Friday, July 20, 2007

Canoeing the Mississippi River

Yes, it is possible to canoe the entire Mississippi River. I have several web pages and many photos of my trip from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico at this link. If you have questions after reading through my site, and the questions and answers below, please leave them, or comments, here. Happy adventuring!

192 comments:

  1. Greetings Buck. A few questions sir. I'm planning on canoeing the ohio river to the mississippi to the gulf. Is it suicide to do it without maps. Contacted the army corps and they will not have any to late august.Have some unexpected time off but time is of the essence. Also how well marked are dams and locks on the river. Is it possible to portage around say your on the other bank of the lock. Any advice is appreciated.
    Ben

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  2. Hi Ben,

    That sounds like a fun trip.

    On my trip I had maps all the way to Cairo. I had arranged to have maps of the Lower Mississippi mailed to me there, but something went wrong and they never arrived. So from the confluence of the Ohio and the Mississippi I only had state highway maps, except for a map I had of the Mississippi river delta. That wasn't ideal, but to be truthful for a canoe it wasn't that big of a deal and I didn't have any trouble finding towns to get supplies.

    I don't know about the Ohio, but on the Mississippi I had no problem seeing the locks and dams coming up far in the distance. Of course I was going very slow in my canoe.

    I portaged around several locks and it was usually pretty easy. On a couple of them it was only maybe 30 feet.

    When in doubt about how to do things, you can just stop and ask the lock operator. I found them to be very helpful and friendly. They seemed happy to help a guy in a canoe.

    If you can't get your map books in time, you should be able to download them.

    One more thought: there's got to be a lot of old Corps of Engineer Maps floating around. I'll bet if you called a few barge companies you could round up a set.

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  3. Anonymous7:04 AM

    Just wondering what company(or companies) you used and how you arranged to send you canoe home?

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  4. What I did was get on the phone and call all the shipping companies I could find out of New Orleans. The quotes ranged from $300 to $3,000!

    I don't remember who I shipped with, but it would pay to shop around, anyway. I'd suggest using the internet and phone to track down and compare several quotes. You'll want to know at least the length and weight of the canoe. How wide and big around would be useful, too.

    Before planning to pay for your own way home and for shipping your canoe, give some consideration into seeing if any friends or family would be interested in driving down to New Orleans or Venice to pick you and your canoe up. You could pay for a lot of gas and other expenses for your friend and still save money.

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  5. I've gotten quite a few questions about rowing or sailing a canoe. I've never tried to row or sail a canoe, but have spent a lot of time rowing a raft. I think there's little question that rowing is more efficient than paddling, at least in most situations. On windy days on the Mississippi, I'd think about sailing. On my website I've got a picture of a couple of jolly fellows who had made their own canoe sail to use when conditions were right. It was crude, but it worked.

    Anyway, if I were to do a long trip by canoe again, and I plan to, I'm going to take a hard look at rowing AND having a sail available. I did an internet search, and I found this site. They've got a canoe rowing setup, part of which can be used for a canoe sailing rig. Something to consider!

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  6. I've just added a new new page on my site showing my daily progress down the river. You might find this useful to get an idea of how long it might take you to travel between different points on the river.

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  7. Anonymous6:21 PM

    Hello Buck,

    I'm may be interested in trying the Mississippi next year. What size canoe did you use, and was it big enough or too small? How hard were the portages? I envision having to tote all this gear over vast distances. How does a portage work? Unload the canoe, move the canoe, move the equipmnet, reload the canoe? Your help is greatly appreciated.
    Jim

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  8. Hi Jim,

    I used a
    17 foot canoe
    it was a good size for me but it's subjective. Most of the portages were quite easy. The longest was at Grand Rapids where there was a 1,200 yard portage. At times the Blandin Paper company will shuttle people around this spot but I don't know if they are still doing that. They were very nice to me but I ended up carrying my stuff anyway. Most portages are quite short and easy.

    For a portage I'd unload the canoe, carry a load of gear as I scouted the route, get another load of gear, then carry the canoe. Portaging is one reason to carefully consider how much gear you're going to carry above the Twin Cities, and how heavy your canoe is.

    Portages were work, for sure, but canoeing the Mississippi is a whole lot of work, and a whole lot of fun.

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  9. Anonymous7:35 AM

    i loved your website buck. very helpful. i'm leaving from taylors falls on the st.croix sept 1 and will enter the river at prescott wisc. any idea how long it will take me since i'm avoiding the upper part of the river? will i freeze this time of year? do i have to bring maps? can't i just follow the channel markers? i'm broke and trying to do this as cheaply as possible. thanks again, your site is the best of several.

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  10. I've never canoed the lower St. Croix so I don't know how long that section will take. See the link I posted (above) showing my progress on the river, and I'll let you make your own estimate based on how long it took me.

    That should be a very nice time of year to be on the river. The only time I got chilly on the river is when it was rainy and windy. You'll be heading south about as fast as the cool weather, so it shouldn't get too cold.

    You can definitely do the trip without maps, but I recommend getting them. Following the markers is fairly easy, but it's nice to be able to easily locate towns, know exactly where you are on the river, and so on. I have a link where you can download free maps, above.

    Good luck.

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  11. Anonymous8:07 AM

    Hi, How did you ship your canoe home?

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  12. See my above answer. Good luck.

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  13. Thanks for the pictures and the breakdown of your trip. I am so excited about planning my trip down the Mississippi. Why did you choose a canoe over a kayak? I may buy a kayak and do the trip in that. I know that I will have to stop more often for food. How did you recharge your electronics, if you took any? How did you dock and leave you canoe to go into town? Did you just find good places to hide it?

    Thanks for your advise.
    Sam

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  14. Hi Sam,

    Thanks for the post. The short answer on canoe vs. kayak is that I'd never used a kayak and had easy access to a borrowed canoe. Many people have used a kayak for the Mississippi.

    I didn't burn too much electrical power, my GPS and radio used AA batteries and I just bought what I needed. Same with my camera.

    When I went into town I always tried to hide my canoe where no one would see it, and carry my most valuable small items with me. I'd also lock my canoe to a tree with a lock and chain.

    Have a good trip and let us know how it goes.

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  15. I just wanted to thank you for putting up such a useful site. My friend and I are about to leave for our Mississippi trip in a couple of days and your information has been a valuable resource. We'll be updating our website as we go along, http://www.threeleafmusic.com/log
    Thanks again Buck!

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  16. Hi Chris,

    I'm glad you found my site useful. That's a beautiful canoe you've built. Have a good trip!

    Buck

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  17. Anonymous1:00 PM

    What a great website about going down the Mississippi! My son and his friend are finishing up building a canoe, which they are going to take up to Minneapolis, and row/sail/coast down to the gulf. Do you know what the fishing licensing laws are for a trip like this? Did you ever fish for your meals? (I'm Chris's mom!)

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  18. I like to fish but I didn't fish on this trip. I believe the laws of the bordering state would apply as a person travels down the river. That's one reason I didn't fish. It would add to the fun, though, and I'm sure most states offer a temporary license.

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  19. Anonymous9:44 AM

    1) I noticed that you were on the river on 9/11. What was that like and how did you react?

    2) I regularly compete in bowfishing tournaments in the river near the Ohio River junction. The current there seems very frightening, even in my 28' steel boat. Did you have any near misses or frightening experiences in regard to the current?

    3)Did you ever experience difficulty reaching the bank,navigating through locks and dams, or avoiding barges/towboats?

    4)Was there ever a place where the river mud was too soft and dangerous to safely exit the river to strike camp?

    5) What did you do about blisters?

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  20. 1. Like everyone else, I'll never forget 9/11. I had turned on my radio and heard that the planes had hit and that all flights were being grounded. I suppose I felt much like most people, except I was largely out of touch with friends and family and didn't see any of the images on TV for a week or so.

    2. For current, I encountered some serious swirls near the ends of wingdams and the like, but nothing that was particularly frightening. I think a real key is staying away from fixed objects where the worst currents are. My three most frightening times on the water were likely the day I paddled through the waves of Lake Bemidji, the day I paddled through the busy traffic of New Orleans on a windy day, with wind waves and boat wakes seemingly coming from all directions and with moored barges along both banks; and the morning I paddled out into the salt water of the Gulf and the growing swells started to feel spooky, when I turned around and headed for the beach, surfing my canoe on a good sized wave as I reached shore.

