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Columbia River Cruises

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The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest, and with its 485 miles of scenic beauty and rich cultural history, it is one of America's most popular rivers. While on a Columbia River cruise you will explore small river towns and come to appreciate the beauties of the green Pacific Northwest. You can also expect to take walks, bike, swim, and even kayak if the weather allows. Most of our cruises will start in the city of Portland, Oregon, and often will finish by taking the Snake River from Richland to Lewiston, Idaho. Our itineraries usually go west first to the mouth of the river and stop in the port town of Astoria before heading back upriver. Much of the river landscape is paradise for photographers, bird-watchers, and other nature enthusiasts thanks to its rich ecosystem that attracts visitors from around the world. Contact our travel specialists to start planning your ideal trip today!
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8 Best Columbia River Cruises for 2024-2025

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Top 6 Recommended Columbia River Ships for 2024-2025

Ship NameMax PassengersFromSummary
National Geographic Sea Bird62$5268The Sea Bird, sister ship of the Sea Lion, can reach places inaccessible to larger ships due to its small size, yet it comfortably accommodates 62 …
National Geographic Sea Lion62$5768The Sea Lion, sister ship of the Sea Bird, can reach places inaccessible to larger ships due to its small size, yet it comfortably accommodates 62 …
American Song180$5280American Song leads the American River Cruise Revolution with pioneering innovations. Featuring contemporary styling and modern design, this flagship …
American Jazz180$4010American Jazz offers a luxurious river cruising experience with modern amenities and stunning views. Relax on your private balcony, explore the …
American West110$4220Step aboard the American West and enjoy a unique paddlewheeler experience on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Relish in luxurious comfort, modern …
American Pride150$2640Discover the Columbia and Snake Rivers on the iconic paddlewheeler American Pride, where the intimate setting of just 150 guests ensures unparalleled …

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Columbia River Travel Guide

Columbia River Fun Facts

  • Majestic Length: The Columbia River ranks as the fourth-largest river in the United States, flowing approximately 1,243 miles from its headwaters in the Canadian Rockies to the Pacific Ocean.
  • Historic Expedition: Lewis and Clark navigated the Columbia River during their famous expedition to the Pacific Ocean from 1804 to 1806. The river played a crucial role in their exploration of the American West.
  • Powerful Waterfalls: The Columbia River is home to the iconic Multnomah Falls, which plunges over 600 feet in two tiers. Located in Oregon, these falls are a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of the region's natural beauty.
  • Salmon Spectacle: The river is renowned for its significant salmon runs. Each year, millions of salmon migrate upstream to spawn in the river, showcasing one of the most remarkable natural phenomena in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Hydroelectric Hub: The Columbia River Basin is a major producer of hydroelectric power in the United States. Grand Coulee Dam, one of the largest dams in the world, harnesses the river's energy, contributing to the region's electricity supply.
  • Gorge-ous Scenery: The Columbia River Gorge, a stunning canyon that stretches over 80 miles, serves as a natural border between Washington and Oregon. It is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering hiking trails, waterfalls, and breathtaking vistas.
  • River of Many Names: The Columbia River has various names across different Indigenous languages. For example, in the Chinookan language, it is called "Wimahl" or "Wimahl chinook iloke," reflecting the rich cultural diversity of the native peoples along its banks.
  • Wine Country Gem: The Columbia River Valley is renowned for its wine production. The region, with a climate conducive to grape growing, boasts numerous vineyards and wineries, making it a popular destination for wine enthusiasts.
  • International Flow: While primarily located in the United States, the Columbia River begins in Canada, making it an international river. The upper reaches of the river cross into British Columbia, showcasing the river's transboundary nature.
  • Unique Ecosystems: The Columbia River Basin supports diverse ecosystems, ranging from alpine forests to arid shrublands. This ecological variety sustains a wide array of plant and animal species, contributing to the region's biodiversity.
What to pack for a Columbia River Cruise

