Follow the Lewis & Clark Expedition on American Cruise Lines voyage
From 1803 to 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled thousands of miles across North America. Descending the rivers that flow westward off the Rocky Mountains brought them into the beautiful region that American Cruise Lines now travel.
But the Lewis and Clark Expedition’s journey along 465 miles of the Snake and Columbia rivers was drastically different from the smooth navigation provided today by the eight federal locks and dams, plus the comfort offered by American Cruise Lines riverboats.
“This river in general is very handsome, except at the rapids where it is risking both life and property to pass,” Lewis & Clark Expedition member Sgt. Patrick Gass wrote on Oct. 15, 1805. “And even these rapids … add to its beauty, by interposing variety and scenes of romantic grandeur.”
For 2023, Laura Sable and Bill Wiemuth will serve as Eagle Society Ambassadors aboard American Cruise Lines Eagle Society theme cruises. The two onboard experts and entertainers will be providing historical highlights about cruising regions throughout the year.
Here is a preview of what cruisers will see and hear on American Cruise Lines’ special The Lewis & Clark Expedition on the Columbia & Snake Rivers:
On Oct. 7, 1805, the expedition started down the Clearwater River. On Oct. 10, they arrived at the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake rivers at what today is the eastern end of American Cruise Lines’ route at Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston, Washington.
On Oct. 16, 1805, the expedition reached the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers where Clark estimated that Native Americans had 10,000 salmon drying on wooden racks in preparation for their primary winter food source.
Descending the Columbia River, the group struggled to portage around the 38-foot Celilo Falls. Downstream, as the river funneled between massive rock formations, Clark wrote on Oct. 24, “I determined to pass through this place notwithstanding the horrid appearance …whirling in every direction which, from the top of the rock did not appear as bad as when I was in it.”
However, Clark added, “we passed safely to the astonishment of all the Indians of the last lodges, who viewed us from the top of the rock.”
Expedition members gazed in awe at the beautiful Columbia River Gorge where the river cuts through the Cascade Mountains and camped near a basalt monolith towering more than 800 feet above the river. There, they first noticed the river’s repeating tidal rise and fall and the formation still bears Clark’s “Beacon Rock” name, noting they were nearing the ocean.
In the wide bay near the river’s mouth near today’s Astoria, Oregon, storms formed enormous waves that forced the expedition to take refuge in a cove for six days. On his map, Clark descriptively labeled the place as the “Dismal Nitch.”
Finally, the group traveled their last few miles to the ocean. Patrick Gass triumphantly wrote on Nov. 16, “We are now at the end of our voyage, which has been completely accomplished according to the intention of the expedition.”
The objective, Gass wrote, “was to discover a passage by the way of the Missouri and Columbia rivers to the Pacific Ocean, notwithstanding the difficulties, privations and dangers, which we had to encounter, endure and surmount.”
For the American Cruise Lines expedition following the Lewis and Clark Trail, check the website to find the riverboat and date that best suits you for a cruise.
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch
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