I like adventure. I plan to paddle down the Mississippi from the source to the Gulf of Mexico starting in June. I have never been in a Kayak. I plan to get the boat this month if everything goes right, a Eddyline Nighthawk 16. I plan on working on by kayak skill in the local bays and rivers until then. Am I nuts?

I have plenty of experience in long distance bicycle and motorcycle touring so the logistics of packing for long term journeys where weight/volume is a concern is pretty much solved.

I am most concerned about finding my way, portages in the upper reaches of the Mississippi. Do I need to think about GPS? I am a map and compas guy.

I plan on having my wife haul me to Minnesota and stand by for a few days in case I need to be rescued early on. She will pick me up at the Gulf and haul my ass back home if I surve. She has done this on a number of occassions so she is used to it.

I plan on taking a couple of months. I will probably resupply myself with care packages mailed to general delivery along the way along with just shopping in the local supermarkets. I might fish a little. I will drink treated river water

What do I need that is unique to kayak travel?

Email me about your trip. I will forward your email to a few people I know who have also done the whole river.

NO GPS!!! those things are so overrated.

just do it!!!

get good topo maps and yes do some resupply at various towns etc.

I think your first dam is not till Alton Il. near St Louis. Above that the rivers not that wide so you will be fine.

I had some friends do the Miss in a home made huck finn raft that they tied together.

good luck and take pics


Start at lake Itaska by the stepping stones. If you find you are going upstream turn 180. You should find your way. The sun in many parts of the central USA rises in the east and sets in the west.

You may have right of way over barge traffic but don’t even consider a challenge.

About the water, I wouldn’t drink it; as you get downstream it contains lots of sewage from humans and animals.

If you have never been in a kayak, try sitting against a wall with your legs straight out on the floor for a couple of hours (read a book), and see if your legs can take it, I mean the circulation.

Slight correction

– Last Updated: Sep-21-08 12:39 AM EST –

There are about 12 dams before you even get to the northern Illinois border (dam #11 is just upstream of there, but farther upstream are Dam #5a and #5b, so I figure that makes it 12 total by that point). I think there are another dozen or so before you reach St. Louis (based on the fact that I seem to remember years ago that "Lock and Dam #26" was in the news a whole bunch). There are no dams downstream of St. Louis. I suppose "not that wide upstream of there" is a relative term, but the open-water areas behind the dams along the western border of Wisconsin range from roughly 2.0 to 4.8 miles wide. However, getting lost shouldn't be a concern because you'll want to stay in the navigation channel anyway to take advantage of the best current.

thats whati ment
sorry I ment BELOW st louis with the damn question. yes they are all above etc.

there is the Chain of Rocks are at st. louis…can be dangerous to deadly. PORTAGE IT river left right at the round metal pilings etc. Its a two foot carry no big deal

People do this
I’ve run into two people doing this. One was in a rowboat and the other was in a little day touring kayak. The best part is probably in Minnesota. I don’t know if the section below Cairo IL would be much fun. You might want to invest in a VHF marine band walkie-talkie.

The Chain of Rocks can be portaged on river left or just run by lining up with the leftmost water tower. If the STL river level is above ten feet this will be easy.


Kay Roe. . .
. . . shades of Huck Finn! I will be taking the collected works of Mark Twain with me.

good luck!
By the time you hit Cairo, IL, you’ve only paddled 1/3 of the river. It begins to double back on itself fairly often as it loses elevation, and you’ll begin paddling 7 river miles for each linear mile. Its the third longest river in the world - don’t take this challenge lightly. Most people reach Cairo or Memphis and give up - supply stops are fewer and further between when you get further south - as are towns, post offices, roads, people, hospitals…

For good information on the lower Mississippi, contact John at Quapaw River Co. http://www.island63.com/. He’s a very active proponent of Lower Miss. conservation, and knows that river as well as anyone.

If you’ve never been kayaking, I would strongly recommend taking a few lessons. It will make your trip safer, as you will need to know what to do in certain situations.

Do not underestimate the Mighty Mississippi - a lot of people drown in the current every year. It looks pretty, and looks benign because of the width, but there is an impressive volume of water running through there. A good river chart, even a commercial nav chart, will help you through some of the wetland areas that can get deceptive.

Why not a canoe? You will travel in
a great deal more comfort.There are canoes as fast as most kayaks and almost as seaworthy,at least for river travel.

Mighty Mississip
The prettiest part of the river (by far) is between Lake Itasca and Dubuque, Iowa. Just downstream of the Twin Cities the Mississippi picks up the Minnesota and St. Croix Rivers and is decent sized beginning at that point. Minneapolis and St. Paul no longer dump raw sewage into the river, but the Minnesota River is one of the most polluted in the country (agricultural run-off), so I’d think twice before drinking river water - even filtered, and I wouldn’t eat river fish more than once a week. As for watercraft, I’d consider attaching a rowing rig to a canoe (Spring Creek Outfitters makes a good rowing attachment) as a higher volume, more comfortable alternative to a kayak.

speed record
If you have any interest in records, you might look into setting a speed record, even if you are a novice paddler right now. It looks to me like the record book is wide open right now, simply because nobody has attempted a transit under ideal conditions.