    3. At the first lock I got out of my boat and talked to the lock master. He was very friendly and explained how it worked. After that it was pretty easy. Avoiding barges and boats wasn't a problem, but is potentially very dangerous if you don't pay close attention. The boat wakes weren't as bad in my experience as people had described.

    4. I don't think I ever encountered a spot where the mud made it dangerous to reach shore or make camp. Of course, I did walk in mud many times, but at most camp spots the landing spot was pretty nice.

    5. I don't recall getting any blisters. If I did they didn't amount to anything.

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  21. Subagh5:50 PM

    Hello,

    I am looking for a place to meet my husband, who is kayaking from New York to New Orleans. He is almost finished with his trip - about a week away from New Orleans. Do you have any suggestions about where to meet, so that I can drive the van fairly close to the water and he can pull the kayak out of the water?
    Thanks for your help.

    Subagh

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  22. Hi Subagh,

    There are undoubtedly several places in New Orleans that would work, but I only passed through once and don't know the city well enough to dirct you to them. Another alternate is Venice, which is at the "end of the road" and nearer the mouth of the river.

    If your husband has a cell phone you might be able to arrive ahead of time, find your spot, then direct him to it.

    Good luck!

    Buck

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  23. Anonymous12:54 PM

    Did you have any trouble with the rip current when you entered the Gulf of Mexico? What concerns did you have entering the ocean? What precautions should someone take when boating from the river into the ocean? How feasible is it to paddle along the ocean shore for a while in a canoe?

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  24. My experience paddling in the ocean at the mouth of the Mississippi was all of about 10 minutes, so I'm really not a good source of advice. The only thing I had trouble with was the waves building as I neared shore so I half "surfed" the boat in. That was actually one of the more tense moments of the trip.

    If I were to do it again I'd either wait until the ocean was calm, or just canoe to the very mouth of the river and stop right there without actually canoeing out into the salt water.

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  25. Anonymous4:20 PM

    I'm interested in canoeing Mississippi River and am looking for a partner. Do you have an suggestions in finding a partner? Are there any groups or organizations who might be interested?

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  26. Try this forum: http://www.paddling.net/message/

    Best of luck,

    Buck

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  27. brandon10:43 PM

    Hi Buck! What was the water quality like on the river? Was it generally clean enough to get in and bathe along the way? thanks!

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  28. Hi, the river is cleaner than I thought it would be, so I did bathe in it several times. Martin Strel, an endurance swimmer, swam the whole Mississippi a few years ago!

    I would get my drinking water in towns along the way.

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  29. Brandon6:59 AM

    Great! thanks! This is all very informative and encouraging :)

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  30. Anonymous6:19 PM

    Myself and a group of 3 others have been working our way down the river in 7 day increments. This year we traded the canoe for a pontoon boat. I'm in charge of planning our campsites. In the past we stayed at the DNR sites. But this year I see there aren't as many thru Iowa and into Missouri. Did you camp at official sites or make your camp where you stopped for the night?

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  31. I had no trouble finding places to camp, and once I got beyond Minnesota I pretty much just looked for a nice out-of-the-way spot. It was usually pretty easy to find a spot. I would expect you would do fine pretty easily, too.

    Have fun!

    Buck

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  32. Anonymous5:52 AM

    Great site. thanks for putting it together.
    I am planning to kayak from lake Itasca to the Twin Cites in June.

    I am a newbie to kayaking and long camping trips. How easy is it to get lost on the lakes and smaller sections of the river near the headwaters?
    Do you have any recommendations for physical preparations for a trip like this?
    Is this too big a trip for a novice? I am in decent shape and have done a lot of camping in my time but not to this extent.
    Thanks for your insight!
    -Scott Smith

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  33. Hi Scott,

    On most of the river it's very easy to find your way. In only one spot did I have any real trouble but eventually located the current again. If you use maps and stay calm in those situations it will be no big deal and will just add to the adventure. Check out Google Earth for lakes near the headwaters.

    If you pace yourself you won't need to be in great shape to do the river. The faster you'll need to travel the better shape you'll need to be in.

    It's too big of a trip for a complete novice. You'll need to know how to control your boat. If you can control your boat, wear your life jacket, know how to camp and use common sense (not crossing the middle of the big lakes when there is any possibility of a big wind coming up, for example) it should be relatively safe.

    Good luck!

    Buck

    www.bucktrack.com/AAA.html

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  34. Anonymous10:08 AM

    What are the winds like on the Mississippi river? Whenever I go canoeing I have a hell of a time dealing with headwinds. Sometimes the winds will be stronger than the current and blow me backwards. Thanks for any information - Malcolm

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  35. Anonymous1:28 PM

    Where did you camp along the river?

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  36. Hello Buck,

    I just wanted to say thanks for all the advise. I plan on making a trip from Wisconsin down to New Orleans with a friend this fall to visit my cousin there. Your site has been a great source of information. I can't really think of many questions because most are answered but do you have any advise on good types of food to bring/buy along the way? I was thinking rice would work well. Any other suggestions? Thanks again,
    -bert

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  37. Hi Folks,

    I'm on the Continental Divide Trail and have a little while on the computer so I'll try to catch up.

    Yes, I see some photos are gone. If they don't show up, it will have to wait until fall before I can replace them.

    It was easy finding place to camp. I'd just find a nice, hidden spot well above the water. Often this was an island campsite.

    Winds were strong, calm, and everything in between. Sometimes they were a problem but usually weren't too bad. I guess it's just one of those things to deal with when canoeing!

    Rice is a good food to take. I've got a list of backpacking foods on this blog and other places on my website. Once you get below the Twin Cities where the portaging is pretty much over you can even bring canned goods.

    Good luck everyone!

    Buck

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  38. im a complete novice to the canoeing/kayaking world but crave an adventure such as this. however short on cash. what did the trip cost you roughly supplies n all. a ballpark figure. thanks again for your very useful and helpfull information

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  39. Hi shaker,

    Thanks for the comment. A trip down the river can be very inexpensive or quite expensive, depending on how you live, just like normal life! I didn't stay in motels or spend time in riverside bars, so I'm guessing, guessing here now, that my total expenses ran less than $2,000.

    Buck

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  40. Robert Youens6:15 PM

    Buck,

    Enjoyed your site. I appreciate the resources that you have provided. I will be departing Lake Itasca on September 16, 2008 and expect to make New Orleans around mid November. If any other adventure paddlers are going to be on the Mississippi River during this time frame drop me an email.

    You can follow my trip at iboattrack.com. Select: cruising boats, recent cruisers, Lone Star. There will be a discussion page link on the site.

    Thanks again,

    Robert
    txsnapper@aol.com

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  41. Anonymous7:41 AM

    My dad caught wind of your adventure on the river, and seeing he is such a kid at heart what better way to spend 2 months with your wife and daughter playing Huck Fin, right? Ive been doing my homework on this trip, but I wanted to know if this is something that takes a person being in good physical condt first and fore-most(Dads getting a bit gray). Second when is the ideal time to start this trip, as well as the condition of the river due to the hurricanes? Any help will be appreciated and used.
    Shannon

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  42. Hi Shannon,

    I think you should be healthy before starting the trip but you don't have to be in super good shape as long as you just pace yourself. I started in mid-August and that seemed like a good time to me. I really can't tell you how the river has been affected by the hurricanes.

    Good luck!

    Buck

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  43. Anonymous4:02 PM

    Hey buck I just got back from my own solo mississippi river adventure. I started up in Itasca in aug.1 and 45 days later I found myself in near St. louis in a town called hamburg IL. unfortunatly thats where it had to end. The hurricane ike and another front flooded the river and it got a little dangerous. I hope someday ill be able to make the lower mississippi. Some people i met on the river tell me its not worth trying. What did you think of the lower portion, is it a whole new experiance from the still waters of the upper mississippi? Your website is the only reason I even made it to hamburg, cant thank you enough for the abundance of information that you gave me.
    - Malcolm

    A note to anyone attempting this: do not try to paddle across winnebigoshish, go along the edge. Things almost ended for me way out in the middle where the waves where taller than my canoe.

