7 rivers, 7 continents - USA

Hi all,

My first post here on Paddling.net. Just to introduce myself - my name is Mark Kalch and I thought to have a crack at paddling the longest river on each continent from source to sea. In 2008 I was fortunate to complete the Amazon River, 153 days and 6000+ km. (http://www.expeditionamazonas.com) A real adventure with a lot of smiles and even some tears! I thought that seeing as though I was lucky enough to knock off the Amazon I might as well have a go at the other 6.

Next up is the Missouri-Mississippi River. I am really looking forward to this paddle for a number of reasons - I imagine it will differ somewhat from paddling the Amazon and it will be my first visit to the US!

The number of river folk who have come out of the wood work with advice, tips and general encouragement has been fantastic. Even though I will be paddling for the most part alone from source to sea, if I do make it, it will have been thanks to these people. At least one of the members on this forum, Norm Miller has gone out of his way to help out immensely.

Right, question. I will begin my expedition at Brower’s Spring, Montana, walking until the waterway is big enough to put in with a pack raft which I will use until I reach possibly Three Forks where I will begin paddling my kayak proper. I am fortunate to be sponsored by Tiderace kayaks and will paddle one of their Xplore_X boats.

My boat is being shipped to Seattle on a container with a bunch of other boats for their West Coast distributor. I will also fly into Seattle. From Seattle I will need to get myself and my boat to near the Three Forks area or thereabouts.

My query is - best way to go about this? I thought I might hire a vehicle in Seattle and drive myself cross country. Feasible? One option. Or KAS transport? I just spotted them on here and folks seem to have good things to say.

Anyway, any help, advice, tips, warnings, abuse much welcomed. If anyone is keen to paddle with me for a few days I would love to have you along.




The Mighty Mississippi
Good luck and have fun, wish I had some advice for you, but I’m clear on the other side of the country.

No worries, thanks Phil!

You could do a one way rental. The drive is about 10 hours from Seattle and 3 forks is pretty close to Missoula and Bozeman where you should be able to drop off the car. Last summer we rented a one way to return our canoe from Richland, WA to Seattle after a trip down the Yakima.

Back on top

why the missouri
If the challenge is to do the longest river why not just do the length of the Mississippi.

When you hit Memphis go get some bbq.

Good luck.

Ryan L.

the Missouri-Mississippi drainage is the longest in N. America not the Miss alone.

so… 7 drainages on 7 continents

read the website
read the website…its all there

Jake’s Site
Check out Jake’s portagetoportage.com site. Part of his trip was the Mississippi.

Thanks folks!

– Last Updated: Apr-24-11 4:48 AM EST –

Thanks for all the suggestions folks.

mrmannerz - One-way rental sounds like it might be a good idea. Were the rates reasonable? I know they tend to sting you for a one-way sometimes although it might also work in their favour if they need to move a car across country.

radiomix - Yeh, it is all a bit arbitrary isn't it? I am attempting to do the longest river on each continent which in the US, is actually the Missouri River buddy, not the Miss.

On top of that I am running SOURCE to SEA. The definition of source that I use (alongside the USGS and National Geographic Society) is something along the lines of: "...the most distant point (along watercourses from the river mouth) in the drainage basin from which water runs year-around (perennially), or, alternatively, as the furthest point from which water could possibly flow (ephemerally)". Meaning I must run from Brower's Spring in Montana to the Gulf of Mexico. 4000 miles as opposed to 2300 miles or so for the Missouri or Mississippi alone.

You know the best thing? I make the rules! There ain't no governing body for this sort of thing (except my esteemed and knowledgeable peers who have been before me). If you disagree with my definition or reckon I have got it wrong, no problem. But thanks to the definition of source that I do use there is no further distance I can paddle on one continuous waterway on the continent of North America.

charlied - Jake's website has been a mine of intel for me. From his blog alone I have learnt so much. His gear list has also been fantastic. Cheers.

paadletothesea - Thank-you sir!

spliting hairs aside
As someone who studied geography in college I hate the argument between longest, tallest, etc. I live on the Tennessee river which “officially” can very on length by 200 miles. In fact they “officially” have changed the start of it by a few miles just in the past fifty years.

