Columbia Gorge, Oregon
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Columbia Gorge iStock / zrfphoto
The Dalles, Oregon, Sunshine Mill Winery
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Sunshine Mill Winery in The Dalles, Oregon iStock / Dee Browning
Portland, Oregon, Woman at Delta Park Pow Wow
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At Portland's Delta Park Powwow iStock / Dee Browning
Benton City, Washington, Vineyard
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Vineyard in Benton City, Washington iStock / bpperry
Portland, Oregon, Jam at South Park Blocks Farmer's Market
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South Park Blocks Farmers Market in Portland iStock / Dee Browning
Astoria, Oregon, Astoria Bridge
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Astoria Bridge iStock / fotoguy22
Washington, Palouse Falls State Park
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Palouse Falls State Park in Washington iStock / zrfphoto

Columbia and Snake Rivers

Multnomah Falls, Oregon Multnomah Falls, Oregon iStock / AndrewSoundarajan

Flowing down from the Rocky Mountains, the Snake and Columbia rivers have long provided a gateway to the Pacific Northwest. As Lewis and Clark would no doubt attest, there's plenty to see and do along the way, from spectacular waterfalls and rapids to cowboy and Native American heritage. Foodies will savor the region's rich food and beverage culture while active travelers will delight in the riverside hiking trails and other outdoor pursuits. There's even a sophisticated big city (Portland) for those who crave urban adventure.

The river cruising season runs from March to November, and the average itinerary lasts seven to nine days, with ports between Portland and Clarkston, Washington.

What We Love

The Beverages: Vineyards around The Dalles (Oregon) and Red Mountain (Washington) produce fine wine. Portland jump-started the craft beer movement, while Skunk Brothers in Stevenson (Washington) distills throwback moonshine.

Pendleton: This eastern Oregon town offers a slice of the old frontier in its Wild West heritage sites, rodeo culture, and namesake checked woolen shirts.

Best Known For

Columbia River Gorge: Eighty miles long and up to 4,000 feet deep, this majestic canyon carries the river past thickly wooded banks and mighty cascades like Multnomah Falls. 

Lewis & Clark: The Columbia provided a natural route to the Pacific for the intrepid duo during their 1804-06 expedition of discovery. Historic sites in both Washington and Oregon recall their epic journey.

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Best Ports

Astoria: Perched on the spot where the Columbia empties into the Pacific, this Oregon city counts among its attractions a dramatic bridge, several interesting museums, and nearby Lewis & Clark sites. 

Clarkston-Lewiston: The Snake River separates Clarkston (Washington) and Lewiston (Idaho), twin gateways to Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and the Nez Perce Indian Reservation.  

Portland: The City of Roses is also celebrated for craft beer, artsy counterculture, and the trendy Pearl District of renovated factories and warehouses along the riverfront.

Stevenson: Nestled in the Columbia River Gorge, this quaint little town in Washington state flaunts a funky main street, zipline adventures, a scenic golf course, and the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

Fickle Summer Weather: Summer weather along the river route is highly changeable from day to day and even hour to hour. Bring rain gear for the Pacific end, shorts and T-shirts for the eastern Washington portion.

Joe Yogerst

Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.

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