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  • Writer's pictureTheresa Brandt

Cruising the Great American Rivers

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

The American Empress docked in Stevenson, Washington. I took this photo after returning from visiting Multnomah Falls & the Timberline Lodge where I hiked a bit of the ​Pacific Crest Trail and partially up Mt. Hood.

Move over Europe. Await your turn, Alaska. Today, I turn my cruise focus to North America’s mighty rivers, from the Mississippi to the Columbia. Reputable cruise lines that have been around for decades are plying the historic waterways of our continent, revealing culture, cuisine and capitating cities along the way. Here’s a taste of what you can experience.

A Lower Mississippi voyage will sail from New Orleans to Memphis (or reverse)

Mississippi River

Hear and feel the stories of the Mississippi, from its headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico in New Orleans. The farther you sail along the river, the more chapters are revealed. Learn why Chattanooga, Tennessee, was named by The New York Times one of the “Top 45 Places to Go” in the world. Feel the small-town charm of Decatur, Alabama, with its Civil War-era history and fantastic birdwatching. In Paducah, Kentucky, marvel at the backstitch in the National Quilt Museum and discover the pivotal role the town played in American history.

In La Crosse, Wisconsin, take a break from the boat and cruise on four wheels instead - the Great River Road National Scenic Byway is considered one of the most scenic drives in America. Memphis appeals to the music lover in all of us with its Beale Street Historic District, Blues Music Hall of Fame, Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum and more. And, of course, New Orleans, woos us with its cuisine and its character.

The Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island

Great Lakes

An immersive, all-inclusive Great Lakes cruise will reveal the lovely towns that line the lakes, as well as some of America’s liveliest cities. As you sail Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan and Superior, you’ll step back in time, marvel at geological history and see native wildlife and experience local cuisine. Hike in Thunder Bay, Ontario’s, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and taste cheese freshly made at a nearby dairy farm. Cross the famous Soo Locks between Lakes Superior and Huron or find out why eastern Lake Superior is known as the “Shipwreck Coast.” Ride in a horse-drawn carriage on Mackinac Island, where no cars are allowed and admire the late-Victorian and art deco architecture of Alpena on Lake Huron.

Our jet boat excursion stopped for a short break at Garden Creek Ranch along the ​Snake River. ​

I picked apricots in the orchard and checked Idaho off my bucket list!

Columbia and Snake Rivers

For the adventurer in us, cruising the Columbia and Snake Rivers unveils dramatic scenery and showcases the daring exploits of the frontiersmen and women who came before us. Feel the breeze in your hair as you stand on the decks of a mighty paddlewheeler, watching as rocky cliffs and ripped trees pass by. Wander through Astoria, Oregon, a picturesque port city awash with Victorian-style homes and known to be the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies.

Spend a day in The Dalles, known as the end of the Oregon Trail, and a hot spot for vineyards and orchards in the shadow of majestic Mount Hood. Watch kiteboarders take on the swells of the Columbia in Stevenson, Washington, and learn the Native American legends and see petroglyphs that tell the story of the Columbia Gorge.

America is rich in rivers and I invite you to consider these storied waterways when mulling over your next cruise destination. From the Cumberland to the Columbia, there is much to learn, feel, do and taste right here in our big backyard. I look forward to sharing my own experiences later this summer. For now, if your interest is piqued, reach out by booking a consultation through my Services page. I'd love to chat!


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