Portland Spirit cancels Washougal-based river tour due to COVID-19

'Seven Wonders of the Gorge' cruise from Washougal to Beacon Rock was set to begin July 5

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The Crystal Dolphin, a yacht owned and operated by Portland Spirit, cruises the Columbia River. Portland Spirit had planned to launch its "Seven Wonders of the Gorge" river cruise from Washougal in July, but has had to cancel the 2020 "Seven Wonders" tour due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Contributed photo courtesy of Portland Spirit)

Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Portland Spirit has canceled the launch of its “Seven Wonders of the Gorge” river cruise, set to begin in Washougal this summer.

“The Port of Camas-Washougal was excited to partner with the Portland Spirit on this exciting new venture showcasing the natural beauty of the Columbia River Gorge,” Port community relations specialist Sadie Hayes stated in a news release issued by the Port. “Although we are sad to miss out on this partnership in 2020, we are hopeful that this opportunity will be renewed in the future.”

The Port agreed in November 2019 to allow its Washougal-based breakwater dock as a launching point for Portland Spirit’s Crystal Dolphin, an 84-foot, 140-passenger yacht, for two months this summer.

Portland Spirit, best known for its dining and sightseeing river cruises in the Columbia River Gorge and downtown Portland, planned to offer twice-daily, three-hour, roundtrip tours from Washougal to Beacon Rock on the Crystal Dolphin every day of the week throughout July and August. The first cruise was set to depart on July 5.

“We canceled for this year because of the virus,” said Dan Yates, president of Portland Spirit. “To promote a new cruise is hard, but the virus made it tougher. We have confidence that ‘Seven Wonders’ is going to be successful, and are looking to restart next year.”

“It’s going to be a good revenue source for the Port, and it’s going to bring people down to see what we have here, especially with the future development of our waterfront,” David Ripp, the Port’s chief executive officer, told the Post-Record in November 2019. “I see it … helping us draw people down to the waterfront to see what’s actually here.”

Yates told the Post-Record that “working with the Port was one was one of the more enjoyable interfaces (he’s) had with government agencies.”

“We wanted to have a location on the lower Columbia River at the start of the National Scenic Area,” Yates said in November 2019. “We operate a sternwheeler in Cascade Locks, and we have four boats in Portland, so we have a presence on the Columbia (River), but the Vancouver waterfront is quite a ways from the actual National Scenic Area. Our cruise to Multnomah Falls is popular, but it’s only once a week, and (‘Seven Wonders’) would be a much shorter version of that without going through Bonneville.”

According to the terms of the agreement, Portland Spirit would have paid the Port $1 per foot of vessel length per day for the docking period; reimbursed the Port for water and electrical usage; provided for its refuse removal; and purchased fuel from the Port.