That aside. If you start in Seattle and drive, Butte or bozeman would be the safe bet. I don’t know about one way rates, but I would guess that it will be a rip off because you would be dropping the car in a low rental volume area. Bozeman may be better because it is a college town, but I’m just guessing.

If you have never been to the USA you are jumping right in. The drive will be impressive as that is some of the coolest scenery in the country. You will fly into an area approaching rain forest and quickly be paddling into an area that approaches dessert.

Good luck on your epic journey.

Ryan L.

Your definitely right
about the semantics and it is certainly something that I hate to lose too much sleep over. Touting an expedition and the whole PR circus that goes with it (first, longest, hardest etc) leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But I figure if I choose the furthermost point from the sea I can’t go any further than that (until in 50 years someone changes it!)

One-way rental does sound like a good option heading to Bozeman I reckon. But again, like you say less demand there. I will look into it.

I am super amped to be in the US for the first time. Growing up with such a US-centric influence (TV, movies, politics) it almost feels as if I have been already. But I am pretty sure the real US is not all Seinfeld, Simpsons and Hollywood!

Cheers for the best wishes Ryan. Looking forward to it all!

Question on elevations and portages
Mark, this is a breath taking paddling goal. All the best.

I can read the names and distances of the seven rivers on your blog, but I was wondering if you could state the elevations of the seven sources.

In addition, how much of the Amazon did you have to portage?

Source elavations
Hey Glen,

Cheers. It is a bit of an epic and will take many years but worth having a go at I reckon.

Source elevations listing is a great idea. I will post them up. The Amazon and Yangtze start at the highest elevation by a long way. 5000m+. The Volga just over 200m!

On the Amazon there were surprisingly few portages. When I say that I speak relatively. Some days on the Apurimac (the upper section of the river in the Andes) we portaged for 6 hours to go 50m! Other days we ran freely the entire time. It really depends on water levels. The change in flow from low water to high in the canyons is unbelievable. Everyday we were on the river the water was rising as the rains came and the snow melted up the valley. There were many times that I think we would have rather portaged but often it was impossible to scout or portage sections meaning the only option was to scout on the fly and then just back ourselves. The Apurimac is a fairly techie river and our 14 raft could not fit some places where a kayak might.

The entire upper section of the river took us about 1 month to run. The hardest and downright scariest month of my entire life! But also the most amazing and memorable. The canyons and river make for a life changing experience.

Do you have trepidations for the Lower Nile? It seems that mightbe even scarier. Taht is the Nile nearest its source.

Hi poleplant? Do you mean the Upper Nile above and below Lake Victoria? Oh yes! This is stuff that gives me something to think about. I have a friend who made the first descent of the White Nile in 1996. He was also part of a team that did a sea to source of the Nile in power boats. Cam Mclean is his name. He owns Adrift in Uganda. He told me he would not exactly be keen to re-run the White Nile! That is from a bloke with 20+ years of pioneering whitewater, most on the White Nile!

The Nile along with the Yangtze are certainly the 2 toughest remaining rivers. Hectic whitewater, not to mention crocs, hippos and potential men with guns on the Nile. But, got to give it a crack I reckon. Makes life a touch more interesting.

press on.
Good info on the other rivers…press on regardless.

Any further luck with the shuttle from seattle?

Shuttle from Seattle to Montana
No luck as yet. Still looking into the hire car option I reckon.

I am also thinking of another idea. My boat is coming in to Seattle with a load of other boats for the US distributor. These guys are based in Portland. I might have them take my boat with them to Portland and after flying in to Seattle head there. About a 3 hour drive I think. Then from Portland head over Montana way. Doesn’t solve getting the kayak cross country but a little easier logistically at the start.

Speak soon mate.