Posted by: noadventure | January 18, 2010

Paddle the Whole Mississippi

This is what the Mississippi River looks like in Itasca Lake in Minnesota. Little kids can walk across it.

From there, it continues on through the marshy woods, shallow and skinny, winding through forests and wetlands.

It’s quite a haul to do the whole thing(2320 miles from almost Canada to the Gulf of Mexico). It drains 31 states and its tributaries bring water water from the Rockies in the west and the Appalachians in the east.

I got this Twainian idea to do the whole thing when I heard about New Orleans native and scientist, Marcus Eriksen. Here he is chillaxing in a pile of plastic bottles.

I read his book My River Home(which I picked up at the library).He went to UNO, worked at the Audubon zoo, and was a marine in the first Persian Gulf war. When he came back home, he decided to make a vessel out of trash(mostly bottles) that he piloted down the entire length of the river. Here’s his river boat:

After doing the river, he later sailed a junk sailboat from L.A. to Hawaii, but that’s another ball of wax.

The book was pretty cool and if you don’t have a library card, I highly recommend getting one. It’s free, they have EVERYTHING, and your not stuck with a book to get rid of after you read one.

Now on the subject of paddling the entire river, alot of people think it’s really dumb and dangerous, but the truth is that a handful of people do it every year in canoes or kayaks. The upper river isn’t bad at all with the exception of huge locks, dams, and a few rapids here and there. In fact, alot of people swim across the river or down it. I personally know a guy named Tommy Staub who swam across at the Fly. He was fine, but by the time he got to the other side, he was too tired to make it back, so he made a phone call and had someone pick him up on the westbank. This guy John Ruskey swims across in Memphis with snorkel fins and a mask:

And then there is Martin Strel. He’s a Slovenian swimmer who has swam the entire length of the Mississippi, the Danube, the Yangtze, and the Amazon. Talk about a beast. Just the pollution in the Yangtze is supposed to be off the charts.

Check him out in action. He sleeps 5 hours a day while swimming rivers and it takes him 7 months to recover after completion.

Imagine being on the water for months and finally pulling into rivertown in Kenner. Make sure you stop and check out the statues that commemorate the first heavyweight championship prize fight in the United States. Bare-knuckle of course.

Don’t believe me? Read the plaque.

So I don’t know when I’ll have time to do the whole river, but I am actively looking for a partner who will paddle from the Fly to the French Quarter with me(Taylor? Tara?). It’s a start.


  1. Planning to kayak the entire legnth of mississippi in 2012 / interested ?

  2. Of course, I’m interested. Don’t know if it’s possible with me career wise(got a lot going on).

  3. One of the greatest adventures of my life– highly recommend doing it! I went from Itasca to NOLA in 2010, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. Take a look at my website, it might be of some aid in the planning phase:

    Good luck!

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