Ruminations on Mississippi trip

Well, I’m winding down my preperation for my trip down the Mississippi. The trip will start the first week in June from Lake Itasca in Northwestern Minnesota and end around the first part of August at Venice, Louisiana after going to Mile 0, Head of Passes. The distance is about 2,300 miles. I plan to average around 40 miles a day, about 30 of it paddling and 10 of it current. I also plan to take a few days off along the way, either to wait out bad weather or just to rest, recover and repair equipment. The schedule is flexible on both ends.

My daughter graduates high school on May 29th. My wife and daughter are gonna take me to Lake Itasca, drop me off then hit the Mall of the Americas. Hopefully the kayak will ride O.K. on the wife’s Yukon with Yakima rack.

Has seemed to be wet up in Minn. so
I guess your early miles after Itasca should be easy. Hope you don’t have too much difficulty with wind. A loaded boat is usually bothered less.

The boat seem to handle . . .
. . . the wind O.K. while loaded. I ain’t carryin’ all that much, about 50 pounds of gear and food.

Gear; Boat
The boat for the trip is a Eddyline Nighthawk 16 made in 2001 and bought used. It is a Kevlar hull and actually weighs 47 pounds. For those unfamiliar with the boat it is 15’9" on deck, 22" beam with a retractable skeg. It has a couple of hatches, one on the foredeck with about a 10" round cover and one on the rear deck with an oval cover around 10 x 24 or so. I have a Ritchie deck mount compass. I replaced all the bungie on the paddle park a chart park. The rear I used heavier bungie. On both I used a continuous loop and replaced all the plastic deck fitting with nylon tubing strapping. I also replaced the deckline with 550 cord (I know it pretty small but it is very strong and useful for other purposes in a survival situation). Boat is yellow deck/white hull for decent visibility.

Do you go through the locks, or carry around them?

Go through . . .
. . . about 29 of 'em.

Sounds like a great trip…
I would be very interested in your gear list: navigation, repair, and safety items, and what items you might be taking along to make this lengthy voyage enjoyable.

My interest is also in river kayaking, but my trips tend to be five days or less, and not so epic in distance!

I was working down . . .

– Last Updated: May-06-09 1:34 PM EST –

. . . the list. Navigation: Deck compass, GPS (Garmin Etrex Legend HCx w/topo mapset) Minesotta puts out some nice maps of the upper reaches between Lake Itasca and Minneapolis for free. I bought charts of the Upper Mississippi but think I will leave 'em behind because of bulk. The topo mapset has enough detail plus it has river miles for most of the way, down to 45 miles from Head of Passes, Mile 0.

I have a pair of cheap waterproof binos, AM/FM radio, VHF radio, Katadyn Pocket water filter, tent, bag, pad, stove.

I plan on going into more detail as I go along. Except for the amount of food, it takes about the same gear to go five days or sixty.


– Last Updated: May-06-09 5:44 PM EST –

I'm carrying two Eddyline Swift paddles. Both are two piece carbon fiber and adjustable for feather in 15 degree increments. One is an Mid-Swift 215. The other is a Wind-Swift 220. It start out the Mid-Swift is the primary and the Wind-Swift the secondary. The roles have switched. The shaft length on both paddles is about the same because the Wind-Swift has an longer blade. Paddles weigh: Wind-Swift 25.6 onces, Mid-Swift 27.2 ounces.

It start out I had the back-up paddle stowed on the aft deck since the paddle park is where a paddle ought to go. It was a pain back there because it blocked the aft hatch cover and had to be removed everytime I needed something. My cooking stuff/food only fit well in the aft hatch. Anyway, I am now happier with the spare paddle stowed forward.

I also have a Werner two piece 230 that I got with the boat that will remain behind ready to ship in case I have a calamity along the way.


– Last Updated: May-06-09 5:42 PM EST –

I have a Coleman Peak 1 stove in Coleman aluminum case designed for the stove. The case is no longer made. The stove is designed for Coleman fuel but I burn either that or pump gas in it with no problem. The case doubles as two pots. A Leatherman tool is my pot holder. I have a stainless steel spoon that serves as my sole eating/cooking utensel that has a P-38 attached to it. In the container lives the stove, spoon, Leatherman and a Bic lighter in a plastic bag. I also have a stainless steel 2 1/2 cup sauce pan I bought a Walmart. I bent the steel handle down and it serves as my coffee/measuring cup as it is etched with cup markings on the inside.

