causing mail confusion. So, the Postal Service added a "The" to this one. "Dalles" comes from the French word for a paving stone called dalle and only has one syllable.
The Dalles is famous for three diverse industries not usually included on a tour--its creosote railroad ties, huge Google data center, and maraschino cherries. Because of Google, the entire town has free WiFi, and we even picked it up on our river boat. After seeing the huge vats of maraschino cherries alongside the road, I'm glad they are not a favorite food of mine. And, the creosote ties looked sticky and gooey. Of course, The Dalles has several wineries and a fascinating history because of its location on the Columbia River.
The SS Legacy of Un-Cruise Adventures docked near the downtown area of The Dalles in the early morning. After stretch class and breakfast, we left the ship on the buses, which followed us from port to port. How nice to see the same drivers each day! Our first stop was across the river in Washington at the Maryhill Stonehenge War Memorial.
Maryhill Stonehenge War Memorial
The Maryhill Stonehenge War Memorial was the first monument in the United States to those who lost their lives in World War I. Millionaire Sam Hill, who loved this region and was a patron of the area, built this full-scale replica of the original Stonehenge in England on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River. It honors the 13 Klickitat County soldiers who died in the first World War. Another monument nearby honors the Klickitat soldiers who died in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan.
Sam Hill's grave and modest grave marker is a short distance down the cliff below the Stonehenge Memorial. The views of the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood, and the vineyards along the river are spectacular.
Leaving the Stonehenge War Memorial, the buses transferred the SS Legacy passengers to the Maryhill Museum.
More on The Dalles and Stonehenge
Maryhill Museum of Art on the Columbia River near The Dalles
When he purchased 5000 acres of land on the Columbia River in 1907, Pacific Northwest entrepreneur Sam Hill planned to build an agricultural community and a home for his family. He named the project Maryhill after his daughter, but the house, which was completed in 1914, was never lived in as a home since his wife did not love the Pacific Northwest as Sam did. She was more comfortable in cities and spent most of her time there.
Sam was quite a world traveler, and he developed friendships with famed dancer Loie Fuller, Queen Marie of Romania, and San Francisco heiress Alma de Brettewille Spreckels. When Maryhill was finished and never lived in, Ms. Fuller persuaded Sam Hill to transform it into a museum. Unfortunately, neither of them lived to see the museum open in 1940, but Ms. Spreckels became a driving force for the facility and tirelessly worked for over 20 years on its permanent exhibits.
Today the Maryhill Museum is a fascinating place to spend a few hours. It is a varied collection, with some items like a throne and gown from Queen Marie, Sam Hill, and Loie Fuller. The museum also has an excellent collection of Native American artifacts, a gallery of Rodin sculptures and art, and other pieces. There's even a long wall full of fascinating cartoons and an exhibit of chess sets.
The guests from the SS Legacy of Un-Cruise Adventures returned to the riverboat for lunch before heading off on another bus excursion to the nearby Columbia Gorge Discovery Center.
More on The Dalles and Maryhill Museum
Columbia Gorge Discovery Center at The Dalles
Guests on the SS Legacy of Un-Cruise Adventures visited three interesting sights on our day docked in The Dalles--Stonehenge, the Maryhill Museum, and the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center.
This large facility overlooking the Columbia River Gorge is the official interpretive center of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and has exhibits on Native American culture, Lewis and Clark, flora and fauna of the region, and the Oregon Trail pioneers. There's also an interesting section of the building devoted to Ice Age theories, mega-mammals, and the geological formations of the Columbia Gorge during the Missoula Floods.
Although the exhibits are well done and interesting, many visitors remember the live raptors who are kept at the center. These birds of prey were all injured and cannot return to the wild. They are used for educational purposes and provide children and adults the chance to see birds like owls, hawks, and falcons up close.
Leaving the Discovery Center, the bus dropped us downtown, where we had free time for about an hour to explore. Most of us walked back to the ship, but the bus returned to pick up those who didn't wish to walk. The Dalles has some micro-breweries and wine tasting rooms, so some of our group sought those out while others checked out the shops.
Back on the ship by 5:00 pm, the ship sailed downstream towards Astoria. We had some spectacular sunset views of the red rocks of Columbia River Gorge. All of us enjoyed a dinner of mushroom soup, apricot glazed Cornish game hen, Dungeness crab topped Alaskan cod, wild rice and red bean stuffed peppers, roasted fingerling potatoes, garlic cauliflower, and oooey gooey south Saint Lewis & Clark butter cake.
