Columbia River Cruises

Columbia River cruises are a great way to see the Columbia River Gorge and other popular areas. You can see the Gorge from a highway but you see so much more when you are on a boat in the middle of the river. Plus you are seeing it from the same perspective as Lewis and Clark when they made their exploratory expedition from St. Louis, Missouri to the Pacific Ocean.

Portland Spirit


There are Columbia River boat tours that will fit into anyone's schedule. You can take a tour that lasts a few hours on up to a tour that lasts seven days. You can fit your river trip into your itinerary or plan your itinerary around your tour.

The seven-day Columbia River cruise covers 1,000 miles on three rivers. You start out in Portland on the Willamette River and then travel east on the Columbia through the Columbia River Gorge and end on the Snake River and a jet boat excursion into Hells Canyon. Different boats have slightly different itineraries. Possible stops and side tours are:

  • Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center
  • Multnomah Falls
  • Bonneville Dam
  • The historical Whitman Mission
  • Jet boat into Hells Canyon on the Snake River
  • Nez Perce Interpretive Center on the indian reservation
  • Tour Mt. St. Helens volcano in Washington state
  • Fort Clatsop
  • Columbia River Maritime Museum
Cruise Ships


The Columbia River forms a natural border between Oregon and Washington so some of the stops on these cruises are actually in Washington State. But, hey, it was all the Oregon Territory at one time. Here is a brief description of some of the stops and tours that may be include

The Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center in

Stevenson Washington is dedicated to preserving the history of the Gorge. Here you will:

  • see indian artifacts.
  • find out about indian legends and their way of life in the area.
  • learn how the Gorge was formed.
  • see how shipping and industry has affected the Gorge.
  • learn about the water route of the pioneers on the Oregon Trail and the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Nez Perce


The Whitman Mission was the home of Dr. Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, early missionaries to what was to become the Oregon Territory. In 1847 they and eleven others were massacred by the Cayuse indians.

The jet boat trip takes you into Hells Canyon on the Snake River. Hells Canyon is the deepest gorge in North America. The area is inaccessible by road. Not only will you see the beauty of the canyon itself but also the abundant wildlife.

Fort Clatsop was the winter encampment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The Columbia River Maritime Museum is in Astoria and houses maritime artifacts of the Pacific Northwest and the Columbia River.

In Pendleton, Oregon you will visit the city's secret underground, the site of opium dens, Chinese jails, gambling halls, prostitution, and bootlegging. At one time Pendleton had 18 bordellos.

Fort Walla Walla houses an important collection of horse-drawn agricultural equipment, military artifacts from Fort Walla Walla, and a pioneer settlement with 17 buildings. There are living history re-enactments on weekends April through October.

The main line for Columbia River Cruises is Majestic America Line.

Sternwheeler and Portland Spirit River Cruises

If you don't have time to take a 7 or 8 day Columbia River boat tour, take a shorter cruise. A trip on Columbia River dinner boats can be just a few hours or all day. There are also short Willamette River brunch and dinner cruises. One day cruise is the Lewis and Clark Exploration Cruise which includes an interpretive guide.

Short cruises are offered by The Stern Wheeler Rose and Portland Spirit.

Find more fun things to do in Portland.

Columbia River Cruises