You can’t come to Portland, Oregon, and not get in touch with its two massive rivers, the Willamette and Columbia. The two join forces in the Portland area before spilling out into the Pacific Ocean, making for a picturesque city filled with bridges of architectural wonder and riverside parks worthy of a stroll. Another popular activity is taking a tour of the city by boat; but the type of boat can vary greatly depending on your style.
Portland is known for its many bridges and two massive rivers.
A Dinner Cruise
One of the most popular methods of touring the Willamette is aboard the Portland Spirit, a dinner and lunch cruise that lasts between two and two and a half hours. Guests have a mellow ride from Old Town Portland south to the suburb of Lake Oswego, all while noshing on Northwest fare such as Dungeness crab cakes, rack of lamb and beef tenderloin with wild local mushrooms and Oregon blue cheese. Other options include a brunch cruise and a “sightseeing” pass that allows you to join the tour with no food included.
Fast and Furious
A decidedly more exhilarating way to see the Willamette is to take one of the jet boat tours offered by Willamette Jet Boats. The two-hour tour aboard a passenger jet boat gives you a fast-paced ride through the Willamette Falls area, with tour guides offering lively information about the area’s history and wildlife. Another option is the one-hour Bridges Tour that includes a ride around the Portland Waterfront and harbor. Boats depart from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry on the east side of the Willamette.
Steeped in History
Another boat tour along the Willamette allows you to take a dive into Portland’s history. The Sternwheeler Rose is a replica of a 19th century paddlewheeler. The boat takes guests on a tour of the Willamette River and Willamette Falls from its port in Oregon City, just south of Portland, all year except December, when it is docked in Portland. Amenities include a catered dinner and full service bar.
A Longer Haul
If you want an overnight boat tour experience in the Portland area, you’ll have to head a bit farther north to the Columbia River. American Cruise Lines’ Queen of the West is a three-story sternwheeler that serves as a floating hotel on intimate cruises from the Portland area, up the Columbia and Snake Rivers and on to Clarkston, Washington, in the eastern part of the state. The eight-day, seven-night cruise includes lectures from renowned biologists, wildlife artists and historians, as well as first-class dining and staterooms.
When you’re headed on a boat tour along the Willamette River, the weather is a huge consideration. Most boat tours involve at least some time outdoors, so you need to be prepared. If you’re headed to Portland from October through May, bring rain gear and a warm hat, gloves and other warm layers. During the other months, a light rain jacket is a good thing to have as well, since in Portland you never know when the dark clouds will roll in. While seasickness is not generally a problem for most people, if you’re especially prone to it, be sure to take measures to slow it before you board.
- Bridges image by photosfromoregon from Fotolia.com