One of the most relaxing and fun things to do on the Columbia River is to take a Columbia River day cruise on the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler. The authentic sternwheeler operates out of Cascade Locks May through October.
The sternwheeler was built in nearby Hood River, Oregon by Nichols Boat Works and was launched in 1983. It is a triple decked sternwheeler specially built for excursions.
You’ll have your choice of narrated sightseeing excursions, weekend champagne brunch cruises, dinner cruises, and a variety of special event and holiday cruises. On all the cruises you will be out on the Columbia River experiencing history, hearing about legends and enjoying the Pacific Northwest scenery.
On our dinner cruise, we started out on the upper open decks as the shadows on the river deepened. We passed by Native American fishing areas and saw how they fished in the traditional way. Later, up by the restaurant at Cascade Locks, you can often see the same fishermen selling their salmon to visitors.
We enjoyed going under The Bridge of the Gods, a local landmark linking Oregon and Washington. If you are lucky you will see one of the huge barges traveling along the river.
When it was time for dinner, we joined our group and sat together at a table. The dinner was served buffet style. There were large windows so that we didn’t miss any of the beautiful view.
Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler cruises usually board at the Visitor Center in Marine Park in the Port of Cascade Locks, except during the month of December when the vessel operates from Portland at Caruthers Landing.
Public cruises aboard Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler typically run west (downstream) to Bonneville Dam from Cascade Locks on the Columbia River, then east (upstream) in the direction of White Salmon/Hood River before returning to the dock.
The sightseeing cruises are great for kids while the dinner cruises may be more appropriate for adults. The vessel has a full bar and, at sunset, having a drink on the deck while the scenery goes by can be very romantic.
The sternwheeler is an important tourist draw for Cascade Locks. Each June they celebrate Sternwheeler days with community fun, arts and crafts booths and more.