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 (1243 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 plan 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.

In July 2019, I'll start paddling on Columbia Lake, following the winding braids of the Columbia River as they sprawl into broad reservoirs. I'll encounter more headwinds than whitewater and I'll portage around dams instead of waterfalls. First through eastern BC, then Washington, then along the Oregon border to the sea.

I’ll be paddling an average of 20 km (12.5 miles) per day, a pace that will allow time to engage with people along the way. I’ll be stopping at scheduled times for artist talks, school engagements in the second half, and for coordinated and pre-planned community paddle days in a handful of riverside towns.

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

Photo and F1 kayak design and build by Brian Schulz of  Cape Falcon Kayaks

Photo and F1 kayak design and build by Brian Schulz of Cape Falcon Kayaks

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, and the kayak is currently still in progress. It was an incredible way for me to start this journey.

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’ll be creating and presenting a growing series of images in two art galleries along the river as I travel; Kootenay Gallery in Castlegar, BC and Columbia Art Gallery in Hood River, OR. Each week I’ll upload a new batch of 10 photographs to be printed and shipped directly to the galleries.

Rather than creating art based solely on my opinions of the river, I’ll allow 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’ll be 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.

I imagine that every interaction with local river residents along my journey will shape 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’m building 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.