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  44. Hi Malcom,

    I'm glad you got back safely from your adventure. Good comment on Lake Winnibigoshish! As I say on my website: "It was nearly 10 miles across as the crow flies. Crossing such a big lake in an open canoe is asking for trouble, and has killed many people through the years." Going along the shore is the way to go.

    I'll bet that the people you met that said the lower river is not worth trying have never canoed the lower river. Everyone has their own ideas but I enjoyed the lower river. The current picks up below St. Louis. There are many new things to see, including big ships and the ocean itself if you go that far.

    Thanks for the comment, and congrats on your trip!

    Buck

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  45. jacob5:39 PM

    Hey there Buck, I'm jacob Templet. Im 17 and live in the great state of Louisiana, not far from the river itself only about 20 miles, and me and my buddy are considering canoeing the Mississippi for our senior trip after highschool. We take my bateau out every summer for a few fishin' trips around small rivers and bayous down here, if you ever get the chance to canoe down here you should, we love it man.

    but all in all your website is veryy helpful, imformative, and inspiring

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  46. Hi Jacob,

    Thanks for the comment. I'll bet canoeing in Louisiana is awesome! I've only been on the Mississippi River itself in your state but would sure like to paddle around some more of it.

    Your plan to canoe the Mississippi sounds like a good one. If you guys do it I guarantee it will be one of the very best summers of your lives.

    Have fun!

    Buck

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  47. Geoff Kaiser10:21 AM

    Hello Buck,

    You are the man. I'm 24 years old and ready to go out and do some of these things. Specifically, I'm beginning my adventures by spending three weeks this summer going down the Mississippi to Dubuque from the Headwaters.

    The Apalation Trail sounds Amazing... as I continue to better my skills, I will make bigger and better trips. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    Last summer, I did Day Hikes at Yellowstone; that's a lot of fun.

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  48. Hi Geoff,

    Thanks for your comment. I'll bet you had fun hiking in Yellowstone. Lots of nice backcountry there.

    Good luck on your Mississippi trip!

    Buck

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  49. Patrick10:53 AM

    Hey Buck. I wanted to thank you for getting so involved in helping all these people take their own adventures down the mississippi, myself included. me and my friend are planning on setting off as soon as summer vacation rolls around, and we're trying to be as prepared as possible. there are only two things i am worried about. 1) my mom says that along the mississippi is a pretty dangerous place (as in theifs, etc.) and 2) when it rains do you just have to paddle through it and maybe sleep soaking wet that night? any information you could offer would be greatly appreciated, as is all the other information that you've already provided to us.
    thanks again, Patrick.

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  50. Thanks Patrick,

    I really do think you tend to make most of your own luck on an adventure like this one. The big danger is the water, but by doing things like wearing your life jacket, staying alert and avoiding boats and dangerous currents you can eliminate most of that risk. The same is true from danger from people. You'll spend most of your time on the water. Use good judgment on where you camp and what you do with your boat and gear when getting supplies and you should be fine.

    You'll probably end up paddling in the rain at times. You should have good raingear along. Even so, after hours of rain you'll probably be partially wet. Since you are traveling by water you can definitely have an extra set of dry "sleeping clothes" to put on once you are settled into your tent. Make sure you have good dry bags or waterproof containers of some kind for your sleeping bag and stuff you need to keep dry.

    Good luck!

    Buck

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  51. Anonymous6:05 PM

    Hi Buck,

    First off my name is Patrick. What you did sounds amazing, and I stumbled upon this site while researching for my own trip this summer. I was wondering, since you've been there, do you think it's possible to go from the olentangy river in ohio to New Orleans in 3 weeks? I understand it will be hard work, but that's all the time I have this summer, and I wanted the opinion of someone who has done something like this before.

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  52. Hi Patrick,

    You should be able to do the Cairo to the Gulf of Mexico segment in about a month if you paddle lots of hours each day. Having never been on the Ohio I don't know how long that would take.

    Good luck!

    Buck

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  53. Hey there Buck!

    This is your fellow CDT thru-hiker Michael Cravens aka Strix. Just wanted to say thanks for the Mississippi River info. Quinn, my dog, and I are planning are own 'thru-paddle' next summer. was hoping to do it this summer but I'm still playing financial catch-up from the hike. Do you have any PCT future plans? Thanks again, you website is not only helpful. but also inspiring!

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  54. Strix! I guess it's a small world.

    I think a thru-paddle of the Mississippi would be a great adventure to do with your dog.

    I guess we pretty much have to do the PCT now, don't we? Actually I probably will try it in two or three or four years or so.

    Good luck on the Mississippi!

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  55. I am taking a trip down the Illinois River with a good friend of mine in May. I am trying to decide whether the river water is drinkable. Stopping for water seems like it would be a hassle. Why did you decide to get your drinking water in town?

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  56. Hi Scott,

    Thanks for the question. Here was my thinking: the Mississippi drains a giant area and flows past numerous towns and cities. Although I did on occasion treat and drink Mississippi River water with no ill effects, it just seemed safer and easier to drink "town water." In my canoe it was easy to haul several days worth of drinking water. There was some work in carrying the water to my canoe, but it saved me the effort of treating the water.

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  57. Buck- A friend of mine is planning to canoe the Mississippi this fall-09. I am trying to help him plan the trip. I have been to your website which has a LOT of great information. Do you have recommendations about which cities to make stops? Sure would appreciate your insight. Thanks,Sarah

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  58. Hi Sarah,

    I mostly "winged" my trip. What I did is just watch the maps and kept an eye on my supplies and stop for more supplies when I needed to. A handful of many places I stopped were Bemidji, Grand Rapids, Brainerd, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Hannibal, St. Louis, Cairo and New Orleans. There were numerous others, of course.

    Good luck!

    Buck

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  59. Justin7:56 PM

    Hey Buck
    May I start off by saying you have an great website that is extremely helpful and I am glad I found. Okay well here's the story I am 16 and I live in the Twin Cities. My family owns a cabin about three hours north of the cities in Outing right off highway 6.Well I have always been into hiking adventures, and everything that has to do with the wilderness,(Would love to visit Alaska and hike in the future), but that's besides the point. While I was at my cabin i ended up crossing over the Mississippi in Crosby. It struck me right there, i wanted to paddle not to the gulf but back to the cities. Now I am only able to do this if I have everthing all planned out. What I have figured at the moment is that I want to start in Grand Rapids after the dam and end in Coon Rapids before the dam there, also that way i can avoid some of the busier areas of the river. I also know that I won't be alone, I will have one of my buddies along for the journey. And last I know that i will probably be using an 17 foot aluminum canoe,(would that be alright). Basically everthing else is up in the air. I have a few questions to ask you. First, is the question of time. Do you have an idea about how long and how many days it would take paddling from sun up to sun down. Also will I be able to find areas to camp easily along that stretch, and would it be alright to have fires as long as we cleared out areas for them and made sure to put them out. Also for the length of our trip which of the items from your list would be the most necesary or are all of them important. I have many more questions and all of your advice will be greatly appreciated. I would like to stay intouch with you if possible.
    Thank You

    -Justin

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  60. Hi Justin,

    I'm glad you found my site useful.

    Your canoe should work fine. As you know from my site I believe in always wearing a life jacket.

    On the following page I show how long it took me to travel to various points on the river. I was traveling fairly long days: http://www.bucktrack.com/Missisippi_River_Canoe_Speed.html

    You should be able to find campsites fairy easily. There should be fire rings in public camping areas (order the Department of resources maps) http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/watertrails/mississippiriver/three.html and if there are no burning bans campfires would be fine.

    The equipment list should apply fairly well as written. You won't need a marine radio if you don't go past Coon Rapids.

    Have fun!

