Watershed Moments
Kinbasket Reservoir on the Columbia River

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Building connections from source to sea

Watershed Moments is a solo paddling expedition and social-engagement art project that will cover all 2000 kilometers (1200+ miles) of the Columbia River between the source near my home in Golden, British Columbia to the sea beyond Astoria, Oregon. Start date of July 1, 2019.

At the core of this pursuit is the intention to connect people to one another despite apparent differences, to connect viewers of the final work to the land and watershed, and to raise awareness of the very real issues related to this river in the midst of the renegotiations of the Columbia River Treaty.

I'm not using this project to champion a single issue, though there are many I could choose. Rather, I am using this time to engage and connect with communities and landscapes as I travel, allowing my artistic works to form an inclusive portrait of the river and its people in 2019.

Washington/Oregon border formed by the Columbia River

ABOUT THE TRIP

2000 kilometers. 14 hydro dams. 4 months. 1 kayak.

On July 1 I started paddling at Canal Flats on Columbia Lake, and I’m now following the mighty river through broad reservoirs. I've encountered more headwinds than whitewater and I'm portaging around dams instead of waterfalls. First through eastern BC, then Washington, then along the Oregon border to the sea.

I’m paddling an average of 20 km (12.5 miles) per day, a pace that allows time to engage with people along the way. I’m stopping at scheduled times for artist talks, and for coordinated and pre-planned community paddle days in a handful of riverside towns. Plans are still being made as I travel, check the events page often. And get in touch if you’d like to collaborate on planning an event in your area.

If you or someone you know would like to meet up as I come through your part of the world, please get in touch.

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ABOUT THE KAYAK

Skin-on-frame kayak handmade from watershed sourced woods

The vessel I've chosen for this journey is a 14' skin-on-frame kayak, the F1 design from Cape Falcon Kayak. The stringers and keel are Western Red Cedar sourced from the upper Columbia Basin, and the steambent ribs are White Oak which comes from the lower Basin.

My father, Keith Dibble, a career boatbuilder and expert woodworker, visited me for a week of framing in November 2018, and I continued to build, sew, stretch, and seal here and there through the winter and spring. In theory the whole thing could have been completed in 7-10 days.

The design of the boat and the style of building both appealed to me, but a real closer was the weight. This boat is light as a feather (under 30 lbs), which is good when there are 14 dams to work around.

Detail of the Columbia River at the confluence of the Kicking Horse, Golden BC.

ABOUT THE ART

Creating a portrait of the river + exhibiting while paddling

I’ve been creating and presenting a growing series of images in two art galleries along the river as I travel; Kootenay Gallery in Castlegar, BC from June 20 to August 24 and Columbia Art Gallery in Hood River, OR for September and October. Each week I upload a new batch of photographs to be printed and shipped directly to the galleries.

Rather than creating art based solely on my opinions of the river, I’m allowing my process to be shaped by the concerns of people I meet. These concerns may relate to flood control, energy production, fisheries and migration, ecosystems, agriculture and food security, navigation, economic stability and growth, loss of sacred sites, displaced communities, and changes in climate and hydrology.

I’m inviting people along the way to contribute to a collaborative trip log by sharing their words, art, and other contributions relating to the river. I see myself literally carrying the weight of these collected stories downstream, packing the trip log into my kayak and shouldering it as I portage around dams. If you are an artist, writer, poet living near the river, or simply passionate about the Columbia River, please get in touch to make plans to meet up. I would love to include your voice in the collaborative journal.

Every interaction with local river residents along my journey shapes the way I view each new section I paddle, creating a kaleidoscope of experience as I travel. The overall goal is to highlight both the diversity of people living along the Columbia, and the commonalities we all share.

A final exhibition will show the handcrafted kayak I built for the journey, photographic prints, an installation of a large-scale river map, and the collaborative trip log. This will encourage viewers to contemplate their connection to the natural environment, while also allowing people with differing views to see one another through a lens of compassion and interest. A venue for the final exhibition has yet to be set.

Photo of Claire Dibble in Bugaboo Provincial Park in 2009 by Alison Dibble

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Claire Dibble. That's me.

I’m a photographer, artist, and writer. Prior to embracing these labels, I often defined myself as a kayaker.

Fuelled by a love of the outdoors and an adventurous spirit, I spend as much time exploring as possible. In my photographic work, I strive to highlight the ways we all are connected, to one another and to the planet at large.

I’m fascinated by the invisible threads that link people across boundaries, real or imagined. My intent is to increase a sense of community on a local and global scale through environmental portraits, sincere listening, and collecting stories that humanize and show shared experiences.

I’m originally from the broken coastline of Maine and I’m now based in the Canadian Rockies, close to the headwaters of the Columbia River.

As of 2014, I'm a dual citizen (US and Canada) and feel very grateful for such a privilege.