MIssissippi River

So I’ve got it in my head to do the Miss. R. from Lake Itasca to the Gulf in June. I have found two pretty good websites about it, one from a firefighter out of Alaska that did the trip in 2001 and another from, well some guy.

Anyone here done it in part. I’ve never done anything like this. I’m formulating my plan now. I’ve got a ticket to Oregon may 30 to see family for a few weeks and I figure from there I will fly to Minneapolis, to find a used canoe and outfit myself, and arrange transport to the lake.

Any advice from thosae who have done similar trips would be apprecited. Thanks.

In part
I did a part of the river a couple of years ago. My trip report: http://www.nessmuking.com/mrt.htm

I know two people in the kayak club I’m in that kayaked it last year.

The section I did can be winged very easily. Lunch in town every day. Campsites are plentiful. Grocery stores are easy to find. Water was an issue in a few locations. We brought a filter, but just couldn’t bring ourselves to trust the water…

2341 miles!

Go for it!

Water levels could be at flood stage about then, so check coast guard status updates because they do CLOSE the river at times. Army COrp of engineers have a website too on water levels.

I know about 7 people whove done the whole river from itasca to the gulf, will try and round up their email so you can ask them direct questions.

First off… email ME so then i can respond to you.


Miss. River trip blog
Here’s a trip to read about:


navigation charts

– Last Updated: Apr-15-08 11:09 AM EST –

Real good charts from the Army Corps of Engineers from the Twin Cities. Real, real good if you can print in color. Don't forget to print the key. Highly recommend and free to print off.

Both MN and IA publish free maps for the river. The MN maps are for the Mississippi Canoe Trail and show campsites.

Here are the MN maps online: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/canoeing/mississippiriver/index.html

Don’t forget to grab a copy of this: http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/education_safety/safety/boatwater/miss_river_guide.pdf

The Road of Souls: Reflections on the Mi
This guy I know, Nick Lichter, found himself unemployed in 1991 and so decided to paddle the length of the Mississippi. He always was inquisitive, and so also researched the history of the areas he traveled through. He wound up writing a book, “The Road of Souls: Reflections on the Mississippi". It’s not a guide book, but it may be something you’d be interested in reading.

beware the Wing walls
The trip reports I have read indicated the “wing walls” that divert current to the middle of the river are something to be wary of. Not sure how true this is. The Army Corp maps look good.

Are there wing dikes
on the Mississippi? The lower Missouri River has scores of them. I’m getting “in the mood” for a Mississippi or Missouri trip myself. The FF from Alaska used an aluminum Grummen or Lowe canoe if I remember right. Lots of room but I’d think it would catch alot of wind!

In case you weren’t aware of it, there is quite a paddling adventure called the MR340 that occurs in July. It’s a race from KC to St.Louis. Four days, 340 miles. It started with 14 boats 3 years ago and this year there is 129 boats (kayaks and canoes)entered! Last year a tandem team was run over by a tugboat in the middle of the night. The team survived by their $4,000 outrigger/canoe was destroyed! Go to rivermiles.com for information.


They’re detailed in the pamphlet that I listed above. Growing up on the Mississippi, I learned to recognize them,but that’s a pretty easy skill to learn. They’re called wing dams.

Thanks for the replies. I’ve been reading more about it and also looking into like one poster said, the history of the region, and that especially of Missouri has fascinated me. I’m sure I’ll get more qquestions but for now I have two. or three.

  1. Is the Mississippi always clean enough to swim/bathe in?

  2. I guess people don’t purify and drink it, but there are so many tributaries, can I just go into one of thbem a little and purify that water?

  3. I’m looking at used canoes on craigslist in Minneapolis. It’s pretty confusing. FOr this purpose does it really matter much how expensive it is? Say there’s alot of 500 dollar alluminum 16 footers, think that would be alright?


I’ve done…

– Last Updated: Apr-21-08 11:54 PM EST –

I've done trips on both the Missouri & the Mississippi.

My suggestions, based on your questions:

1. I did not, would not bathe in the river. Many barges dump "everything" you could possibly think of into the Missouri & the Mississippi. Many towns that are close to the river do "exactly" the same thing. Think sewage. Think runoff of fertilizer & other chemicals from farms. Think gas, oil, dead animals etc. As you travel downstream, you will most certainly pass some towns. Take baths there.
A 2 or 3 gallon water carrier, full of water obtained from the town & a washcloth equals a shower. Some towns have city parks near the river. A water spigot in the park & a washcloth equals a shower. Don't laugh too loud; go to a car wash. It will work. You go to town wearing shoes, shorts & a tee shirt. Strip off the tee shirt, wet down, lather up, rinse. air dry & go.
Bio degradable soap will work as both soap & shampoo.

2. Invest in a couple of 2 to 4 gallon water containers for your fresh cooking/drinking water.
Milk jugs are a cheap & easy source of water containers.The Missouri & Mississippi both carry lots of silt; clogged filters may become a hassle, unless you let the silt settle in a container before you filter the water. Water filters are a lot more expensive than water containers.
Tributaries that empty into those rivers are coming from where, and carrying what? See sewage/barge trash/farm chemicals/gas/oil/etc.