    Buck

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  61. Anonymous7:39 PM

    I am planning a canoeing trip from cincinnati to New Orleans. Can you tell me anything I might need to know. I am going to have to buy a canoe and some of my gear. Is there anything you might recommend. I am not a novice when it comes to the outdoors but this new challenge I want to be somewhat prepared for.
    thanks, A

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  62. That sounds like fun. I'd recommend that you read through all my pages concerning the Mississippi on my website: http://www.bucktrack.com/Canoeing_Down_the_Mississippi.html, then all the comments above. If you still have questions you can ask them here and I'll do my best to answer them.

    Buck

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  63. Anonymous7:59 PM

    Perhaps already asked, but I'm lazy and on a time crunch; what sort of boating permits/license, if any would be needed for this trip? I have some friends that have the summer free next year and we've been talking about doing the Mississippi River from top to bottom. But we're doing it hobo-style, over 3-4 months. We have very little money, and are wondering what sorts of legal fees need to be paid (or deftly avoided) from state to state.

    Thanks,
    Coyote
    nomadcoyote@gmail.com

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  64. Hi Coyote,

    Thanks for the question. Sorry for the delay in answering, I was out of town.

    At the time I made the trip in 2001 all that was required was registering the boat. Since it was a borrowed canoe my friend had already registered it in his home state of Minnesota. You'll also need a fishing license for the appropriate states if you plan to fish.

    Have a great trip!

    Buck

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  65. Buck:

    I'm an AT NOBO from 2003. Great trip. My buddy and I stayed at Bear's Den Hostel in VA and found an old National Geographic about the Eastern Intracoastal Waterway. Now that I live in New Orleans, I am torn between a trip from Minn to my adopted home, or doing the Maine - Florida trip. Either way, congrats on all your adventures.

    -Snack Attack
    GAME 2003

    p.s. I read you got your water in towns. Is the river not potable, even with the same kind of filter one would use on the AT?

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  66. Buck:

    I'm an AT NOBO from 2003. Great trip. My buddy and I stayed at Bear's Den Hostel in VA and found an old National Geographic about the Eastern Intracoastal Waterway. Now that I live in New Orleans, I am torn between a trip from Minn to my adopted home, or doing the Maine - Florida trip. Either way, congrats on all your adventures.

    -Snack Attack
    GAME 2003

    p.s. I read you got your water in towns. Is the river not potable, even with the same kind of filter one would use on the AT?

    ReplyDelete
  67. Hi Snake Attack,

    That's great that you did the AT. The Bear's Den Hostel is a cool place, isn't it?

    It was my impression that the water above the Twin Cities was probably OK if treated with normal backpacking methods. Below that point my thinking was that chemical impurities may become a greater problem. Mainly, though, is that it was simple getting good drinking water along the way. I did on occasion treat and drink river water below St. Louis with no apparent ill effects.

    Best of luck whichever journey you undertake!

    Buck

    ReplyDelete
  68. Anonymous6:53 PM

    Has any one u know ever paddeled up the river

    ReplyDelete
  69. While I was going down the river I ran across a guy who had kayaked up the river from Mile 0 to Lake Itasca. Amazing! I'm sure one of the keys to success for a trip like that is taking advantage of slack water or even back currents near the shore. Incredible accomplishment either way.

    ReplyDelete
  70. Anonymous12:46 AM

    I curently work on mississippi river im intersted in starting my trip from cairo Il to New Orleans I have never been canoeing before my brother and his girlfriend planing on taking trip with me do you have any advice on dangers of lower miss,what kind of canoe should I choose for 3 people and when you approached dikes did you go around dike or navigate over them

    ReplyDelete
  71. Do you work on a tugboat? Anyway, if you actually work on-the-river you should have a good idea of some of the potential dangers. I think canoeing the Mississippi is relatively safe if a person uses good judgment and quite dangerous for the foolhardy!

    I tried to stay away from fixed objects in the current, and that would include moored/anchored boats, dams, or anything else underwater that might produce dangerous currents. I always wore my life jacket, and I always paid attention on the river. I think if you read through all these comments and also my website Mississippi River Pages I cover most safety issues pretty well.

    As far as canoe choices, I'm really no expert and you might want to talk to someone who is, but it seems logical that bigger, wider canoes with flatter bottoms should be more stable.

    Have fun! I really enjoyed that stretch of river.

    ReplyDelete
  72. D K Pierce7:47 PM

    Buck, yhanks for the information. There is a lot of good information here.

    I am thinking about going down the Mississippi on a pontoon boat. I am a little old (66)for the canoe trip.

    It sounds like I should start at the Twin Cities.

    I am enjoying your blog.
    DKP
    dkp214@sbcglobal.net

    ReplyDelete
  73. DKP, Thanks! For a pontoon boat you are correct, you wouldn't want to start above the Twin Cities. Have fun!

    Buck

    ReplyDelete
  74. Jamie Twain8:56 PM

    Buck, I can't express how many times I have used your website as a jumping off point during my planning of my own Mississippi Trip. Just quit my job and am in training to do the Mississippi this summer. My first question is: What kind of animal dangers will I come across? During canoeing? and During camping? I'm smart with food and bears, but Will I potentially see alligators and crocodiles near the gulf? Big fish? Will I be safe from animals when I am closer to a town?
    Question number 2: Did you ever end up camping on someone's land and get hassled?
    Thanks Buck

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  75. Hi Jamie,

    I didn't have any animal problems or feel threatened by any animals the whole trip. I think you could potentially see alligators towards the end although I didn't and they are very unlikely to be a problem.

    I was careful to choose my camping spots. Most of the river downstream of St. Louis is within
    the levee so it was usually easy to find hidden spots so I never got hassled by anyone when camping.

    ReplyDelete
  76. Anonymous6:06 PM

    hey buck
    I am 16 and I have read about alot of your adventures I would really hope to live a life as exciting and as adventurous as yours, in fact me and a few friends are in the process of planning an mississippi canoe trip from lake itaska to the gulf, just as u did, this summer. We have gotten almost all of our information we need from your site, THANK YOU SO MUCH, but I was wondering where do you get the money to fund all of your adventures because I am at a point in my life where im being forced to choose what I will do with my life, I would just like to know how do you manage to do all the amazing things you do and still have the time and money to be able to accomplish all of your great tasks?
    -Niall, from IOWA

    ReplyDelete
  77. Hi Niall,

    I'm glad you've enjoyed my blog and website and that's great you're planning your own trip down the river.

    How I've had the time and money for adventures? I guess it's a matter of choices. One big factor is I've chosen to spend my money on experiences rather than expensive possessions. For example I drive an older fuel-efficient pickup, live in a small log cabin, etc. I live within my means and save and invest money. For many years I fought wildfire and worked hundreds of hours of overtime in the summer so it was possible to take many winter months for travel. Now I have my own little publishing business and am able to take time off in the summers when I wish.

    I guess it's all about trade-offs to maximize happiness!

    ReplyDelete
  78. Jamie Twain8:12 AM

    Hello Buck. It's JamieTwain again. Thanks for the quick response about animals.
    My question is, Do I have to get any licensing for my solo canoe? I don't plan to fish, but I was thinking size might make a difference. I also won't have any sort of motor, which I know makes a difference. Thanks again Buck?

    ReplyDelete
  79. Hi Jamie,

    My canoe was licensed in MN. As far as I know, if your canoe has a current registration in SOME state, you'll be good to go for the whole length of the river.

    Most people canoeing the river don't have a motor. It will just take a little longer and be a little more work, but that will make your trip more adventurous.

    Buck

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  80. JamieTwain9:15 PM

    Buck. Thanks for all your advice. I got my maps in recently for the upper and lower MS. Have you ever read Mississippi Madness? I just finished it and thought it was great. Have you written any books about your adventures? If so I wouldn't mind reading them. I'm reading Mississippi Solo now, but haven't gotten to far.
    I'm leaving for my Mississippi trip June 1st, and have been training hard and getting as prepared as possible. I have also decided to use my adventure to help raise money for cancer research, because my uncle is about to go through chemotherapy for two types. I started my own blog about my trip and you can see my boat. http://jamietwain.blogspot.com
    My question for you is: were you ever interviewed by the media along the way?
    Thanks Buck,
    Jamie

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  81. I haven't read Mississippi Madness. I wrote a hunting book but not a book about these type of adventures. I produced a DVD "Alone Across Alaska: 1,000 Miles of Wilderness" however.