When packing for Columbia River cruise vacation, it's important to consider the right clothing to bring. Whether you are planning to be more active or to unwind, the right items can make a difference when it comes to enjoying your time outdoors and indoors. Here are some tips to keep in mind, but as a basic recommendation, think layers, mix and match, and keep it simple:
  • Long and short sleeve options, and a thin layer to go under your jeans. 
  • A lightweight jacket and warm sweatshirt.
  • A raincoat for humid days.
  • Comfortable hiking socks.
  • Walking or hiking shoes.
  • Avoid cotton and opt for wicking or wool fabrics that dry faster.
  • Fancy clothes and dress shoes are not necessary.
  • Small backpack.
  • Sunglasses.
Tips for Travelers Cruising the Columbia River
  1. Embrace the Scenic Diversity: The Columbia River region offers a spectrum of landscapes, from majestic waterfalls and lush forests to arid plateaus. Prepare for a visual feast by exploring the varied ecosystems along the river, such as the stunning Columbia River Gorge or the high desert plains.
  2. Weather-Ready Wardrobe: Be prepared for diverse weather conditions. The Columbia River Basin experiences a range of climates, from coastal coolness to arid heat. Layered clothing is advisable to accommodate temperature fluctuations, especially if exploring both sides of the Cascade Range.
  3. Explore Outdoor Adventures: With an abundance of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, and water sports, the Columbia River is an adventurer's paradise. Bring appropriate gear for your chosen activities and consider guided tours for an immersive experience.
  4. Respect the River's Power: The Columbia River is known for its strong currents and potential hazards. If engaging in water activities, be aware of safety guidelines, wear life jackets, and stay informed about river conditions. Respect the river's power and exercise caution.
  5. Taste the Local Flavors: The Columbia River Valley is celebrated for its wine production and local cuisine. Explore the region's vineyards, breweries, and farm-to-table restaurants. Indulge in the unique flavors of the area, including fresh seafood and renowned wines.
  6. Wildlife Awareness: The Columbia River Basin is home to diverse wildlife, including bald eagles, salmon, and various bird species. Respect their natural habitats, maintain a safe distance, and adhere to wildlife viewing guidelines for a memorable and responsible experience.
  7. Discover Cultural Heritage: Learn about the rich cultural heritage of the Indigenous peoples along the Columbia River. Visit cultural centers and museums to gain insights into the history, traditions, and contributions of the Native American communities in the region.
  8. Plan for National Parks and Recreation Areas: The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and other nearby parks offer numerous recreational opportunities. Plan your visit, check trail conditions, and obtain any required permits for an enjoyable and responsible exploration.

FAQs: Columbia River Cruises

How much does a Columbia River cruise cost?
Columbia River cruises range from $1,400 to $6,100 per person, but the average price for a 7-9 day itinerary is between $4,000-5,000 per person.
What boats cruise the Columbia River?
We feature four of the best vessels cruising the Columbia River - the American Empress, National Geographic Quest, National Geographic Sea Lion, and Wilderness Legacy. Each of these ships is unique, featuring its own atmosphere and appointments onboard, but no matter which you choose you can expect comfortable and spacious accommodations, great food, and exciting itineraries.
What will I do on a Columbia River cruise?
Columbia River cruises are ideal for active travelers willing to get their heart rate up to experience all of the exciting daily activities like biking, hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, whitewater rafting, and wildlife viewing. You can also enjoy more relaxed wine tasting and hikes.
What are the top destinations on a Columbia River cruise?
Your Columbia River cruise will take you to some of the top destinations in the Pacific Northwest, including Vancouver, Astoria, Clarkston, The Dalles, the Columbia River Gorge, Walla Walla, and Portland.
Are river cruises good for kids?
River cruises in general are ideal for adult travelers, and Columbia River cruises are best suited to active adults who are looking for a nature-based adventure in the Pacific Northwest. Older teens who like the outdoors may enjoy our Columbia River cruises, but they are not good for younger teens or children. 

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