Columbia River Field School

Discover the Columbia: Paddle, learn, and make friends from across the Basin in an immersive two-week experience.

The Columbia River Field School is an immersive learning experience for students ages 15-18. Over 15 days, students travel the Columbia River by canoe while exploring important aspects of the river’s story through lessons in geography, ecology, hydrology, technology, economics, politics, history and culture.

June 30 – July 14

Participants gain certifications from the Recreational Canoe Association of BC and learn from a diverse set of qualified experts from Indigenous leaders and knowledge keepers, scientists and writers, to life-long Basin residents and government officials. The Field School is an opportunity to meet other young people from all over the Basin who are passionate about our wild places and conservation on and off the water.

On our journey, we will paddle key sections of the river and visit important places including the headwaters, the Columbia Wetlands, historic First Nations’ sites, dams and reservoirs, and more. The Field School is designed to give you a much-needed understanding of the complex challenges and opportunities of the Columbia, so you can help shape its future. Expect to gain new friends, rich memories, and a holistic understanding of the river that flows through the place you call home.

Discover our itinerary

The Field School explores the Canadian part of the Columbia River by canoe, from the headwaters at Canal Flats, through Columbia Lake and the Columbia Wetlands, the Revelstoke area, the Arrow Lakes Reservoir, and to the confluence with the Kootenay River at Castlegar. Participants learn canoe skills and safety at the start of the journey, camp out on the riverside along the way, and paddle important sections of the mighty Columbia.

Along the way, place-based workshops, speakers, activities, and discussions will cover the history and the future of the river, including:
Key species and ecology: River and wetland ecosystems, endangered and threatened species, invasive species
Water quality and quantity: Flows, flooding, glaciers and snowpack, water quality monitoring, nutrient flows
Dams and hydroelectricity: Energy and environment, reservoirs and flood control, the history of dam construction
Columbia River Treaty: Impacts and opportunities, the ongoing renegotiation
Climate change: Causes, current and projected impacts, challenges and opportunities for adaptation and mitigation
Youth on policy: What can young people do to have a voice in decision making?

Application information

Dates: Our 2022 Columbia River Field School is taking place from June 30 – July 14.

Deadline: Applications are due by May 29th, but will be reviewed on a rolling basis – spots are almost full so apply soon!
You can expect to hear back from us within 1 week of submission.
Successful applicants and their parents/guardians will be provided with an extensive pre-trip information package.

Eligibility: To be eligible, you must live in the Canadian Columbia Basin region and be 15-18 years old on June 30th.

Cost: Columbia River Field School is made possible by the generous support of our funders. To help cover a minor portion of trip costs, we ask that participant families pay a suggested contribution fee of $800-$1,000. As we want to limit barriers as much as possible, Financial aid up to 100% is available, please make a note in your application if interested.

All food, transportation, and specialized gear for the trip will be provided.


Covid info: All CRFS trip leaders will be fully vaccinated. It is strongly recommended that students are fully vaccinated. When you apply, we will ask for your vaccination status. You may be required to take a COVID-19 test before or during the trip. We are continually monitoring COVID-19 related public health guidance and will base other risk management practices on the most current standards. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.


“I found that many of the lessons learned when canoeing can be applied to other aspects of life, such as trust, teamwork, and communication.”


For more info, please contact Graeme Lee Rowlands (Program Manager) at or Monica Nissen (Wildsight’s Education Director) at You can also leave a voicemail for Graeme at 250.427.9325 extension 230.

Wildsight thanks the Arjay R. and Frances F. Miller Foundation, the Columbia Basin Trust, the Columbia Power Corporation, the Province of B.C., the Real Estate Foundation of BC, the Recreational Canoe Association of BC, and School District 8 for making the Columbia River Field School and Teach the Columbia possible.


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Join The Team

Want to protect wildlife, clean water and wild spaces? Volunteer with us! Wildsight volunteers are a very special group of people who give generously of their time to stuff envelopes, attend rallies, help run events, put up posters, keep tabs on forestry practices in their communities and participate in citizen science initiatives.