The ship had "Open Mic Night" and many of the crew and passengers performed--singing, telling stories, playing instruments, or dancing. It was a fun night, and we all knew that the next day was our last full day on the SS Legacy.
We were in Astoria, the end of the river and of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
More on The Dalles and Columbia Gorge
A Day in Astoria, Oregon
Astoria was the last port of call on our SS Legacy of Un-Cruise Adventures cruise on the Columbia River. Astoria was founded by John Jacob Astor and sits at the mouth of the river. It was a major sea port for fur traders like Astor in the early 19th century and later for the huge fish canneries.
The 4.2-mile long Astoria-Megler Bridge links Oregon and Washington as it crosses the Columbia River. After the SS Legacy docked near the Columbia River Maritime Museum, we boarded buses after breakfast and crossed this bridge to visit Dismal Niche, where Lewis and Clark first camped in the area, and Station Camp, where they got their first look at the Pacific Ocean.
We returned to Oregon to visit Fort Clatsop, which was the camp Lewis and Clark built to spend the winter of 1805-1806. This stop was the culmination of our week-long voyage since we had heard or seen something each day that related to their expedition.
Our last stop before lunch was at the Astoria Column, which sits on Coxcomb Hill overlooking the town. The elevation of the hill is 600 feet and the Column is 125 feet high, so this 725 feet coincidentally equals the total elevation from sea level Astoria to where we docked earlier in the week at Lewiston, Idaho. No wonder those locks looked so large!
The Astoria Column has a 500-foot long painting that wraps around the column and depicts 12 different images of Native Americans, Oregon history, and U.S. history. Visitors should try and climb the 164 steps to the top if they are able. The staircase is narrow and steep, but the views at the top are terrific.
Back to the SS Legacy in time for lunch, followed by a presentation by guest speaker Jerry Ostermiller, who is the retired director of the Columbia River Maritime Museum. He is an exceptional speaker, and we all learned much about the "Bar", the ever-changing sandbar at the mouth of the Columbia River, which is the largest river flowing into the Pacific Ocean in all of the Americas. The Bar has always been a natural foe of ship captains, and researchers have identified over 2,000 shipwrecks at this location thus far. Insurance company Lloyds of London has classified it as the world's most dangerous bar crossing in the world.
Mr. Ostermiller also provided information on the exhibits at the Columbia River Maritime Museum and talked about ongoing research being done by divers in the river.
At the conclusion of his talk, we had free time the rest of the afternoon to visit the museum and then walk around this historic town.
We had an all aboard at 6:30, followed by the Captain's dinner, packing, and bed.
The SS Legacy sailed back upriver towards Portland, where we disembarked the next morning after breakfast. Un-Cruise Adventures provided transfer service to the airport or to the Marriott Waterfront Hotel, where they had a hospitality room set up just like on the first day.
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Wrap-up of SS Legacy River Cruise of the Pacific Northwest
The SS Legacy of Un-Cruise Adventures voyage on the Columbia and Snake Rivers met or exceeded the expectations of all the guests I queried on our cruise. As I expected, those who love American history were especially enthralled with the itinerary, but most loved all the presentations and the Heritage guide concept on the ship. The diversity of the river scenery was a pleasant surprise for many on the cruise, and I can't think of a better way to see this part of the USA. Un-Cruise has a terrific product for this itinerary and anyone who enjoys small ships or group travel should have a memorable voyage (and learn something along the way).
The food was delicious, and although the number of choices was not as great as on a large ship, the two choices for lunch and three choices of dinner entrees were enough for all those at my dinner tables. The galley's flexibility in serving smaller (or larger) portions was appreciated.
The accommodations were smaller than on large ships, but adequate for a small river ship. The shower had plenty of water pressure, always an important feature for me. I was surprised at the good amount of storage space, which was better than on some other expedition ships.
The Victorian decor and ambiance throughout the SS Legacy added much to the overall river cruise experience.
Finally, the crew deserved high marks for their hospitality, efficiency, and desire to do their best to ensure each guest had a marvelous vacation. The crew on any ship can add value to a cruise, and this group certainly did.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary cruise accommodation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.