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Natural Awakenings Central-Eastern Connecticut

Traveling the U.S. Waterways

Mar 29, 2024 ● By Christina Bafumo

Niagara Falls

Photo Credit: Westend61 / William Perugini

Did you know that there are many rivers in the United States that you can take a river cruise on?

Let’s start with the river that is closest to Connecticut and the Northeast as we travel on the Hudson River in New York. Explore the beauty of the Catskill mountains on the western shores and the Taconic and Berkshire hills on the eastern shores. This cruise takes place in the fall so you can experience the beautiful fall foliage. You will also get to explore excursions to the home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the U.S.’ 32nd President, which is on the national historic list in Hyde Park, New York. Also on the agenda is an exploration of the famous military academy of West Point, which was originally a fort during the American Revolutionary War.

Maybe it is the mighty Mississippi River that interests you. This river can be traveled in many ways: you can cruise the entire Mississippi River from St. Paul, Minnesota, to New Orleans, Louisiana, or the upper or lower parts of the river. There are also many different cruises on smaller rivers that lead into the Mississippi River.

Mackinac Island on a Great Lakes Cruise

Photo by: Chris Bafumo

No matter which way you travel—whether on a paddle-wheeler or a cruise ship—the cruise will remind you of the Mark Twain classics. In Hannibal, Missouri, you can visit the famous author’s home. Continue traveling down and you will get to the great music town of Memphis, Tennessee. Explore Beale Street, the land where great rhythm and blues music originated. It’s only three blocks long but has so much history and attractions. Take a detour to visit Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley. Graceland is a must-see not only for Elvis fans, but just to visit and see how talented the King of Rock & Roll truly was. The rooms that contain all his special awards and records are impressive. The home itself still has some of his family staying there at different times.

Stop in Vicksburg, Mississippi, the setting of the blood siege in the Civil War. President Lincoln said, “Vicksburg is the key. The was can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket… They can defy us from Vicksburg…As valuable as New Orleans will be to us, Vicksburg will be more so.” Visit the national military park where a bloody 47-day siege occurred during the Civil War.

Continue down the muddy Mississippi to Baton Rouge, the capital of Louisiana, then end your cruise in New Orleans, the home of Mardi Gras. Visit the French Quarters and enjoy a carriage ride through the quarters or hop on a streetcar through the Garden District before a flight back home.

The Mississippi Cruise

Photo Credit: JayL /

As the Mississippi is filled with history of the Civil War, the Snake and Columbia Rivers are the Lewis & Clark expedition rivers. Start in Clarkston, Washington, with a jet boat ride down Hell’s Canyon. This is the deepest canyon in North America. The landscape is a sight to see from mountain peaks to remote wilderness areas.

Take an excursion to Pendleton, Oregon, to visit the underground tunnels created centuries ago. Make a stop in Dalles, Oregon, the last stop on the Oregan Trail. You will get to see Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams from the ship and at your stop in Dalles. This historic town has many murals painted on their buildings. Continue into Washington to visit Mt. Saint Helens, learn more about the explosion of this volcano that erupted in 1980, and its impact on the environment and the lives of people there. This is the volcano that didn’t erupt on the top; she blew out on the side. The crater is still there.

You will then continue to Astoria, Washington, which is the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies. Explore Fort Clatsop the winter camp of Lewis & Clark in 1805-1806. Your cruise will end in Portland, Oregon.

You may want to cruise on our wonderful Great Lakes. This isn’t a river cruise, but rather an exploration type of cruise. The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system in the world; we are so lucky to have not just one but five of them. There are many different itineraries for exploration of these lakes. When traveling between Lake Michigan and Lake Heron, you will get a day to explore Mackinac Island, an island that even to this day has no vehicles (except emergency vehicles). You can call a taxi, but give yourself plenty of time; it is a horse and buggy taxi. Bikes and horse-drawn wagons are allowed. Visiting the Grand Hotel, you will have to pay a fee to go on the porch—if you have lunch or dinner there, the fee will be deducted from your bill. This is the famous hotel in the movie Somewhere in Time, with Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour. They did need special permission to have vehicles there for their movie.

The Downtown Skyline of Memphis, Tennessee

Photo Credit: Sean Pavone /

Lake Superior will bring you to Thunder Bay in Canada, which is known as “Canada’s Gateway to the West.” Enjoy Niagara Falls while on Lake Ontario. Take a ride on the Maid of the Mist which will bring you close to the Canadian Falls.

Lake Erie will take you into Ohio, at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. The Cuyahoga River caught on fire a total of 13 times, dating all the way back to 1868. The last fire in 1969 helped in the passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972. This is the shallowest lake of the five.

There are so many ways to explore the waterways of the United States. Our great country allows you to discover all we have to offer, whether it be a paddle-wheeler on the Mississippi or an exploration ship in the Great Lakes.

There is something for everyone. Whatever you decide, you are helping tourism in the areas you take an excursion. The local economy looks forward to you enjoying their cities and towns.

Christina Bafumo is a travel advisor and vacation planner for Cruise Planners - The Traveling Buddies. She is a master cruise counselor with CLIA, verified travel advisor with ASTA and a certified travel advisor with Travel University as well as being certified in autistic travel planning. Connect at 860-573-3199, [email protected]