    I didn't contact the media nor was I contacted by the media on my trip. It would be easy to arrange, though, and I'd bet you'd get quite a bit of interest if you contacted media outlets along the way.

    Good luck with your trip!

    Buck

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  82. Anonymous9:00 PM

    Hey Buck

    Im planning on canoeing the river from Lake Itasca to Venice. I live in Venice, but have no idea how long it will take me... I have a month and a half off of work. Is it possible solo or should I get a partner to help speed things up? Also my canoe is has a small sail on the bow... It might help out when I have a tail wind...
    Thanks,
    Joe

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  83. Hi Buck, Awesome stuff you have here. Thanks for all the info and work you put into this site.
    I live in St. Louis and I am thinking of canoeing the lower MS. I read every word you have posted/including questions from visitors.
    My big question is how did you portage exactly at the chain of rocks here in St. Louis and Why did you? There is away around the chain of rocks. Why didn't you use it?

    ReplyDelete
  84. What is your next adventure going to be?

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  85. Joe, It's possible to canoe the river solo, I did, as have many others. Please see my website to see how long it took me from point to point along the river. Go to www.bucktrack.com and then see the "site map."

    ReplyDelete
  86. Anonymous10:04 AM

    Hi Bruce (AKA "Buck"),

    From one (intermediate) outdoor adventurer to another (pro), I'd first like to say that your experiences and photos are really impressive! I envy the fact that you get the adventure of fighting wildfires for your job and then set off on all these water adventures--very cool. I, on the other hand, teach at different community colleges on an adjunct basis, which makes my "adventure" each semester that of merely securing enough classes to pay the bills. Oh well, while I have no adventures in my work and I live in Southern California, I find my outlet for the outdoors in the ocean. After 25 years of surfing, I expanded my ocean interests out to sea kayak touring (on a Necky 17.5 Looksha IV) 5 years ago, and most recently to prone paddleboarding (on an 18.5 Joe Bark unlimited class board) 2 years ago. Day trips on my kayak consist of paddling out 3-4 miles off Seal Beach before going either North or South about 15 miles or so and back; paddleboard day trips sometimes include paddling straight out 5-6 miles and back or charting a course around various oil platforms or parked freighters off the coast. I have also done multi-county paddling trips as well. These sports have allowed me to appreciate taking water trips and distance goals as a waterman, which really excites me, and I love reading stories of epic paddles via kayak, paddle board, and canoe (like yours); in fact, I just finished reading about a guy who circumnavigated Ireland by Kayak!

    Well, the reason I found your page, and the primary reason I'm writing to you, is because it looks very likely that my family and I may need to relocate to Louisville, KY of all places in the near future. There are lots of things I like and appreciate about this beautiful state/city, but the fact that it is so far away from an ocean, or even a great lake, is pretty becoming hard to swallow and a bit depressing for someone who thrives on water. While I know you live in Alaska, I see from your trip on the Ohio River and your books that you have thoroughly researched and paddled your way through that whole landlocked region of the county-- and even seem to have really enjoyed it. While I wish we were moving to Alaska instead of Kentucky, given the fact that your state is practically synonymous with the word "adventure," there are many reasons we will likely need to make this move to a state that, to me, hardly seems even remotely close to adventurous for a water guy like myself who really likes to go off the beaten path and explore. Well, as someone who found adventure in that region (outside of whitewater rapid riding), do you have any encouraging words for this fish who may soon be out of water? Thanks for the inspiration your website and trips have already provided!

    Best Regards,
    Chris

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  87. I am in the planning stages of my 2012 trip solo on the Mississippi River. I just finished using Google Earth program to map the river and its mileage. I cataloged 86 different points of reference on a chart along with the GPS points for each. But upon checking out your mileage chart vs. mine, I came up approx 51 fewer miles for the entire river, Itasca to the Gulf. What did you use to determine the mileage posts for your chart?

    ReplyDelete
  88. Hi Bill,

    I used the Corp of Engineers maps, and the State of MN maps for the river above Minneapolis. The river has a lot of big bends in it and the course of the river still changes slightly through the years, so it's not surprising that your mileage differs somewhat or that you came up with a slightly shorter distance.

    Good luck!

    Buck

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  89. Hi Chris,
    It sounds like you've done a whole lot of amazing adventure sports. Kentucky might make it more difficult to pursue your ocean water sports, but as they say "as one door (temporarily) closes another one opens." Perhaps you can get into exploring inland waterways, or enjoy the adventure of enjoying entirely new adventures like spelunking, skydiving, etc. As the adventurous type, I'm sure you'll soon be having a blast.

    Good luck!

    Buck

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  90. Anonymous2:11 PM

    hey buck, loved your website. Im planning to canoe from baton rouge to the gulf soon. How did you choose a campsite without offending a landowner?

    ReplyDelete
  91. Finding campsites was pretty easy. Much of the riverbank lies within "no man's land" within the levee so I'd just watch for an out-of-the-way spot well above the water, and camp!

    ReplyDelete
  92. Hey Buck, I'm the support crew for a guy trying to be the youngest to solo kayak the entire Mississippi river. In regards to being on the river in New Orleans, I heard that they've closed the river to personal boatcraft from New Orleans to the gulf, is that true? Also if you want to check out his website it's http://willbewild.com

    ReplyDelete
  93. Hey Buck,

    I'm hoping to make a kayak trip down the Ohio River, to the Mississippi to the Gulf next year when I get back to the US. However, I'm hoping to do it as an awareness raiser for Lupus and I was wondering if you had any ideas or any contacts that you know of that could help me out as to where to start such an endeavor. I'm an avid kayaker but I've never done this long of a trip and have definitely never done one as a campaign for anything. If you have any information that could help I would greatly appreaciate it - I'm grasping at strings to get this started. Mary

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  94. Hi Buck,
    Your website has been so helpful. What started off as a cool idea snowballed into an actual idea and now I am in the actual planning stage. My brother and I are planning on canoeing the Mississippi from Bimidji to New Orleans starting this November. We have November to March off work and even though its going to be cold we have made a pact to complete the adventure. Its going to be a great adventure and a huge bonding experience between brothers! Your website has answered most of my questions and I just wanted to thank you for being so helpful. I just have 2 questions:

    1-Are there any books you recommend reading before doing this?

    2-Should I bring my funding as cash or Plastic?

    Thanks for all your help and good luck in future adventures

    Jason
    Jasoncreppel@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  95. Hi Jason,

    That sounds like fun. For books, Mississippi Solo is quite good. A search on Amazon will turn up others.

    For money, I'd maintain some cash but rely mostly on "plastic."

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  96. Hi Joe,

    I would be very surprised if the lower river has been closed to private watercraft, but perhaps the oils spill has created some new issues. You'd have to check elsewhere. Good luck on the record attempt!

    Buck

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  97. Anonymous10:44 PM

    Hi Buck, I frequently canoe the Mississippi river. I have covered the whole distance, but I have covered every square inch of it in MN. And I must say the most relaxing part of the river is between St Cloud and Anoka. But I must tell you, if you want a good canoe trip, check out the BWCA. It is absolutely great!!

    ReplyDelete
  98. Hi Buck. I came across your website and blog while researching canoe-tripping the Mississippi, and it turns out I almost certainly ended my 2001 thru-hike with you on Katahdin. My trailname was Twig, and I was up that day with my then-girlfriend Sunmaid and a few other folks. It was August 5th and a beautiful blue day up there. I thought I remembered a smokejumper who mentioned he might canoe the M-I-S-I-P. It's badass you went and did it! I look forward to reading about your trips. All the best to you!

    ReplyDelete
  99. Hi Twig,

    Wow, very cool. It's a small world indeed. I remember you guys although I can't recall if we summited at the same time. Maybe if I take a look at the photos I can spot you guys.

    Good luck on your research of the Mississippi. That was an epic and completely different adventure!

    ReplyDelete
  100. Anonymous8:38 AM

    Hey Buck awesome story. How long would you expect this trip to take for two men?