3. The trips I did were done in old/beater/aluminum/17 footers. They did just fine. If you are patient I think you should be able to find a river worthy 17 footer for 4 hundred or "less". Don't invest in some high dollar, candy colored, metal flake, ultra light weight, carbon fiber/kevlar canoe that you may not have any use for when your trip has ended.
The aluminum canoe will take a lot of abuse, and the current will be strong enough that you won't worry much about getting its weight downstream. I doubt you'll be doing many portages(again/weight no worry); you can avoid those will a little research.

4. Steer clear of the barges, wing dikes, channel markers, and bridge supports. Take a big straw hat to shield your face from the sun, and use sunscreen. If you wear sunglasses, &/or reading glasses....carry a spare pair of each. Also carry a decent first aid kit, a small hatchet & a good knife. Take a camera; lots of photo ops.

If, for whatever reason, you capsize your boat in a very wide part of either river........good luck. It will probably be a hard haul to the river bank pulling that boat. You will probably be a "long" way downstream before you make the river bank. You'll have to watch closely for obstacles in the river downstream. No boat/no trip is worth your life. If you're in the water with a boat; avoid those wing dikes like the plague. Great spot for a foot entrapment. There is all type of gnarly stuff (rope, fishing line, wire, barbed wire, boards, fish nets, trees etc.) caught on wing dikes. I saw a car body, half submerged, on the upstream side of one of them.


A few thoughts
The further down the river, the dirtier it becomes. But I’ve swam in it. I don’t think you’ll be clean after. There are plenty of places, like campgrounds, along the way to stop and get a shower.

Most of the time finding a place to get drinking water is easy. There are enough towns, parks, etc… along the way, so you should count on that instead of the side streams. That way, you’ll have good water, plus it won’t take as long. Bring a filter as a back-up plan.

If you’re doing this solo, look for a solo canoe. It’ll be faster and more controllable. None of the portages above the Twin Cities are too long and there is current to help you along the way, but still just for efficiency, I’d consider the lightest boat you can find. Think about buying a kevlar canoe, because you can sell it after and end up getting 60% of what you paid.

And, like bob said, watch out for the wing dams: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wing_dam

For the people who have already
paddled the river, how was “security”? Any problems with unsavory characters? What about the portages, anyone have gear stolen?

sorry to bring out the glum side of things… 8-(

I would not,
under any circumstances, camp near a public boat ramp.

You’ll have many visitors during the night, almost all of them “unsavory”.

Yep, I lost stuff
I had my kayak broken into one night when I was staying at a hotel. It was in Iowa, and I left my boat at a private dock. In the morning, I came back and all my gear had been torn out of my kayak, including about $10,000 in camera gear.

I found everything, including the camera gear. I lost a knife, flashlight, and a lighter. I was lucky.

Lost nothing…

– Last Updated: Apr-23-08 4:07 PM EST –

We never left boats anywhere, without someone staying behind with them as "security".
Hard to do if you're paddlling solo.

I believe that 80% of people are basically honest.
About 15% will steal if an opportunity presents itself.
The remaining 5% will steal a coin off their dead parents eyes.

I agree wholeheartedly about "not" leaving your boat at, or near a boat ramp; especially for an extended/out of sight time period. If you leave a boat at a boat ramp at night, for an extended time period; you are just asking for a fleecing & you'll probably get it. I wouldn't camp near a boat ramp either.

The majority of the people we met on the river were quite friendly. There were a few notable exceptions. You will be in their area; best bet is to ignore them as much as possible, and move on downstream if you're on the water. Always nice to have a surprise or two for the terminally stupid.


no subject
I’ve thought about security too. I think I’ll just camp on islands as much as possible/away from marinas and towns.

When I do go in to get food and supplies I was thinking I would just hide my boat. Even if it means I have to walk more sometimes. But I’ll just have to feel it out. Most likely once I see the places I’m going through i’ll feel more comfortable, but it’s good to start off extra careful.

And I’ll go through St. Louis at mach 3.

Back to the water quality. I’m hearing it just isn’t good for bathing. I think I overestimated how clean it was. But tell me this. It’s summer. It’s the south, humid hot. At least I can just in and go swimming all the time right?

It’s Summer; it’s hot…

– Last Updated: Apr-24-08 8:33 PM EST –

You are probably an adult; therefore you will make your own decision
on Mississippi river swimming.
If you get a nasty cut on you somewhere; I'd say swimming was not even a consideration, due to possible infection.
Have to admit that when I was young; I swam in it on a fairly regular basis.
Would I now? Nope!
Have already suggested several alternatives.
Here's another. A couple of extra milk jugs of potable water, just for sponge baths.

I'd carry some type of sun shelter with me. On occasion, I'd stop, set up my sun shelter, drink some water, chill out, and take a break. I have rigged a sun canopy on my canoe with 4 small tree brances(tied to thwarts)w/ para cord, and a small piece of cheap tarp(carried for sun shelter) tied to the tree branches w/ para cord.

Have seen a couple of paddlers who had a full sized deck umbrella rigged in their tandem canoe.
Not sure they'd considered the possible natural consequences of a strong gust of wind, a capsize, and a long swim?