Bonneville Dam & Multnomah Falls


In October 2014, I sailed aboard the 88-guest S.S. Legacy on a river cruise exploring the Columbia & Snake Rivers roundtrip from Portland, Oregon. Though I usually work in the office, there are occasions I get out on the boats to experience our trips.

Wow! What a busy and scenic week. All excursions are included and the number and variety offered are impressive. There's plenty of time to relax too, and keep in mind, you can pick and choose which tours you want to do.

Where do we go each day and what are the included tours? Good question! I thought I'd tackle that here on the blog and give you a day-by-day look at the Legacy of Discovery river cruise.

We'll start with day two - the first full day on board the S.S. Legacy. But of course Day 1 is spectacular too; I may give you photos later on showing the spectacular scenery and variety of bridges you'll pass under as you depart Portland, on your way up the Willamette River, connecting to the mighty Columbia River for the trip east.

As you wake up on day two, the ship will be docking at Cascade Locks. Grab your camera and enjoy the scenery and early morning light.

Cascade Locks

Docking near Cascade Locks

After breakfast, you'll board a coach for a short ride to the Bonneville Dam's Vistor Center and a private tour of the facility, its turbines and the fish ladder. Bonneville was first contructed in 1938 and now has two powerplants generating 1,227 megawatts of hydroelectric power. A U.S. Army Corps Engineer leads a tour and answers questions.

Bonneville Visitor Center

Bonneville Dam Visitor Center

Bonneville Dam

Bonneville Dam

The dam is located 145 river miles from the mouth of the Columbia River and is situated near the entrance of the scenic Columbia River Gorge.

Bonneville turbines

Turbines in the powerhouse

As part of the tour, you'll enter one of the powerhouses on site to see the turbines that generate the hydroelectric power. A historical exhibit is open to peruse for those interested in the history and politics of the dam and its construction.

Bonneville fish ladder

A fish ladder

Stop and see the fish ladder providing a safe passage for adult fish to return to their spawning grounds on the Columbia River. There's also an interior view into the fish ladder. The best months to see fish climbing the fish ladder are June, August and September. You may see chinook salmon, coho salmon, sockeye salmon, steelhead trout, American shad and lamprey. In early October, there were still plenty of salmon passing through.

Interior view of fish ladder

Watch fish pass through the fish ladder inside the Visitor Center

After lunch on board the ship, we'll take an afternoon tour to Multnomah Falls. The coach tour there is quite scenic with glimpses of the historic Columbia River Highway, the oldest in Oregon, promoted by "good roads" visionary Sam Hill. Multnomah Falls is the tallest falls in Oregon at 611-feet tall. A short five minute walk brings you to the base of the falls. You can also walk further up a paved pass to Benson Bridge spanning the falls. Bring your camera! You'll want photos of yourself, family and friends at this scenic spot.

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls

Benson Bridge

Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls

Keep your eye out for the Bridge of The Gods near Cascade Locks. The S.S. Legacy will pass underneath, and it has an interesting story. Originally, the Bridge of the Gods was the name given to a natural dam created by the enormous Bonneville landslide that completely blocked the river. Scientists have been debating the year it occurred, but with current scientific data, it's now placed at occurring around 1450. On the coach tour, you'll have a view of the slide area on Table Mountain and Greenleaf Peak. Native Americans in the area have legends they tell about the event and the original Bridge of the Gods.

Bridge of the Gods

The manmade Bridge of the Gods

Bonneville Slide

View of the Bonneville slide

Back on board the ship after Multnomah Falls, you'll enjoy cocktail hour in the lounge with appetizers and enjoy the scenery as we set sail through the Columbia River Gorge. Better bring your camera.

Whew! And that was just the first full day on the river cruise. Day 3 is a day of relaxation. Stay tuned and check back.

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