    ReplyDelete
  101. How long it would take for two men to paddle the river? It would depend on fitness levels, how hard they paddled, how many hours a day they paddled, the type of craft, and river levels. It could be done in less than 50 days by the fastest, and may take four months for those at a very relaxed pace.

    ReplyDelete
  102. Anonymous5:08 PM

    Greetings Buck,
    Great story its truly an inspiration. Me and a buddy are possibly thinking about leaving from Itasca in the late spring. Do you think there are any disadvantages to going then rather then the Fall? Also we are both relatively new to extended trips like this. Any advice you can give to two people rather then advice for a solo trip? thanks

    Tip

    ReplyDelete
  103. Ice can linger in the north surprisingly late, so you'll have to consider that. Depending when you leave in the spring you might encounter more mosquitoes and more heat than you might if you left in September or so. A possible advantage to a spring departure might be higher water levels in the upper (often shallow) river.

    For two people compatibility will be crucial. It can be tough to get along at such close quarters under sometimes trying circumstances, for long periods of time. Two people can share the paddling, of course.

    ReplyDelete
  104. Buck,

    Congrats on completing the hike. It was good seeing you again and now that you know where I live, you are always as welcome as 2 days of SJ OT! Ha! Ha! Congrats again on your great adventure. Dickenson

    ReplyDelete
  105. Ben Swartz12:52 PM

    Howdy Buck! What did your eating habits look like when you canoed the Mississippi? Thanks!

    -Ben

    ReplyDelete
  106. Hi Ben,

    Having just come off the Appalachian Trail, it was a luxury having so many more food choices. For example, I could leave town with fresh fruit and veggies and canned goods. Beyond that, I ate mostly regular backpacking type food. None of the food I ate required much preparation.

    ReplyDelete
  107. Anonymous9:52 AM

    Hello Buck,
    I am amazed by your story. I have a couple of questions relating to your canoe trip. Some friends and I (6 in total) want a getaway this next summer and are considering a week of paddling the Mississippi. We live in Wisconsin and are thinking of somewhere along the northern portion. Where on the river would you suggest for a 150 mile strech: North or south of the twin cities? Also would this be a good idea for a couple of adventurous but inexperienced paddlers?

    ReplyDelete
  108. I think a good stretch might be from about Lake Winnibigoshish to St. Cloud. That's more than 150 miles, but get the DNR maps and choose what looks like the most fun stretch to you guys. That should be a fairly easy stretch, just wear your life jackets. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  109. Anonymous12:54 PM

    Hey Buck. I live in Houston and am planning on starting my trip on June 2nd, 2011. I can easily have family pick me up in New Orleans. I was wondering what the best way would be for me to purchase a good kayak and get it to Lake Itasca? As far as I can tell, the closest airport is in Bemidji, but how would you suggest getting myself and the kayak to the starting point without knowing anyone up there?

    ReplyDelete
  110. Well, I've never purchased a kayak or arranged transportation from Bemidji to Lake Itasca. But this does bring up a good point. A big part of making these adventures doable is being adaptable and thinking outside the box. Do a little brainstorming and I'll bet you'll be able to come up with a good solution. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  111. Lennart6:00 AM

    Dear Buck, I really enjoy your blog. :-)

    Motor boating may sound much less adventurous that canoeing, but I do in fact have this secret dream of getting a small (really small) cabin boat and go down the Mississippi some day.

    I am however a bit unsure about restrictions and such. Is there a good deal of planning involved (other than getting gear and supplies), what type of permits would I need asf.? Maybe you know a little bit about boating in general, or the right people to ask about this?

    Thank you very much and greetings from Denmark,

    Lennart

    ReplyDelete
  112. Hi Lennart,

    Motor boating would be a great adventure, too. After all, Mark Twain was a riverboat captain!

    As far as I know, there still is no requirement for permits for a trip down the river, other than a boat license and a fishing license if you plan to fish. Please read through the above questions and comments and the pages of my website about my trip, if you haven't already.

    Some people will want to do more planning than others. One big factor to figure out will be getting your boat to the start and back from the end. For a motorboat you'll want to start your trip at or below the Minneapolis area.

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  113. Congratulations on what must have been a fantastic trip. i spent many a hour while stationed overseas planning such a trip, but for some reason never did it. What a regret. Now with a wife and kid it might be a bit harder, but once i save up enough "leave" with the forest service, i may attempt it again. i used to live a block up the street from the St. Cloud dam you had to portage around. spent many evenings flyfishing on the beaver islands below the dam. good luck on further adventures.

    ReplyDelete
  114. Hi Dan,

    Thanks! I remember going through that old "stomping grounds" of yours. Beautiful country.

    I hope you make that journey someday. There's always a reason to wait. On the other hand, the Mississippi is the type of trip you can make when you're no longer all that young because you can pace yourself.

    Thanks for your comment!

    Buck

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  115. Anonymous4:59 PM

    Hi Buck,
    I am wondering with your expertise if you would argue against doing the Mississippi in a wooden raft?
    Is this even do-able?

    Thanks,
    M

    ReplyDelete
  116. Plenty of people have taken rafts down stretches of the Mississippi.

    Above Minneapolis it would be very difficult because of the dams. A raft in general would be harder to maneuver, and much slower unless powered. There are long stretches above locks where the current is very slow, and with upstream winds there are times you'd be blown upstream if unpowered so you might have to wait out unfavorable winds. As Huck Finn found out, it requires constant vigilance and good judgment.

    All that said, people have taken rafts from Minneapolis to the Gulf.

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  117. Hey Buck,
    I want to thank you for all of your advice and support you give on this trip. I haven't finished reading your entire page of info yet, but it has already helped me on sooooo many levels. I have wanted to do this trip since I was 10 years old and am now 24. I always thought I'd work in theatre for a couple years and then do it, but as I have trouble pulling out of theatres when I get started I figured it would be best to do before going to work in one. I began really planning for it 2 years ago, and am now looking at leaving to begin it in just over a month (May 23, 2011). Your site and answers to other's questions have helped me in making my packing lists by adding things I never even thought of like the rice as a staple food. I am planning on doing this as a fundraiser for the Shriner's Hospital and am currently trying to get companies to donate to it...the event is called "Paddling for the Children". I figured why not make it more than about me if possible. I have a 13 foot tandem kayak that I will be removing the front seat to create a little more storage room and looking at getting a stow-away sail for when I get a tail wind. I'm sure I will probably come up with some questions for you, but want to read everything before I start asking. Thank you for all your help.
    Thanks,
    Cory

    ReplyDelete
  118. Hey Buck,
    Thanks for your very informative and helpful website. I am planning a kayak paddle from Itasca to NOLA in the summer of 2012. I teach at a college here in Washington state and the paddle will part of my sabbatical study of environmental justice. I will also be raising some $$ for several green causes and will blog with kids coming to a huge national youth gathering of my church. I need to arrive in NOLA by the last weekend of July when that gathering begin.
    Two initial questions:
    1. When do you think I can get in the water in May/June to begin the trip?
    2. Will there be a difference in time down the river between canoe and kayak?
    In advance thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  119. Hi Cory,

    I'm glad you've found my site useful. Good luck on your trip and with your fundraiser. It must be exciting to have the trip ahead of you!

    Buck

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  120. Hi David,

    I'm not sure just when the river will be navigable early in the season. I started in August but obviously a person could start much earlier. Officials at Itasca State Park might be a good source to ask about ice and water levels early in the season.

    A kayak is generally faster than a canoe. But there are a lot of variables. I paddled longer days than the average person would and less hours than a person would if trying to set a record pace. Factors like river levels also make a big difference, higher water tends to be faster.

    I hope your trip goes well and you raise a lot of money for your cause.

    ReplyDelete
  121. Justin2:08 AM

    Leaving from Mankato,MN in July 2011. Can't wait. Thanks for the info. I am basically selling most of my belongings and hope to trade the canoe for a bike and trailer when I get to the coast. Bicycle to the mountains for a winter job and maybe go back to Mankato in the spring.

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  122. Good luck on your adventure, Justin!

