Best Beaches Beach Resorts Beach Safety Sitemap Resources Directory Sitemap



Empress of the North Columbia Snake Rivers

The Empress of the North is a sparkling vessel operated by American West Streamboat Cruises, just a little over her first birthday. She is a red and white paddlewheeler with bunting and high, flared stacks (that conveniently fold down for the low bridges) and is four decks high. The huge paddle wheel at the stern is also painted red, while the hull is gleaming black. The art in each of the corridors, neatly listed and described in an in-room guide, is nothing short of spectacular. It is themed for Russian nobility (she spends her summers in Alaska, sailing the Inside Passage). There is a collection of Faberge eggs, matrushka (nesting family) dolls, lacquer boxes and other Russian artifacts opposite the Purser's Office and gift shop.

The Romanov Dining Room is similarly decorated from Imperial Russia. Her rooms are spacious and nicely decorated and most have verandahs to watch the scenery and passing ships drift by during the day. The rooms all have TV sets with DVD players, with a lending library of discs in the gift shop available at no cost and clock radios with CD players. There is also satellite TV from most of the networks, CNN and others always available as well as a camera mounted on the pilot house to share the Captain's view with the passengers.In addition to the dining room, there is a show lounge (which is also the lecture hall during the day), the Paddlewheel Bar, serving evening drinks and appetizers before dinners (two seatings, but no assigned tables) with dancing before and after the evening meal and the Calliope Lounge which serves light breakfasts and lunches each day.

The first night, always a little awkward, features a "Welcome Aboard Dinner" and usually indicates that the standards of the kitchen are high indeed. Each night's menu had a choice of hot or cold appetizer, two soups, two salads and four entrees, one of which was vegetarian. Two or more desserts plus fruit or ice cream ended each meal. Overall, most have only wonderful experiences with all of the cuisine. Staff is young and enthusiastic, cordial and eager and very personable. Whether they did or not, they certainly seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, from the deckhands to the cabin stewards and stewardesses to the waiters.

The first full day on the Empress provides a stop at Stevenson, Washington and a visit to the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, an excellent museum of the history of the Gorge, its settlement, growth and progress including a commercial salmon fishing wheel, lumbering machine and railroad memorabilia. At the fish hatchery by the Bonneville Dam, perhaps the best-known dam and power plant on the river, passengers have a view of the sturgeon pond and Herman, the sturgeon, who was more than 200 years old and still growing as sturgeons do, a living link with the area's past. Finally, passengers are able to view the spectacular Multnomah Falls, a trademark beauty of this part of the river.The next day brings the Empress to Umatilla Landing, again in Washington, with visits to Fort Walla Walla. The Whitman Mission at Fort Walla Walla is where the Whitman family of missionaries were the first of the non-Native Americans to settle.

They might have remained had not a measles epidemic - to which the natives had no immunity - cost them their lives when they were blamed for the deaths that resulted. The passengers may also enjoy a visit to the Three Rivers winery (Washington and Oregon produce wonderful wines, though not nearly as well-known as their neighbors in California) and a magnificent lunch at the beautifully restored Whitman Hotel before returning to their waiting river home.Overnight, as the passengers are sleeping, the ship leaves the Columbia to enter the Snake River. She continues upriver and through the last remaining locks to Lewiston, Idaho, the easternmost point on the voyage.

This is a much anticipated adventure as the entire ship's complement of passengers are moved to a fleet of jet boats, the only commercial craft that can navigate this rugged river and its terrain. They proceed up about thirty miles to where the Snake meets the Salmon River. This is beyond any roads and accessible only to intrepid rafters and canoeists and a few float fishermen plus hikers and backpackers.

One can also find some petroglyphs made hundreds of years ago by area natives and view some mountain sheep. At that point, one meets the confluence of three states, Oregon, Washington and Idaho and it's where the jet boats reverse to a takeout point from which the passengers are returned by bus to the ship.The next day the river tour stops near Klickitat, Washington, to make a trip to the Maryhill Museum, the creation of an eccentric millionaire which houses an impressive array of art. It has the largest collection of Rodin work on the West Coast, native art, beautiful chess sets of exquisite artistry, a sculpture and a floral garden overlooking the river below.

This is where the Empress of the North closes in on the final stop of the voyage. It was the destination and goal of Lewis and Clark at Astoria, Oregon, at the mouth of the Columbia River basin and adjoining the Pacific Ocean.Here the steamboat overnights and spends a second day. Buses take the passengers into the beautiful town of Astoria, Oregon. The town is full of wonderful restaurants and shops and it has the Astoria Monument.

The monument is a column full of art and chronicles of the town's history. It also features a spiraling stairs with a climb of one hundred sixty-two steps and a viewing platform with three hundred sixty degrees of vista of Washington State and the ocean. Cape Disappointment is where the Lewis and Clark Expedition finally found their goal of the Pacific Ocean, but spent three weeks here in continuous rain.

Fort Clatsop, on the Oregon side, is where they built a shelter and prepared to leave for the east and their homes. The tour buses provided by American West stop at some excellent National Park Service centers in the immediate area, each dedicated to explaining still more of the incredible journey made by Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery two hundred years before. It was an amazing journey in which their estimate of distance was only twenty-six miles off, without any instruments of measurement.

The nation is indebted to these men for exploring and mapping the entire passage, together with the flora and fauna found along the way.The buses return the passengers to the Empress and it sails back to the starting point to disembark the passengers.

.Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Travel.

Article Source:


By: Michael Russell


Three Ghostly Castles in England - England is a land steeped in history, tradition and legend.

My visit to Little Rocks new William J Clinton PresidentialLibrary - Today, Wednesday, January 12, 2005, I visited the Clinton Library.

Travelling to the UK from abroad - If your journey isn't too great a distance, for example you are visiting from Europe, you might want to consider a variety of travel options.

TrekShare Crashing a Laos Wedding Part - Public Service Announcement: Drinking and driving is bad.

New England Cabins and Cottages - Today Norm Goldman, Editor of sketchandtravel.


© Copyright All rights reserved.
Unauthorized duplication in part or whole strictly prohibited by international copyright law.