A few years ago two guys set a new tandem canoe speed record, but the river was very high for the last 2/3 of their trip. However, it seems to me that a paddler on the lower river would travel faster at low water levels. This natural advantage would probably be great enough to outweigh the faster paddling speed of experts, which those guys were.

The problem is that the trip takes a lot of logistical support, so once you line all that up, it’s hard to vary your launch date with recent weather conditions. However, if you can do that, and if you study the river’s flows in advance, I bet you could get a huge natural advantage over the high water conditions those guys faced.

Note: I could easily be wrong on all this - do your own research. It’s a complicated subject, and there are many opinions on all sides. I’ve just hit a few high points of my own views here, hoping to pique your interest. I’d be happy to discuss further and even help gather data and help arrange logistical support for anybody interested in making a run. As my user name implies, I’m right here at riverside.

Kayaks . . .
. . . seem to speak to me much the way bicycles and motorcycles do.

I am too old . . .
. . . and lazy to try to set any records. I want this to be a leisurely trip.

too old–leisurly trip??
The Mississippi River is 2340 miles long–in order to paddle the whole length in 60 days, you have to paddle an average of 39 miles a day. Unless you have a significant current(in some parts you would and some parts you definatly would not) this would make for a very long day of not so leisurly paddling. There will be many days when the current is insignificant and the wind will be in your face—my advice is to give yourself more time or plan for a shorter trip—also doing a few warm up trips in a kayak wouldn’t be a bad idea—

I have no rigid schedule . . .
. . . the trip will take as long as it takes. I have been doing a little research and I come up with an average current of 3 mph. With that amount of current 39 miles per day out to be pretty easy.

Walter email (bottom corner link)

Yeah you dont need to set any records like the guy posted. You would need high water at best to set them anyway as all previous records were set in high/flood stage including Bob Bradford and Curt Eids 18 day record from Itasca to Mile-0 . Verlen Kruger and Bob broke the record the year before that at 21 days and Verlen was 78 years old. Heck with the record. If you really want to do someone speacial break the record UPSTREAM. Kruger and Landick paddled it solo from New orleans to Lake Itasca unstream in 84 days and verlen was in his mid 50’s at the time. Now thats a record.

Yeah Like the guy above posted. Contact John Rusky at Quawpqaw. Hes a good friend of mine. Ive paddled with him on the Yellowstone and the Missouri. HEs done all the Miss and would be a good logistics and base camp person when you get to Clarksville Miss.

Just get good topos. A canoe would be more comfy but if your not into being comfortable that ok too. The wind and weather will dictate. 39 miles a day is a lot on average to me. Especially when a newbie. Im not saying you cant do it, im saying dont rely on that as being your time indicator. Ive done 81 solo in a day but that was 17 hours of paddling. In my 04 trip when i was on the big reserviours, i did 30-40 a day but those were all 12-14 hour days to give you an idea. Again the wind with dictate, not YOU.

Read Eddie Harris’s book about paddling the Mississ

Read CliffJacobsons book “expedition canoeing” it will give a hundreds of pointers on going long distance paddling, from camping, to navigation and sp on


Two Books
Mississippi Solo: A River Quest by Eddy Harris

My River Home: A Journey from the Gulf War to the Gulf of Mexico by Marcus Eriksen

Best of luck with your trip! You are living my dreams.

I hope you let us know about it when you return. Write a book!


ever paddled

– Last Updated: Sep-22-08 2:05 PM EST –

39 miles in a day? Although it is frequently done, it really isn't easy, even with a 3mph current(10 mph is a different matter) just give yourself plenty of time--like maybe 3-4 months.

no problem
having done both long distance bike touring and paddle tours, I’ve found them to be surprisingly similar. packing will be about the same, although i usually pack heavier when paddling because it seems like less of an issue than on a bike. even if you haven’t paddled a kayak much, you’ll figure it out as you go. since you aren’t on a tight schedule, you have the freedom to cut miles if you aren’t comfortable paddling all day at first. i also don’ think 40 miles in a day is unreasonable. if the current averages 3 mph, you could drift for 10 hours (depending on wind) and have only 10 miles to paddle.

u.s.p.o. support
Oh, yeah, I meant to mention - Memphis is well set up for your idea of mailing support packages. The Front Street Post Office is located at Front and Madison. You can paddle to within a few hundred feet of this by entering the Wolf River Lagoon and landing at the north end of the cobblestones, which is also the southern grass border of Jeff Davis Park. Climb the bluff right there and turn right, and you’re at the post office.

As an added bonus, it’s a pretty cool site - an old carved-marble-type government building perched on the edge of the bluff, Memphis’ original customs and courthouse. Walk around back after picking up your parcel, and you’ll be in a small parking lot with great views of the river, including your landing spot so you can see if anybody is messing with your gear. Keep walking south to the back of the adjacent library, and there’s a nice grassy picnic spot with more great views.

One catch - city fathers have recently approved plans to close this PO and move the Univ of Memphis Law School to the site. Surely this won’t happen for several years, but if you find you’re pushing 2010 or something, you might want to check the internet about the closing date of this PO.