Cooking two meals a day and morning coffee I have been burning about 4 ounces/day of gas. I will carry a spare liter plasic soda bottle with gas. Gas is one of a couple of things I plan to purchase along the way. I figure I will need to find gas and bread about once a week and should be able to find that about anywhere. Stuff I carry that requires cooking is pretty simple, coffee, mac and cheese, Ramen, etc.

If I catch some fish with my hand line I plan to make a small campfire.

All my cooking gear weighs in at 3'10", stove full of fuel.

Sleeping gear
I have a Eureka Mountain Pass XT I, a single man tent with full rain fly that Eureka no longer makes. The Backcountry I is very similar with a smaller rain fly. I plan on using minimal shelter, using the tent as a ground cloth on nice, insect free nights, pitching the tent without the rain fly when bugs are a problem and doin’ the full mountie when rain is expected. The tent is very weatherproof, packs small (6x14) and is light, 4’14".

Sleeping bag is Kelty Lightyear 45 down. Pad is Thermarest Prolite 4 regular self-inflating. Pad and bag together weigh 3’12". I use my Goretex rain gear as a pillow.

I want to spend miminum time futzin’ with stuff in the morning and plan to just stuff the tent in the foreward hatch in the morning without bothering to fold it. If it is damp I will pull it out to dry during my noon nap. In the morning I want to be able to be paddling within 30 minutes of gettin’ up with a cup of hot, sweet coffee in my belly.

Need to know
If you don’t know about it by now you should know this guy.

Email my friend John Rusky via a google search of “Quapaw Canoe Company” He lives near clarksdale Miss on the lower end and guides trips on the river. He is a wealth of knowledge since he has done the Miss in a home made Huck Finn raft. He can help with some last minute info.

As far as those “industrial Rivers” (miss, ohio, missouri) etc. Most people i know including myself who have paddled them dont filter our water due to the high concentrations of agriculture toxins which you cannot filter out. Instead I )and others) use gallon jugs we fill from various places etc. I usually bring 4-gall with me and that will last about 2-3 days depending. I always stop at boat ramps and state parks to fill or go into towns. YOU DONT want to be doing this everyday since it can take a good 1.5 hours of your time and doing 40 a day without much current. I like long days of paddling and have done 35- 60 on some days but Im talking about 12 hour paddle days not including wind layovers or whatever you may encounter.

BE CAREFUL OF THE CHAIN OF ROCKS at St. Louis its not really talked about in any chart or guide book. YOU CAN DIE in this. It really is a waterfalls, and unless the river is max’d out with flow you will need to portage.

You can take out river left near the round metal structures just before the falls. A short two hundred foot carry is all you will need. OR YOU CAN TAKE THE BARGE SPILLWAY A FEW MILES UPSTREAM which i dont reccomend.

Most to the towns sit back away from the river. SO IF you plan to walk in for food or water…you can opt for some security options for your boat. I brought a cable bike lock and hooked my boat to whatever at the takeouts. Someimes i would be IN town for 6 hours doing whatever such as laundry and the mental security of having it locked is helpful. I ALWAys also put a note on my deck with my wereabouts and info so people can read it. It basically says to please keep you f%$##$# hands off my boats etc. Two months of eating Raimen and mac in cheesse could be your demise. I could never do that and with such the availibity of gormet “type” backpacker foods available in most all supermarkets these days why eat that crap. Plenty of great bulk and driend foods to get. I havent broght ramain on a paddle trip in 25 years! Hell they eat better in prisons!

Plenty of meat packs NOT in jar or cans but in pouches such as tuna, chicken, salmon and ham. Plenty of great asian, currys and indian type tasty foods in bulk these days that will be alot more pleasant to eat than greenhorn backpacker prison food.

Its always nice to go into a town now and then and devour an all you can eat salad bar. I remember a time going into a casino on the missouri after working my but off one day and literally ate: 25 shrimp,1 ny steak, three pieces of halibut, two bake potates, one ear of corn, two crab legs, cornbread,salads and veggies, two pience of blueberry pie, two pieces of cheesecake, and a banana split in one sitting. The casino was so impresssed they gave it to me for free.

have fun thats the main thing, you will love it.


