The Pioneer Rivers of the Northwest | Travel Research Online


The Pioneer Rivers of the Northwest

The northwest of the United States has always been known for its natural beauty. This area includes the states of Washington, and Oregon (though sometimes Idaho and Wyoming, as well); and in these states, the traveler finds a different take on the American landscape. One of lush forests, with some considered to be rain forests; and multiple mountain ranges such as the Rocky Mountains, Colombia Mountains, and Cascade Range. This region of the United States was the last to be explored by the famous pioneers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their expedition commissioned by the president at the time, Thomas Jefferson. Then, charting the rivers of the northwest was important for trade and commerce. But in modern times, these rivers provide amazing views of Mount St. Helens, forests, and waterfalls. Today’s 60-Second Geography is brought to you by American Cruise Lines.

60-Second Geography

The Rivers of the American Northwest


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  • On the state line between Oregon and Washington, just 30 miles east off Portland, sits the mighty Colombia River Gorge. As its namesake implies, this is where the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Mountains sometimes up to 4,000 feet deep. Extending almost 80 miles along the border of the two states, there are upwards of 25 waterfalls along the gorge. Some of the major ones include: the Multnomah Falls at 620 feet, Latourell Falls at 249 ft, Wahkeena Falls at 242 ft, and Starvation Creek Falls at 225 feet. By cruising along this scenic river attraction, the traveler will witness a dramatic change in climate and vegetation. The east side of the gorge features a semi-desert while the west side becomes temperate rain forest. This section of the Columbia River is truly an American treasure.


The Columbia River Gorge in Oregon just after sunset.


  • Further west along the Columbia River is Mount St. Helens. This volcano is known for its eruption on May 18, 1980 which was so explosive that it actually shaved the summit elevation from 9,677 ft to 8,363 ft and triggered a 5.1 earthquake. Today, the volcano sits quietly in picturesque view—ready to be witnessed by the traveler.


Mt. St Helens Volcanic monument is one of the most visited tourism attractions in Washington state.


  • Connected to the Columbia River in the east, the Snake river starts in eastern Washington and runs southeast into Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming. Where three of those states meet (Washington, Oregon, and Idaho) the traveler will find Hell’s Canyon. Most of Hell’s Canyon is inaccessible by road which makes a cruise through its 1-mile deep canyons a perfect way to view the deepest gorge in the United States. As the river snakes through pristine forests along this massive gorge, the traveler will be in awe of nature.


Hells Canyon National Recreation Area


The ships may have been updated, and the danger diminished to a peaceful journey, but the feeling of exploration is no different. With an unbelievable amount of untouched wilderness to witness from leisurely rivers and the excitement of retracing the waterways of famous explorers, cruises along the rivers of the American Northwest give the traveler a new take on what it means to see the United States in all its natural glory. Thanks to American Cruise Lines, the traveler will get this and more on fantastic river voyages made by the pioneers of history.

Columbia and Snake Rivers Cruise

Embrace your inner pioneer as you travel along the epic route forged by Lewis and Clark more than 200 years ago. View the lush landscapes of the Columbia River Gorge and be awed by the magnificent Multnomah Falls. Visit Mount St. Helens with our local expert and learn how the eruption has affected the landscape and surrounding communities.

Enjoy a trip to wine country and stop at a local winery for a tasting of the area’s finest varietals. Along the way, be entertained by onboard musicians performing maritime songs, sea shanties, and selections from “The Great American Songbook.”

Highlights of the Columbia River Cruise

Our Highlights of the Columbia River cruise offers the best of the Pacific Northwest with the convenience of a round-trip from Portland. Much of your time on this cruise is spent in the Columbia River Gorge, a national scenic area and the only navigable route through the Cascade Mountains.

During your cruise, we offer a carefully curated package of shore excursions that take you to some of the areas’ highlights, including the famous Multnomah Falls, Mount St. Helens, and Fort Clatsop where the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discover spent the winter of 1805-1806.

Northwest Pioneers Cruise

Experience the historic journey of the intrepid explorers Lewis and Clark, while admiring the magnificent views of the Pacific Northwest. Retrace the last leg of the Corps of Discovery Expedition that began on the Mississippi River in 1804 and finally reached the Pacific Ocean in 1806.

Visit St. Helens and bear witness to the awesome power of the once active volcano. Get an up-close view of Multnomah Falls, the 2nd tallest waterfall in the country. Enjoy the scenic views and abundant wildlife of the Columbia River Gorge.


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