River Cruising: Why America is Best Seen by Boat

American Beauty

Written by John Newton, photos by Charles Gullung

The journals of Lewis and Clark are packed with breathless accounts of their water-logged canoe trips down, then back up, the Columbia River. In the fall of 1805, just before entering one of the more fearsome rapids, a slender channel bordered by unforgiving basalt cliffs, Clark writes of his determination "to pass through this place notwithstanding the horrid appearance of this agitated gut Swelling, boiling & whorling in every direction." (In the end, of course, everything worked out just fine.) That wild ride is much tamer these days—alas, the Dalles Dam calmed the churning waters long ago—but few of the passengers aboard the S.S. Legacy, the newest ship to sail that same spectacularly scenic route, seem to mind.

This past August, Un-Cruise Adventures, a small-vessel line based in Seattle, launched Heritage Adventures, a history-themed program aboard the Legacy, a handsome 88-passenger ship refurbished in 2013 in the style of early-twentieth-century coastal steamers. Un-Cruise Adventures bills the ship as a "time machine."

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