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  123. Anonymous3:42 PM

    Hi Buck,
    I solo canoed the Mississippi River in 2003 and before I left I read your 2001 account. It was very helpful. I am now, after putting it off for years, posting my river experience at http://ronhaines.wordpress.com/
    I mention it in case it is of some assistance to folks interested in doing the trip. It is one to do, and you will never regret it.
    Ron Haines

    ReplyDelete
  124. Hi Ron,

    I'm glad you found my site useful. I checked out your trip. Congratulations.

    Others interested in making the journey will want to visit your site, too. Very nice!

    Buck

    ReplyDelete
  125. Anonymous2:25 PM

    Hey Buck,

    Thank you so much for posting all of this wonderful information. It has been so helpful.

    A few friends and I are setting off next week to canoe the whole Mississippi river. How strongly do you recommend the marine radio? We already have a weather radio, but you mentioned the marine one could help with locks info?

    Thanks, Megan

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  126. Hi Megan,

    I think a marine radio would be handy, but I didn't have one and there was no serious problem. So I wouldn't worry about it at all.

    Have a great trip!

    Buck

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  127. Anonymous9:31 PM

    First of all thanks for all the info. You are my hero.

    I've spent some time looking at boats for the trip and found a canoe with a flat back you could put a very small motor on. The advantages of this seems self evadent but I'm woried about locks ect along the way.

    Is it required to lug your craft around all those locks? or can you ride throgh with other craft if you are willing to wait?

    ReplyDelete
  128. At my website referenced in the first paragraph of the post is a photo or two or me going through a lock. Some locks I went through alone, some with other boats. Others I portaged around which was usually easy.

    Above Minneapolis there are a number of dams (without locks) to portage around, so you'll want to keep your gear weight to a minimum in that stretch of river.

    ReplyDelete
  129. Hi Buck,
    Thanks for the web site. Good informative information. In 2008 I canoed the Missouri in 115 days with a 16' Old Town Penobscot. I now have an ocean kayak and planned on going down the Mississippi, up the Ohio, up the Tennesse, then through the Tennesse-Tombridge Waterway and down the Tombridge river to Mobile Al. If time allows I'd follow the intercoastal waterway along the Florida coast. My big hicup! Space! I'm afraid if I gear down I'll end up being miserable. I loved living in my tent and canoe. You've back packed considerable. Will I want it over before I finish? Doing the Missouri, I stretched out the last 800 miles because I didn't want it to end. Going back to the canoe is a serious consideration. Any comment would be appreciated.
    Thanks,
    John (canoe guy)

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  130. Hi John,

    That sounds like a true adventure and a whole lot of fun.

    I suppose whether or not you will want this new adventure over early depends on you and how the trip progresses. It's important to understand yourself, so you'd be in the best position to decide what works best.

    Good luck with your new trip!

    Buck

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  131. John (canoe gut)7:28 PM

    Hi Buck,
    Talked myself back into a canoe. Will trade the kayak for a solo canoe.
    I got the idea of this trip from a retired banker who motored from the Florida Keys to Pierre, SD. in a 19' boat.
    Keep up the adventures.
    john

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  132. Anonymous12:30 PM

    Hey Buck!

    Thanks for your travelogue of the Mississippi!

    It was very inspirational and the photos were helpful and appropriate

    Best wishes

    Leif Palmer

    ReplyDelete
  133. Hey Buck,

    This is Robert Youens, I paddled the river from Lake Itasca to Morganza Floodway Sept thu Dec of 2008. I will be getting back on the river where I left off in 2008 Monday of next week (October 24th, 2011). Covered about 2000 miles and got about 300 more to go. I just go back on your sight to reprint your supply list. After living on the river solo for just over 2 month so far, you suggestions were spot on. The only thing I added was a high tec charger to chare my smart phone from large lipoly batteries I use on my RC Heli and Airplanes. This time I will be using my smart phone for phone, camera and GPS. I will drop you a note when I finish.

    Again, Thanks for such a great resourse.

    Robert

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  134. Hi Robert,

    I remember you. Technology has advanced rapidly and a smartphone will probably prove to be extremely useful on your trip.

    Congratulations on what you've already accomplished and enjoy the rest of your voyage.

    Buck

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  135. Polar Bear6:20 PM

    Hey Buck, your site and your stories are incredible! I am planning a trip from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico starting in August of this year. I live, however, in New Jersey and do not think that anyone I know would be willing to drive to MN to drop me off. Do you know of any ways to get a ride to Lake Itasca from an airport in MN?

    Thank you so much for all the information you provide!

    -Polar Bear

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  136. Thanks Polar Bear.

    I don't know of a way of getting from the airport to Lake Itasca, but I bet if you started asking around on outdoors forums you could find someone who would do it for gas money.

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  137. I'm Paul and my Friend is Hank. We are both retired Marines . We Met while we were both hiking the AT.We are both experienced being in the outdoors . Looking for another adventure > the Mississippi river come up. So in 2012 we will canoe the Mississippi . Not sure of starting date . We ( i ) can be contacted at PAS971@AOL.com .

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  138. I am planning a thrupaddle of the Mississippi for 2012 and like Polar Bear I had problems figuring out how to get from Mineapolis to Lake Itasca. After a lot of research I found out that Hertz has a drop off station in Park Rapids which is only 20 miles on one direct road to Lake Itasca. So my paddling partner and I will rent a car, drive to Lake Itasca and while one persons stays with the boats the other will return the car and hitch back. Hertz even offers a free drop off/pick up service within a 15 minute drive time of their station.
    Christine

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  139. Thanks for that information German Tourist. I don't think we've ever met but I know your name from the long distance hiking world. Good luck on the Mississippi and maybe our paths will cross some day.

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  140. Anonymous8:02 PM

    I am planning a canoe trip down the mississippi river and was wondering what are the advantages / disadvantages to leaving in the spring / fall

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  141. Advantages of spring vs. fall? I only did the trip once so there are some things I have no personal experience with. I know that the ice may be on the upper river (northern Minnesota) until surprisingly late, that is something to look into. High water in spring might help in some ways and be a hindrance in others.

    Starting June 1, for example, would probably result in a much hotter trip than mine. For me, I started in August and finished in late October. I think that reduced the amount of heat and mosquitoes I might have had to put up with had I left earlier.

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  142. Anonymous6:51 AM

    Butch said:
    Planning the trip and have looked at your mileage chart for overnight. Compared with google map/satellite.
    Could you expand on campsite/overnight on nights south of White Hall.
    It looks like a lot of bank is occupied with barges.

    Great effort in your documentation. Thanks!! It helps others.

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  143. Hi Butch,

    My camps are very approximate and it's a long time ago and I don't remember that specific camp offhand. I will say though that many of my camps were tucked out of the way in places that might not seem obvious from a satellite image. Plus, things change through the years too.

    It was usually pretty easy to find reasonable camp spots.

    Good luck!

    Buck

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  144. Buck, when I printed out the USCE maps of the Mississippi in preparation for my paddling trip I realised that the link to those maps on your planning website does not work any more and another one leads to outdated maps. The correct link now is: http://www.mvd.usace.army.mil/defaultex.php?pID=maps
    As your website is the best internet resource for planning a thrupaddle of the Mississippi it would be great if you could update those links.
    While on your website I stumbled upon your new project and I am very intrigued. After having completed the Triple Crown I am sort of running out trails now and your plan sounds great. I will definitely follow your journal and maybe hike the same trail at some point. Good luck and hope to meet you some day! Christine aka German Tourist

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  145. Thanks German Tourist. Those government links change often. Just updated that link and some others.

    Good luck on your upcoming adventures!

    Buck aka Colter

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  146. Anonymous2:29 PM

    Hi! First of all, I am so impressed by all the amazing adventures you have had! My friends and I are planning a trip down the Mississippi river and we were wondering when you think the best time to leave is? We will not be in a canoe, but a 17ft Mark Twain boat. We can use the motor in an emergency, but are not planning on using it otherwise (fuel costs, etc.). We are amateurs, so we will only be going from Memphis to Baton Rouge. Obviously, weather will always pose some sort of threat (and we will have a weather radio with us), but are there any particular months that we should avoid? We have gotten mixed answers from other websites we have read, so it would be great if you could help clear this up for us!

