Rolling on the River-Preparing for a cruise along the Columbia and Snake Rivers

columbaia and snake rivers

Sara and I are not precisely sure what to expect on our upcoming cruise.

My wife and I are veterans of many an ocean voyage. Either she or I or both of us can count as many as 60, covering nearly all parts of the globe and always far from our home in the U.S.A.

But this one will be different — a river cruise, and one not one flowing in an exotic location like the Danube, the Yangtze, or the Volga. This will be a nine-day experience featuring the majestic Columbia River that forms most of the border between the states of Washington and Oregon.

Different, too, will be the vessel itself. Shades of Mark Twain, it will be a genuine paddle-wheel steamer, apparently powered by an outdated technology that calls attention to itself with the large, bright red wheel whirling through the water. Somehow this device manages to push the great white whale-like structure against the current to ports many miles inland. Then it will wind through the Snake River, too, before docking in Clarkston, Washington.

Clarkston and Lewiston, the Idaho city on the opposite bank, reminds us that these waters were famously explored by the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1805-1806. I recall that explorers Meriweather and William were accompanied by the helpful native American woman, Sacajawea. I believe one of our port calls will visit a campsite of the famous trio.

We’ll find out soon if our vessel is properly called a ship or a boat. I do know its name is the American Empress, and it is billed as a little sister to the much larger American Queen, which explores the Mississippi River for the same company.

The American Empress is not exactly small either. At 380 feet, stem to stern, she can carry more than 200 passengers on four decks. Our advance research has revealed a reputation for great views, good food, and comfortable beds.

The wi-fi gods willing, I plan to file several emails from the Queen to the internet, all next week, and all to be found here on All Things Cruise. – Bob Bone

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