Thursday, October 7, 2021

Columbia, Snake river cruise yields small-town surprises, pleasures

American Cruise Lines' vessels come close to land for beautiful scenery and fascinating ports.


We could see and soon touch the locks from our balcony aboard American
Pride on the trail of explorers Lewis and Clark. Great educational fun



THE PLEASURES of river cruising are many.  First, you're close to shore. Because of your ship's size, you easily tie up at surprisingly beautiful -- even enchanting -- places.
Instead of waiting in line to get off the ship, you walk in minutes from your stateroom to your shore adventure. In a few quick strides, you're embarking on a leisurely independent stroll or a fascinating land excursion. Your transportation awaits, a smiling guide greets you and the day is yours to explore historic venues, museums, parks, to begin a new experience.
YOU MIGHT be docked in the center of historic towns and places, as we were on our recent Columbia and Snake rivers cruise on the Lewis and Clark trail.
We had to pull ourselves away from the changing landscape of our river sojourn. Yet we enjoyed the equally interesting land tours. We scarcely wanted to leave our balcony for the wonders we witnessed there. Coffee or cocktail in hand, we were "up close" to locks and lighthouses, dams and lavish private homes, farms and parks. Each  
Cookie played a xylophone, a
feature of several Oregon parks

turn of the river offered changing landscape, bird life, deer, cattle, even a fox. There they were --  right off our balcony stateroom, our home for a week aboard American Cruise Lines' American Pride. On land, we discovered surprises aplenty: lavish gardens, museums, water sportsmen, intriguing architecture, even a xylophone for music-minded me to play at an Oregon riverfront park. 

American Cruise Lines offers unique side trips to historic
 venues such as this 1913 streetcar in Astoria, Oregon. 

WE ENJOYED and appreciated the homegrown aspect that personifies ACL.  The fleet is American made and American staffed. Workers are trained to reflect that spirit of confidence and pride.  ACL's are the largest riverboat  staterooms  afloat.  While many lines are just recovering from the purgatory of the pandemic, ACL with its variety of domestic cruising options has been back in business for months, specializing in sophisticated cruising and intriguing activities to enjoy on land.
The variety of locks adds interest and
photo opportunities on ACL river trips.
This "guillotine lock" is on the Snake
     Our options included a chance to hop aboard Astoria's Riverfront Trolley, a delightful 1913 heritage streetcar using former freight railroad tracks near the south bank of the Columbia River.
Transiting the dams and locks is fun on a small ship, too. We joined fellow travelers to touch the moist side walls as we passed through. We transited through several kinds of locks including the aptly named "Guillotine," which -- like the French execution implement -- lifts up, then comes down.  We could feel the drips of the water! Fascinating way to climb and descend as we travel, explore and learn.
EACH AMERICAN Cruise Line itinerary tailors its stops and lectures to life on the specific river.  In the South, there are trips to plantations and the food reflects the locale -- barbecue in Memphis, gumbo in New Orleans. New England voyages may feature fall foliage.  Mississippi River cruises feature Cajun cuisine, Civil war battles, wildlife, jazz, etc. So there is a river cruise for every taste -- and one can be as busy or as laid back as one wishes.  Repeat cruisers like to sit on their balconies and admire the scenery, while others prefer to get some exercise -- walk into the various towns, or hop aboard conveniently located transportation for tours or museum visits.
Bruce Keller steps inside a tule mat lodge,
a replica of ones used by native people. 
We witnessed the same raw beauty the explorers saw on our 350-mile transit. But instead of building forts in the rain and sleet, we toured a lovely museum and stepped inside the "tule mat" lodges, clever, tightly woven structures which protected the native people from cold in the winter and kept them cool in summer.
Small boats can anchor near land, and welcoming
committees often greet, as in The Dalles, Oregon.

NEW FRIENDS were excited to be heading to a recently introduced ACL itinerary, "Music Cities," a few days after our Pacific Northwest adventure. They, too, are music lovers, eager to learn more about the variety of musical genres explored on the "bluegrass to jazz" itinerary.
View from the gorge: Bruce Keller and Christene
Cookie Meyers enjoy Maryhill Museum of Art
If you're a Mark Twain buff, you can satisfy your yearning for the history, art, folklore and literature spawned on the Mississippi -- enjoying a one-man show by an actor impersonating Samuel Clemens.  The boat stops north of St. Lewis in in Hannibal, Mark Twain's boyhood home so cruisers can tour a fascinating museum in his honor.
Keller, Cookie and driver-guide  Mike became
friends during the couple's week on the rivers.

As art and history buffs, we never miss an museum jaunt. The Maryhill Museum of Art, a beautifully designed, small museum with an eclectic collection, offers a stunning room of Rodin sculptures plus artifacts from Queen Marie of Romania, Orthodox icons and unique chess sets
Who'd expect to find these treasure in rural Klickitat County, Washington? But there they are.  We enjoyed the museum's"thrones" on a bluff atop the east end of the Columbia River Gorge.
   MEETING CHEERFUL drivers, who double as knowledgeable guides, is another benefit of traveling with ACL.  These history-minded native sons and daughters know the territory and share their knowledge and stories because they follow the ship. We had the same lovely guide, Mike, all week, and developed a friendship with him -- enjoying his anecdotes as we retraced parts of the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition 216 years later. We enjoyed superb accommodations and comforts of modern day cruising, while learning of the hardships faced by the daring explorers who shaped western expansion so long ago. or 1 800 981-9149

A painting at Sacajawea State Park
Interpretive Center in Pasco, Wash

UP NEXT:  So remarkable a contribution did Sacajawea make to the 1805 Lewis and Clark expedition that she is remembered and revered today throughout the West.  We hopped on and off American Pride to visit several sights paying homage to the brilliant guide, interpreter, lay doctor and linguist, with a side-trip to a luxury inn named after her, the Sacajawea Hotel in Three Forks, Montana. The influence of Sacajawea is felt today, nearly 220 years after the journey, in museums, parks, and the hotel we visited is one of many places to honor Sacajawea throughout the west. We pay homage to her and enjoy the hotel, reminding readers to explore, learn and live, and catch us weekly for a fresh look at travel, nature, the arts, family and more:


  1. Fabulous, fun piece and well timed as we emerge from the covid fog.

  2. Tennessee Day TrippersOctober 12, 2021 at 10:00 AM

    Enjoying the commentary on the river cruises. Great photos, too.

  3. We enjoy American Cruise Lines. Did the full Mississippi with our adult kids. Wonderful.