His is one of the . . .
. . . sites I have read in preperation for my trip.

I had planned . . .
. . . on taking the canal round Chain of Rocks. I am looking at the chart. Is the portage you speak of around the low water dam no. 27 between mile 191 and 190?

I have planned four resupply by mail, one a week’s worth, a three two week’s worth. The only thing I am depending on for local resupply is bread and gas for the stove. I will take the opportunity to get a store bought meal if the opportunity presents itself but won’t seek 'em out. To illustrate how sick I actually am, I will make a special effort to get White Castles at Minneapolis and St. Louis.

Other gear
VHF radio, Standard Horizon the uses 6 AA batteries. It will pick up weather band. I think it will be most useful while transiting the 29 locks below Minneapolis and above Cairo.

Sony AM/FM radio. It uses AAA batteries and also receives weather band. Mostly just for diversion.

Binos. 7x32 Cheap, waterproof (hopefully) Barska (Chineese). The are surprisingly good for the price.

Minimal personal hygene gear (like less than pound)

Penny whistle

GPS. Garmin eTrex Legend HCx with topo map set.

The Chain
Chain of Rocks is fairly easy to pick your way through on river right. Look at an aerial map, I’ve done it several times.

Go past the Arch and disembark under the very next bridge. At the break in the floodwall, it’s an easy and safe 10 minute walk up Chouteau Ave. to a White Castle.

If it’s a weekday and you need re-stocking, Post Office, etc., give me a call, I work downtown.


Good luck.


I plan on takin’ lotsa pictures. Camera is a Canon G9. I have a Canon underwater housing for it. I am still undecided about taking the housing as it makes the camera much more bulky. I also have a flash, Speedlite 220EX. The flash uses AA batteries. The camera uses propriety batteries. I am taking enough batteries and memory cards to take around 1,200 pictures.

I have a little tripod, one of the little ones with bendy legs. The ram mount for the GPS that attaches by suction cup to the foredeck also accepts the camera so I can take pictures on the fly if I like.

I plan on carrying my own food and cooking along the way. I am carrying about 3,500 calories a day which my be a little short but 20% of my body weight is fat (BMI 25) so I can aford to lose down to 10% without a problem. That amounts to another 800-900 calories a day.

Total weight of the food is around 170 pounds. The only food item I plan on buying along the way is bread. The rest I will resupply via the U.S. Postal service. Parcel post allows parcels up to 35 pounds and 34x17x17. Parcels mail to General Delivery are held for 30 days. I plan to ship four respplies, three of 'em about 35 pounds and two weeks worth of food/batteries/toiletries and one with a one week supply. The first two resupplies will be mailed by me just before I take off from Lake Itasca. Last two will be mailed by wife or mom from home. Food will run me $3-$4/day for the trip.


20 oz coffee w/3 tbs sugar

1/2 c (uncooked) oatbran

1/2 c raisins

1/4 c sugar

2 tbs powdered whole mile

1 tsp cinnamon

Lunches: (actually lunches because I plan to eat a couple of smaller meals during the day)

4 slices whole wheat bread

5 oz peanut butter

5 oz grape jelly

Dinner (two menues)

Boxed Mac and cheese prepared with 1/2 stick margarine and 1 tbs powdered whole milk

Ramen with can of chicken and canned mixed vegetables

The stuff is relative light and cheap, fairly nutrious and requires no refrigeration.

I also plan to supplement along the way picking up the occassional store bought meal when it presents itself and satisfying cravings.

I plan on leaving Lake Itasca with about a weeks worth of food. I want to keep the load light because there are about a dozen portages in the first two weeks. The first resupply will be at Aitkin, MN (1 wk) Second resupply at Red Wing, MN (2 wks). Third resupply at Grafton, OH (2 wks. Fourth resupply at Helena, AR (2 wks).

i dont hAVE A Map in front of me BUT the CHAIN is in the middle of the section used via the canal etc…thats the reason the canel was built to get around the chain. some good camping on a huge sandbar just below the canel and before the arch. All alone but within eyes view of the arch and ole st. louis.

have fun