Columbia River Field School

PADDLE, LEARN, AND EARN 4 CREDITS – July 16-30, 2020
History | Culture | Water | Energy | Environment

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. On top of this, the Field School is an opportunity for participants to meet other young people from all over the Basin, have fun together outdoors, learn to canoe, and practice leadership skills.

This program is a 4 credit Board Authority/Approved course (BAA). Students from any school district in the Columbia Basin may earn 4 high school credits upon successful completion of the Field School, through School District 8 (Kootenay Lake). Students may also earn canoe certifications from the Recreational Canoe Association of BC.

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. Along the way, students will meet with a diverse selection of highly qualified guest experts including Indigenous leaders and knowledge keepers, local and provincial government officials, scientists, conservationists, writers, artists, adventurers, and other lifelong Basin 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. Participants can expect to gain new friends, rich memories, and a holistic understanding of the river that flows through the place they call home.

Read about what some CRFS alumni are up to now, including poetry describing student experiences on the trip.

Applications are now open!

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:

• 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 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: What can young people do to have a voice in decision making?

The program cost is $550. Financial aid bursaries are available for those in need (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 for 2020 are now open. The application window closes at midnight on May 5th. Applicants will be notified by May 22nd.

Download our application guide and read the entire application before beginning. Use the guide as a worksheet to draft your answers. Save your work in the guide until you are ready to submit, then copy and paste your final answers into the application form.

For more info, please contact Graeme Lee Rowlands (Program Coordinator) 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 School District 8, Ambler Mountain Works, the Province of BC, the Royal Bank of Canada and Columbia Basin Trust for making this program possible.

Coronavirus update, March 2020: Wildsight is closely monitoring the Covid-19 outbreak and associated guidance from government health agencies. The health and safety of our students and their families is our top priority. At this time, we expect the Columbia River Field School to proceed as planned this July 16-30. We will continue monitoring the situation and will re-assess closer to the date.

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