Columbia & Snake Rivers Experience Guide

Taking a cue from the Native people, Lewis & Clark, early explorers and hearty pioneers who came before, discover these mighty rivers through local food, drink, and adventuring.

Tastings or treks, pours or paddling—the Columbia and Snake Rivers is a region best experienced hands-on. Along the wide and winding rivers, the landscape changes dramatically from rugged hills and deep gorges to high desert and golden coulees. Each microclimate sustains a unique collection of wildlife, vegetation, and wine varietals that thrive in the specific conditions of that area.

These are not sit-on-the-sidelines kind of cruises—the rivers are about action and drinking it all in.

Terroir, Topography & Wildlife


Raise a Glass

It’s bountiful—and the landscape of the Columbia and Snake Rivers pairs perfectly with a glass from this premier wine region.

  • Tours and tastings in Washington and Oregon AVAs
  • Hearty hops and fruit production treat you to a burgeoning cider and craft beer scene
  • Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir from Oregon’s largest AVA, the Willamette Valley
  • Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer from the Columbia Gorge, where white grapes outnumber red
  • Superb Syrah across the sprawling Walla Walla region
  • Critically-acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot of Red Mountain


From the windswept mouth of the Columbia at the Pacific Ocean, to the Columbia Basin dotted with towering peaks and golden coulees, the geological differences are profound. Here are formations—nearly all created by basaltic lava—likely to be spotted on these rivers.

  • Columnar cliffs in Hells Canyon, Columbia River Gorge, and Palouse Falls
  • Mt Rainier, Mt Hood, Mt Adams and other volcanic peaks of the Cascade Range
  • Grande Ronde basalt at Multnomah Falls
  • Ice age flood-carved Columbia Gorge and Beacon Rock
  • Fossils from Miocene-era lava flow floods


The forests and expansive plateaus around the rivers provide open range for wildlife to migrate. While some wildlife is cautiously elusive and easier to spot from a distance, others like twitch-eared deer have become more accustomed to the human presence.

  • Mountain goats
  • Bighorn sheep
  • Pronghorn antelope
  • White-tailed and mule deer
  • American kestrel
  • Bald Eagle
  • Red-tailed hawk
  • Osprey
  • River otter

Columbia & Snake Rivers Slideshow

Our slideshow offers a photo overview of what you’ll see and do along the Columbia & Snake Rivers on our inclusive, 7-night river cruises. Click the image at left to view.

What to See & Do on our Columbia & Snake Rivers Cruises


On Board

  • Cruise Portland’s picturesque Tom McCall Waterfront Park with a sunset champagne toast
  • Stroll along the S.S. Legacy’s three expansive decks
  • Sidle up in the Pesky Barnacle for a friendly game of cards
  • Native heritage comes to life through stories and songs from a special guest from the local Nez Perce tribe
  • Compare local varietals with guidance from your onboard wine expert at a wine tasting in the lounge

On Land

  • Opt for short strolls or hikes up to two or four miles and take in the expansive Columbia River Gorge
  • Cycle through forests, semi-arid terrain, and dramatic geologic formations
  • Cultivate your palate tasting and touring your way through Washington and Oregon wine country—with surprising results
  • Soak up small towns, local legends, and history through tours, culinary samplings, and the expertise of your guides

In the Water

  • Try whitewater rafting in Class II and III rapids in the Deschutes River—with a rafting guide and lure of a post-adventure picnic lunch
  • Examine 7,000-year-old petroglyphs on the walls of Hells Canyon from a jet boat
  • Swim along the smooth, rocky shores of the Palouse River
  • Explore parks and tributaries by kayak and skiff
  • Transit the locks and dams along the Columbia and Snake Rivers

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