Wildfires in Pacific Northwest Alter Columbia River Cruises

September 7, 2017
Sunrise Over Vista House on Crown Point at Columbia River Gorge in Oregon with Beacon Rock in Washington State

(1:09 p.m. EDT) -- Extensive wildfires in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge have slightly altered the programming for Pacific Northwest river cruises taking place this week.

The U.S. Coast Guard closed the Columbia River to marine traffic east of Portland late Tuesday night. About 20 miles of river were shut down to protect ships from potential hazards of falling ash and to allow firefighting aircraft to land on the water. It's expected to reopen to commercial marine traffic Thursday night.

Cruise Critic has reached out to river cruise lines that are sailing on the Columbia River. Below are the changes that have been made:

American Cruise Lines

American Cruise Lines has two ships on the Columbia and Snake rivers, American Pride and Queen of the West. No information has been released by the line.

American Queen Steamboat Company

American Empress left Astoria, Oregon on Wednesday and arrived in Vancouver, Washington on Thursday. A free tour to Mt. Saint Helens was made available to all passengers, and those who took the tour as a premium option earlier in the cruise were given a refund. Passengers who had already toured the volcano site were ticketed for a tour of Olympia, Washington, which included a visit to the state capitol and a tour of Batdorf and Bronson Coffee Roasters.

Pending Coast Guard approval, the ship is due to leave Vancouver at 6 p.m. Thursday and arrive in Richland, Washington, on Friday, skipping the sights in between. The planned itinerary will resume on Saturday.

Lindblad National Geographic

Lindblad's itineraries on the Snake and Columbia rivers do not begin until September 18 and 19. "We are following the situation as it unfolds and are in contact with our local partners," the company said in a statement. "Should conditions warrant an itinerary change, we will notify guests as soon as possible."

UnCruise Adventures

When the river closed, UnCruise had its ship, S.S. Legacy, on the east section of its itinerary. It's currently running as scheduled, said Sarah Scoltock, director of communications. "We are watching conditions and in touch with local authorities there, and we're ready to make adjustments to the next departure," she said in an email. "Depending on smoke conditions, we may alter activities and locations during the trip. Luckily, UnCruise is adept at changing plans quickly and making sure each trip is enjoyable for guests. Being flexible is part of who we are and how we operate."

--By Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor