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The Columbia and Snake Rivers offer a journey through some of the Pacific Northwest's most captivating landscapes. Imagine this: extensive forests with towering evergreens, dramatic canyons carved by centuries of water flow, and rolling hills that stretch out in a patchwork of green and gold. The climate along these rivers is just as diverse, with cool, misty mornings in the west and warm, sunny afternoons as you move eastward.

The prime cruising months are from May to October. During this period, the weather is perfect for exploring. In spring and early summer, the landscape bursts to life with blooming wildflowers and fresh greenery, creating a vibrant backdrop for your travels. As you move into the height of summer, you'll enjoy long, sunny days and clear skies, perfect for outdoor activities and soaking up the sun. Come fall, the scenery transforms as the leaves turn brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow, adding a breathtaking contrast to the ever-present greens and blues of the rivers.

Each bend in the river offers new and stunning vistas, from the imposing cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge to the rolling vineyards of eastern Washington. The journey is filled with opportunities to reconnect with nature and live the historic venture of Lewis and Clark.

Spring

Cruising the Columbia and Snake Rivers in spring offers a unique blend of natural beauty and tranquil experiences. The riverbanks come alive with vibrant wildflowers and blossoming trees, creating a stunning backdrop for photography and nature enthusiasts. Cooler temperatures, typically ranging from the mid-50s to low-70s, make outdoor activities like hiking and biking more comfortable. The budding green landscapes, refreshed by winter rains, are at their most inviting. Spring cruises are less crowded, providing a more peaceful and intimate experience both onboard and at popular attractions. However, the season's unpredictable weather can bring occasional rain showers and overcast days, so packing layers and rain gear is recommended.

The journey is full of iconic sights. The Columbia River Gorge, with its dramatic cliffs and numerous waterfalls, is a must-see, particularly Multnomah Falls, which cascades 620 feet and is at its most powerful in spring. In eastern Washington, Palouse Falls offers a spectacular view as the water plunges into a deep canyon. Along the way, you'll pass through charming towns like Hood River, where the Hood River Blossom Festival showcases local orchards in full bloom. Birdwatchers can enjoy spotting migratory birds such as eagles and ospreys. Spring also brings fresh, seasonal cuisine to the region, with farmers' markets and onboard dining options featuring produce like asparagus and strawberries. These elements combine to make a spring cruise on the Columbia and Snake Rivers a richly rewarding experience.

Summer

Cruising the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the summer provides a dynamic and engaging experience, though it has its share of advantages and drawbacks. The warm, sunny weather, with temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to high-80s Fahrenheit, is ideal for outdoor activities like swimming, kayaking, and sunbathing. The long daylight hours and clear skies offer plenty of time for sightseeing and exploring the area's natural beauty. Summer also brings a variety of special events and festivals. For instance, the Portland Rose Festival features parades, fireworks, and cultural celebrations, while wine lovers can indulge in tours and tastings in the renowned vineyards of the Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Valley.

Wildlife enthusiasts will be delighted by the variety of animals they might encounter. Bald eagles, ospreys, and great blue herons are frequently seen along the riverbanks. In the water, you might spot salmon and steelhead making their way upstream, and river otters playing in quieter sections of the river. Deer and elk can sometimes be seen grazing near the shore, and the occasional black bear might be spotted in more remote areas.

However, summer cruises can be more crowded, as this is the peak travel season. Popular attractions may be busy. Additionally, the hotter weather might be uncomfortable for some, especially during excursions and outdoor activities. During these warmer temperatures, cool off in one of our comfortable lounges on board. Despite these challenges, summer remains a favored time to cruise the Columbia and Snake Rivers due to the pleasant weather and abundance of events. The region's scenic beauty, coupled with a wealth of festivals and outdoor adventures, ensures that a summer cruise is an engaging and memorable experience.

Fall

Experiencing the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the fall provides a serene and picturesque journey, though it comes with its own set of pros and cons. One of the main advantages is the cooler weather, with temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to low-70s Fahrenheit, which makes outdoor activities more comfortable. The autumn season brings fewer crowds, providing a more relaxed and intimate atmosphere both onboard and at popular attractions. The fall foliage is another highlight, as the landscape transforms into a stunning array of reds, oranges, and yellows, enhancing the scenic beauty of the riverbanks.

This season sees a variance of weather. Autumn rains can be frequent, leading to overcast days and potentially disrupting outdoor plans. No matter the weather, our onboard team makes sure each day is new and exciting. From onboard expert presentations to group games and crafts, there’s always something fun to do onboard. 

The variable weather conditions require travelers to pack a mix of clothing to stay prepared for both cool and rainy days. Despite the fickle weather, fall cruises offer unique features and events that make the journey worthwhile. Wine enthusiasts can enjoy the grape harvest in the Columbia Valley, with many vineyards offering special tours and tastings. Additionally, the quieter season allows for better wildlife viewing opportunities, with animals like deer, elk, and various bird species more easily spotted along the riverbanks.

Lewis and Clark's expedition had a profound impact on the Pacific Northwest, paving the way for westward expansion and providing detailed maps and observations that were invaluable for future explorers and settlers. Their journey also helped establish American claims to the region, significantly influencing its development and history. You can experience the impact of these pioneers in ports like Richland and Clarkston, WA on our Northwest Pioneers Cruise.

Overall, for those seeking a peaceful and visually stunning experience, a fall cruise on the Columbia and Snake Rivers is an excellent choice. The combination of fewer crowds, seasonal events, and the breathtaking transformation of the landscape makes it a uniquely appealing option for travelers.