The Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

The Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler heading west

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Experience the history of the Columbia River Gorge and learn about the Lewis and Clark Expedition on a cruise aboard the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler. We board from Marine Park at Cascade Locks, in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Enjoy riverboat cruises on our authentic triple-deck paddle wheeler, providing 360 degrees of breathtaking vistas. Watch Native American tribes fish from their legendary platforms as they have for centuries. Meal cruises and cruises to take in the views are available. Step on board for a unique viewing of the Columbia River Gorge.

The Sternwheeler’s historic-looking interior and exterior along with its historic setting in the scenic Columbia Gorge makes it a wonderful experience for tourists and history enthusiasts. It has seating for 232 passengers for plated meals, an on-board galley, two full-service bars, and is licensed to carry 599 people.

The Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler was built in Hood River, Oregon by Nichols Boat Works and was launched in 1983. On April 19, 2006, the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler became the first and only paddle-boat leased by American Waterways, Inc.


Length 119.9 feet

Draft 5 feet

Gross weight 92 tons

Cruising Speed 9 knots

Engines (2) Cummins Diesel Electric

The history of Cascade Locks is intimately tied to the Columbia River. The small settlement that grew up on the banks of the river helped early travelers portage around the rapids, first by foot, then by mule-drawn rail cars, steam engines, and finally riverboats.
Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery portaged around the rapids of the Cascades in 1805. They wrote in their journal, “this great chute of falls is about 1/2 a mile with the water of this great river compressed within the space of 150 paces…great number of both large and small rocks, water passing with great velocity forming & boiling in a horrible manner, with a fall of about 20 feet” (October 30- November 1, 1805).

An early Sternwheeler heading east
Forty years later pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail’s water route were forced to make the same portage around the dangerous rapids. Travelers heading west had to make a crucial decision just upstream of these rapids at The Dalles, Oregon. They had to choose whether they would risk life and limb on Mt. Hood’s steep Barlow Road, and overland toll route, or build a raft and float down the Columbia River, risking their life free of charge.

Cascade Locks in 1913
The little Oregon Pony, the first steam engine west of the Mississippi River, carried passengers and freight past the rapids in 1864. Today, the engine can be viewed in Marine Park.

In 1896, the navigational canal and locks at the site of the rapids were completed, and modern-day Cascade Locks was born.

Cascade Locks in 1933 The locks allowed safer navigation of the river, and riverboat whistles echoed in the Gorge each day as the boats made their runs from Portland and The Dalles. Passengers still disembarked at Cascade Locks for portage around the rapids until 1938, when Bonneville Dam succeeded in completely taming the rapids.

Eventually, passengers and freight were drawn to more modern forms of transportation, and roads and railroads displaced the sternwheelers. Although the romantic days of the sternwheelers are now past, you can experience a taste of history aboard the Sternwheeler “Columbia Gorge,” an authentic replica of a triple-decker paddle wheeler in size and construction.

information and images acquired from

In 1803 Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to learn and report about western geography, climate, plants and the indigenous people encountered on their journey to find the great waterway to the Pacific Ocean.


Relax and picnic in Marine Park and Thunder Island. Travel the famous Bridge of the Gods between Cascade Locks, Oregon and Stevenson, Washington. We have RV accommodations and a marina available. The Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler and Marine Park are available for all occasions. Whether you are planning a special evening just for the two of you, celebrating an anniversary or birthday, entertaining guests, planning your wedding or wedding reception, or hosting a group event for up to 200 guests, our professional, courteous staff and knowledgeable event planners will help ensure your special occasion is one to remember.

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