An artist is paddling from her yard to the ocean in a homemade kayak.
“It feels so good to be outside, even in terrible weather,” said Claire Dibble on the banks of the Columbia River last Friday near the Big Eddy Bridge in Revelstoke.
Revelstokians welcomed Dibble, a Golden resident, and were invited to participate in a group swim as part of the welcoming reception for her.
She is following the Columbia River, from its source at Canal Flats to the sea at Astoria, Oregon. The journey is roughly 2,000 kilometres.
The objective is to create a portrait of the river and its people.
As she paddles, Dibble is interviewing folks along the water, from fishermen to swimmers, hearing concerns on how the river is changing.
At its completion, Dibble hopes to create a body of work about the river’s future.
|Dibble met with Revelstokians on the bank of the Columbia River near the Big Eddy Bridge July 26. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)|
For the journey, Dibble decided to build her own kayak.
“I didn’t love the idea of buying a plastic boat. People talk about not using plastic straws and bags but like imagine how much plastic goes into a kayak. How many lifetimes of straws would that be?”
Although Dibble has little kayak building experience, her father helped as he’s a career boat builder.
“Because of that, in a lot of ways, my dad is along with me on this trip.”
On average, Dibble paddles 20 km per day. Along the way, she stops for community paddles and school talks.
She aims to end her journey which she started July 1 by October.
In the last 100 years, the Columbia River has undergone vast changes. There are more than 60 dams in the Columbia River watershed, 14 of which are on the Columbia River itself.
“It’s a bit depressing,” said Dibble.
|Dibble met with Revelstokians and they all went for a dip. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)|
The source, near Canal Flats, was incredible, she said. The Columbia Wetlands stretches from Canal Flats to Golden and is one of the longest undisturbed wetland ecosystems in North America.
It’s also one of the few remaining intact portions of the Pacific Flyway for migrating birds.
“Then I got to my first reservoir (Kinbasket.) Honestly, it’s kind of a wasteland,” she said.
The paddle from Golden to Revelstoke, across Kinbasket Lake and Lake Revelstoke, is the wildest section of the river.
However, she noted signs of human influence are everywhere, from the erosion of steep banks into the river to cut tree stumps littering the banks of Kinbasket Lake.
“I could hear the sounds of logging the whole time,” she recounted.
Dibble said we are all using products that contribute to the demand for logging and dams.
“It’s a reality that kind of sucks. None of us are above it.”
|A group of people meets here each Friday year round and go for a swim. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)|
People along the river have many concerns, added Dibble, from maintaining biodiversity in the wetlands by Canal Flats to erosion from motorboats and pollutants.
A number of people have also told her they want the salmon to return. “That’s been a big one.”
Canada lost almost all its Columbia River salmon 70 years ago with the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington.
The only Columbia River salmon reaching Canada is part of a sockeye run up the Okanagan River. The Grand Coulee dam cut off more than 1,000 km of B.C. salmon habitat.
Part of the ongoing renegotiations of the Columbia River Treaty may include the restoration of those fish stocks.
Agathe Bernard, a Revelstoke local, is planning to make a film about Dibble’s journey.
The film will explore the disrupted landscapes and lives of the communities once situated on the river prior to dam development.
Bernard plans to soon launch a crowdfunding campaign to help finance the film but for now, if people are interested to make a donation they can via https:paypal.me/AgatheBernardStudios.