One year ago, before taking the American Queen on the three-week “Mighty Mississippi” cruise and American Queen Steamboat Company’s newest paddle wheeler, American Duchess (again, on the Mississippi), we had booked a cruise on the American Empress. After having such great experiences last summer and in January on the other two paddlewheelers, we were looking forward with great anticipation to cruising the Snake and Columbia rivers aboard the company’s second boat in their three-boat fleet.
We chose an east to west itinerary rather than the reverse, which was a good call. The eastern part of Washington is barren desert with an annual rainfall averaging about ten inches. As you travel west, the scenery becomes much more lush and green, thanks to the 70+ inches of rain falling closer to the coast. During our cruise, it got prettier each day as we made our way from Clarkston to Richland, and then to Stevenson and Astoria, before disembarkation. (The Dalles, Oregon, was also on the itinerary; however, the water level was too high to stop there.)
Prior to boarding the river boat, we spent one night on our own in Spokane at the Ruby 2 and then stayed another night with the other American Empress passengers at the Historic Davenport Hotel, just a short walk away.
The Ruby 2 was in a great location and quite a bit more budget-friendly than the Davenport. We figured being totally spoiled for one night would be more than enough for us, since we were perfectly happy in our clean, comfortable, and quiet room at the Ruby 2.
As luck would have it, we arrived in town on the morning of Spokane’s annual Lilac Festival, and the evening parade was routed just a block away from our hotel. This was such a big deal in this city of 208,000 residents that people started staking out their viewing spot the night before by leaving lawn chairs on the curb. By the time we arrived, there were colorful rows of canvas-backed chairs covering the entire parade route in the downtown city center!
It was a gorgeous day, so we took advantage of the beautiful weather by seeing the downtown area on foot. Spokane Falls is the main attraction, and it borders one edge of the city center. Pictures don’t do it justice, because it’s not just about seeing the falls; you need to hear and feel the power created by the tremendous rush of water. According to www.visitspokane.com, “Flows can reach upwards of 31,000 cubic feet per second—that’s the equivalent of nearly 232,000 thousand gallons of water racing through a single square foot of the Spokane River in the blink of an eye.”
Between Spokane Falls and the downtown city center is Riverside Park, a nice place to walk through while checking out the various views of the falls. Along the way, we saw plenty of geese enjoying the pond (and bread being tossed to them), and children enjoying the gigantic red Radio Flyer and beautiful carousel.
The following day, we checked in to the Davenport, left our bags, and took the bus to Manito Park, because it was too hilly and non-pedestrian friendly to get to on foot. What a beautiful place! I was envious of the homeowners that bordered that wonderful park—until I remembered how cold it gets there in Winter!
After returning to the hotel, we took the hotel’s interesting self-guided tour. What a beauty! As for our room, we lucked out with a corner room, which was huge—and, the nicest hotel room we had ever stayed in.
The following day, American Queen Steamboat Company bused us to Clarkston, Washington to board the American Empress. For a tour of the boat, check out my next blog post coming soon!
Coming up next: AMERICAN QUEEN STEAMBOAT COMPANY’S AMERICAN EMPRESS