Columbia River Field School

History | Culture | Water | Energy | Environment

A 4-credit, multidisciplinary Board/Authority Approved Course (BAA) and two-week canoe adventure, the Columbia River Field School invites 16 local youth ages 15-18 to travel by canoe while exploring important aspects of the river’s story through geography, ecology, hydrology, technology, economics, politics, history and culture.

Students paddle key sections of the river and visit important places, including the Columbia Wetlands, historic First Nations’ sites, dams and reservoirs, and more. Along the way, they will meet with a diverse selection of highly qualified guest experts including Indigenous leaders, local and provincial government officials, scientists, conservationists, writers, artists, adventurers, and other lifelong residents.

The Field School is designed to give students a much-needed understanding of the complex challenges and opportunities of the Columbia, so they can help shape its future. On top of this, the Field School is an opportunity to meet other young people from all over the Basin, have fun together in the outdoors, and take turns practicing leadership skills. 


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:

  • The geography of the Columbia River, watersheds as a key feature of the landscape
  • Indigenous peoples: History, culture, future
  • Salmon: History, cultural and ecological importance, challenges, potential restoration
  • Key species and ecology: River and wetland ecosystems, endangered fish and birds, 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: What can young people do to have a voice in decision making?

Participants can expect to gain new friends, rich memories, and a holistic understanding of the river that flows through the place they call home, not to mention certifications from the Recreational Canoe Association of BC. Students from any school district in the Columbia Basin may also earn 4 high school credits upon successful completion of the Field School, through School District 8 (Kootenay Lake).

To read about the 2018 program, click here.

To read about what CRFS alumni are up to now (including some wonderful poetry inspired by the 2018 adventure), click here.

The program cost is $500 with financial aid bursaries available (apply as part of the application).

To be eligible, applicants must be 15, 16, 17, or 18 years old on the trip start date and must live within the Columbia Basin Trust region.

A note on accessibility: If you have any questions or concerns regarding your ability to participate in trip activities due to a physical, mental, or medical condition or disability, please get in touch with us to discuss possible adaptations/accommodations. We will do our best to support you.

Applications are currently closed. Please check back next Spring for CRFS 2020!

For more info, please contact Monica Nissen, Wildsight’s Education Manager: monica(at)

Wildsight thanks School District 8, the Columbia Basin Trust, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, and the Columbia Power Corporation for making this program possible.

Latest news related to Columbia River Field School

EcoStewards project connects students with local trail network

Through a Wildsight EcoStewards project, Webster Elementary students are helping the school and Warfield community get outside and…

EcoStewards project helps students get down to “beesnus”

Thanks to the support of our generous funders and donors, Wildsight environment education programs have reached over 70…

Columbia River Field School alumni make waves with poetry and pride

Last August, 16 pioneering teenagers spent two weeks traveling down the Columbia in the first run of Wildsight…

Minds and Hearts: The Magic of Winter

With the singing of the bluebirds and the vanishing of the snow, spring is here and winter is…


Did you know that animals who thrive in winter are known as chionophiles (ki-on-o-file)? The…

Read More News

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.