Dawn came slowly today. A blanket of clouds wrapped the river and was accompanied by a crisp breeze, reminding us that it’s autumn. National Geographic Sea Lion sailed down-river as the clouds broke and Mount Hood graced the horizon in the morning light. Surrounded by such beauty, our excitement for the day grew.

For our morning activities we set out towards Multnomah Falls. This iconic feature of the Pacific Northwest is widely visited for a good reason. The falls tower at 620 feet and we stood awestruck as it cascaded toward the Columbia. The surrounding area offered a close look at some of the plants of the Columbia River Gorge, a much wetter and more verdant region than we’ve visited thus far in our voyage. Afterward, a stop by the Bonneville Fish Hatchery showed us how hatcheries supplement and manage the runs of salmon on the river for conservation and harvest. In addition, this beautiful facility showcases a sturgeon viewing station where we encountered a local celebrity: a 500 pound, 80 year-old white sturgeon named Herman.

After a delicious lunch we explored Beacon Rock State Park in Washington. This park has multiple avenues to explore some of the geologic features which are evidence of its violent volcanic history. The main hike shoots us hundreds of feet skyward with commanding views from the top. On the ground, an interpretive loop hike teaches us more about the area we’re traveling through and, with the delightful weather we had today, a welcome stroll about the landscape.

Heading seaward has shown us the incredible diversity the Columbia holds. Tomorrow we finally reach where the river empties into the Pacific, a moment we are eager to experience.