Mississippi River


If you still need of info on kayaking the Mississippi, I might be able to help. I have kayaked it from Lake Itasca to Vicksburg, Ms so far and plan to finish the last 437 miles next fall. Read Bluffs to Bayous by Byron Curtis for some practical info too.

Yes . . .
. . . I plan to start around the first of June. I am particularly interested in the difficulties you had negotioating the upper reaches before Minneapolis/St.Paul.

Bluffs to Bayous, FYI
In that trip, the author went south down the Atchafalaya River, instead of staying on the Mississippi to New Orleans.

The Atchafalaya takes you down to Morgan City (my hometown). It will take you to the Gulf of Mexico, but there are no other towns after Morgan City, so you would have to turn around and paddle back up river for a shuttle.

Mississippi Headwaters
Contact the Mn Dept of Natural Resources and ask for their free set of maps of the Headwaters. There are 16 maps. They cover from Lake Itasca to the Mn/Iowa state line. They contain lots of info you’ll need. There are 12 dams between Lake Itasca and Minneapolis 11 you have to portage on your own, the one at Grand Rapids has a free portage service available. Three lakes have to be crossed,Bemidge,Cass,Winnibigoshish, four if you count Lake Pepin below Prescott, Wi. These can be dangerous if high winds come up as they often do. Portaging the dams is the hardest part of the upper river trip. It is by far the most senic though. Below Prescott, Wi is becomes mostly all work. You will also want a set of navigational charts which you can get from the Corp of Engineers website. They come as upper and lower. Upper being from Cairo, Il to St.Paul and lower from Cairo to mile zero which is 100 miles south of New Orleans. Finishing this in two months is very ambisious. At an average of 30 miles a day, It took me 42 days to get from Lake Itasca back to my hometown of Cape Girardeau, Mo. I’d be glad to share more info with you via e-mail. dh

Yep, the portages . . .
. . . in the early part of the trip will be challenging. The boat is light, 47 lbs. I am keeping the gear and supplies to a minimum until I get past Minneapolis/St. Paul.

So far I have the boat (Eddyline Nighthawk 16), a couple of paddles (Swift Mid Graphite 2 piece and Werner 2 piece back up), VHF radio (Standard Horizon HX2720S), GPS (Garmin Legend HCx). I already had all the lightweight camping gear.

I am going to paddle the boat up the intercoastal canal next week for a couple of days and maybe do a couple of down river trips here in Texas before I leave in June.

Cell Phone
Take the home charger for your cell phone with you. You will find lots of places to use it all the way to St. Louis. Below St.Louis there are no more dams and much more current but fewer towns accessable from the river. I have a Nokia also and have still been able to find places to get it recharged all the way to Vicksburg so far. Below St. Louis, clean water is a big challenge. I don’t feel comfortable trying to drink filtered Mississippi river water. So far I have been able to replenish my water as I go, many times from boaters met along the way. You need to be comfortable sitting in your kayak for at least four hours at a time. I do at least 8 hours a day with one 15/20 miniute break for lunch. Below St. Louis, 40 miles a day is not hard to do.

What kind . . .
. . . of places did you find to plug in a charger?

I have a Katadyn Pocket filter. It will remove all the organic contaminates (pooh) but doesn’t remove heavy metals and such. I figure drinking a gallon or so of Mississippi water a day won’t kill me.

cell phone
Above St. Louis there are lots of towns on the river. I would stop to eat a hot meal and or wash clothes and use an outlet while there to recharge the cell phone. I also keep my phone turned off and use it only to call home first thing in the morning and after getting off the water in the evening. Two wweks ago my buddy and I went from Memphis to Vicksburg, seven and 1/2 days and I recharged at Meyersville, Ms but could have made it without it. While training, take time to learn a self rescue method in case you flip. Practice it before you need it. Include a paddle float, bilge pump, sponge, PFD. You will also want a mosquito net for your face while in nothern Mn. They are thick up there. No snakes, but they do have leeches, carry some salt.

Got paddle float . . .
. . . bilge pump and have used them to self-rescue. I am workin’ on my roll but so far no success.

I plan on resuppling myself with some stuff along the way with packages mailed c/o general delivery.

The roll
I still can’t do the roll. You will be fine without it if you get comfortable with the self rescue. The are no real rapids on the headwaters unless you catch some high water after recent rains. The most turbulance I had to deal with was at the entrance to the locks if a barge had just exited before I was allowd in. You will appreciate the locks after having to portage all those dams above Minneapolis. The people in Mn are great. I had help at several of the portages from bystanders, everything from helping me carry my gear to throwing it all in the back of a truck and being hauled to the other side of the dam. I carried all my food with me from the start and still had some left when I got back to Cape Girardeau. Plan on stopping here at Cape Girardeau and getting a hot shower and a good meal on me. I look forward to returning thr kindness I was shown many times on my trip.

Hey RA68094221 (Neighbor)
Hey RA68094221,

I live just across the river from ya in Anna. I am in Cape every weekend. I ride my bike to Cape now and then on the levee.

I would love to meet you at Socials or one of the other coffee shops downtown. I would really like to hear more of your Mississippi adventure.

When I was 15 (1973) my parents put myself and a friend with a 17 ft Grumman in at Grand Tower on a Friday afternoon and picked us up in Cairo at noon on Sunday. It was this event that made me realize they didn’t love me and were trying to kill me:-o Barges, Gar and Cotton Mouths were the norm. Oh, and WHIRLPOOLS :-o

Send me an email if you are interested and I will send you contact info.


Hello Anna Neighbor
I’m at gpadavid@yahoo.com

Iowa Maps
The Iowa DNR also has a set of map available for free. I did Jacobson, MN to Dubuque, IA a couple of years ago. Averaged around 30 miles a day in those sections. Ate lunch in town almost every day. Easy to find campsites.

I also grew up on the Mississippi on Iowa, so if you have any specific questions, let me know.

You can pretty much wing the section of the trip that I did. It’s also very easy to shop for food along the route.

I’ve ordered the Minnesota maps . . .
. . . I’ll do the same for Iowa. I plan on cooking and eating out of grocery stores most of the time. Have convenient places to resupply will help me early on where I have to portage.

There were a few portages that really stunk. I hate taking extra weight with me, but in a kayak, I’d really consider carrying portage wheels or a mesh bag backpack to help with the portaging.

If I were to do it again, I’d take a canoe until the Twin Cities just because of the portages.

I’ve spent some time . . .
. . . thinkin’ 'bout that. I plan on keeping my gear to a minimum until I get beyond Minneapolis/St. Paul. VHF radio, Walkman, Katadyn water filter, etc. all get mailed to Mineapolis. The military duffel bags are made of nylon and have shoulder strap plus they fold down pretty small. I figure I can get everything into it so I can make one trip for the kayak and another trip for everything else.

Water Filter
Are you planning to fill water in parks, etc… or not use a water filter?

Eating out of grocery stores and resupply are not as easy as you think. You also might think about a canoe paddle as your spare. A spray skirt is also a mandatory if you are paddling solo. I would consider starting a little earlier.