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  147. From Memphis to Baton Rouge I will defer to the knowledge of local boaters. I only was on that stretch of water once so they would be much more qualified to give you an answer.

    Good luck!

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  148. Anonymous9:49 PM

    Buck, awesome site and information. My question -- do you have any thoughts about women traveling alone? Is it a greater safety risk, are women more obvious targets, etc.

    Thanks so much, and best wishes on your next adventure.

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    Replies
    1. There is somewhat more risk, but if using good judgment women can travel and adventure safely alone. Follow your instincts. If doing the Mississippi, don't let people know/see where you're camping. Things like that. Have fun!

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  149. Dear Mr Buck - I completed my canoe journey from Saint Paul to New Orleans in October. Your website was very reassuring and useful to me, especially in knowing what to expect pace-wise. (Though ultimately I did need to extrapolate, as you definately out-paced me!) I've much enjoyed reading through your adventures. I kept a web journal myself of my journey at johnadrift.com. This journey continues, to Patagonia and beyond (this part not by canoe!) Thanks a million for your website. Best wishes for your desert walk. It's a big, beautiful world we're passing through.......John

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    1. Congrats, John, and thanks for the kind words. Best of luck on your future adventures.

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  150. Hi Buck

    I have absolutely no experience with a canoe/kayak, but love the sound of this idea. Is there any training I should do before embarking? Could I not just pick up the basic skills on the first few days of the journey, maybe starting off a little slowly?

    I consider myself to be a fit, healthy 26 year old guy, and back myself to do it. Is this just foolish?

    Regards
    Pall

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  151. It would be a very bad idea to set off on a three month journey by canoe or kayak with no experience in either.

    You don't have to be a world class expert, but you definitely need to know how to control the boat or you will end up in the water. Also, you'll need to be proficient at camping, and you should have enough experience boating and camping to know if it's the idea you like right now, or more importantly, will you enjoy the experience in real life?

    Good judgement and respect for the river are essential for your safety. If you play it smart it will be quite safe. If you just "go for it" and hope for the best it could turn out badly.

    Good luck!

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  152. Dave Dave6:51 AM

    Hi Buck -- not sure if you're still checking these comments. My girlfriend and I are looking to go down the Mississippi next year and we are trying to figure out what canoe to use. I saw that you used a standard 17' Alumacraft. Do you think that a 17' would be too small for both of us (we weigh a combined 300 pounds or so)? Do you think we should aim for finding something bigger? Thanks -- your site has been very helpful in planning so far!

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  153. Anonymous6:45 PM

    Hey Buck I'm Chris. I'm planning a small canoe trip from cairo, IL to Memphis. Any advice for a semi experienced boater? I'm going to take everything i need with me. No stopping in any towns as it should only take me 4-5 days. Everybody is trying to talk me out of it. They say its suicide. I think its a small stepping stone to a life full if adventures. Any advice for that stretch of river would be greatly appreciated.

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  154. Buck,

    Thanks for creating THE definitive resource for planning a trip down the Mississippi! I used it myself quite heavily when planning my expedition in 2010.

    I just finished my own website which I hope can also be useful to others who might be contemplating such a journey. If you have a spot for links on your site, I humbly submit http://manandyak.com for inclusion. It contains everything I could think of that would useful in planning such a trip, as well extensive photos videos and journals. Naturally, there is a link to your own site as well.

    Hope you enjoy it, and thanks for the inspiration!

    Bronze

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  155. Hi Bronze
    Thanks. I'll check it out, and I hope other people will too.
    Buck

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  156. Hi Chris

    I've probably given all the advice I can think of here and on my main site referenced in the original post. Your friends are scared of the idea and they want you to be scared too. Use good judgement and respect the river and you'll be fine.

    Have fun!

    Buck

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  157. Dave

    Your canoe should have a capacity plate on it with the max weight listed. Check that out. I'm not a boat selection expert. You might ask a canoe shop or other experts for their input.
    Good luck and have fun.

    Buck

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  158. Anonymous9:40 AM

    Today is June 28 . the Adventure is just about to start. Hank , Shane , myself ( Paul ) and Mee , my lab . We will start Near St. Paul and go south . If anyone would like to write , read or just follow our trip ( i"m on FB . ) Also if you can .... > no i don't need money ..LOL LOL If you live on or near the river , and could give a ride to the store . for supplies .. no we don't need a place to stay .. Contact me at PAS971@AOL.com That really would be nice ... May the adventure begin .

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  159. Great and very helpful site Buck!

    Just a few questions:

    How many gallons of water do you recommend to carry at a time?

    Did you take a boat cart with you for the portages? If so, can you recommend a model.

    Cheers

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  160. Hi Dave,

    I have never used a boat cart so I can't give you any advice there.

    On the upper river above the Twin Cities where there were many portages and plentiful brooks/streams I didn't carry much water but treated/filtered water along the way. Below the Twin Cities if there was a handy water tap I'd get maybe 5 gallons and fill all my canteens. I'd usually cook with river water.

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  161. Travis Cerwin, IL11:07 AM

    Hey buck, By now you're probably hiking the desert trail. I hope all is going well for you and i wanted to just say thank you. Me and my friend are planning to canoe the entire misssissippi in may and have found a lot of help in your website and this blog. thanks again.

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  162. Hi Travis,

    You're welcome! I recently finished my Desert Trail hike: Postholer.com/Colter

    I hope you guys have a enjoyable and safe trip. Something to look forward to, for sure!

    Buck

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  163. Hi Buck,
    Some friends and I are planning to Kayak the Mississippi from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico after we graduate fom university(in 4 years).I currently own a small 8ft kayak would this be an issue on the river? Would you recommend upgrading for more space or stability? I also considered buying stabilizers to negate those issues. What would you recommend?
    Thanks your website has been a lot of help.
    -JW

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  164. Anonymous11:45 AM

    Love the site. Lots of good information. Job well done. I'm thinking of canoeing the Greenville, MS to Natchez, MS stretch in a few weeks. I'm looking for this question but haven't seen it yet: What was the water level like? I know the higher the faster. Was it higher or lower than average for that time of year? I noticed you did Greenville to Natchez in about 5 days. Thanks

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  165. Hi Jan-Phillip

    I'm not much of a kayaker, so my best advice would be to contact an experienced kayaker. It does seem like space might be an issue for you. Good luck!

    Buck

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  166. I made my trip in about average water conditions.

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  167. Hey Buck,

    Thanks so much for doing these sites and continuing to support your (fanatical) reader community ...

    Now that I'm to this point in the comments, I've read everything you've written about your MS adventure, but there's a couple things you haven't mentioned specifically ...

    1. How bad were the insects and what did you use to combat them? Several times you mention that leaving in August may have given you a leg up on mosquitoes, but you don't really talk about those that you did run across.

    2. How did you handle all of your bodily waste?

    Best of luck to you in all your coming adventures,
    b1

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  168. Hi b1-66er,
    Firstly, thanks for reading through everything before asking your questions! There were mosquitoes at times, occasionally lots of them, but usually there were none. I handle mosquitoes first by putting on long sleave shirt and pants. I will often put a bandana on my head beneath my cap in "Foreign Legion" style. If they are still bothering me I use enough DEET to stop them. Contrary to popular belief, DEET has been shown to be quite safe under normal usage. For waste I used catholes: http://suite101.com/article/digging-a-cat-hole-a70574

    Have a goood trip!

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  169. Anonymous5:25 PM

    Hello Buck,

    My friend and I are in the process of making plans to go down the Ohio River into the Mississippi River, and into the Gulf. I was just wondering what kind of advice you would have for us on our trip.

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  170. Hi anonymous,

    Read through all my trip pages and the Q and A here.

    Wear your life jackets and stay alert always, stay out of the way of big boats and their wakes and stay away from fixed objects in fast current.

    Have fun!

    Buck

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  171. Hey Buck! Love your blog. I read it before canoeing from Minneapolis to New Orleans. I am hoping to paddle from Itasca to Minneapolis this summer and was wondering how long it took you and what the water levels were like when you completed that section? Thanks for setting up your site!

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  172. Hi John,

    Water levels were about average for August for me, I'd say.

    A chart of my daily progress is here:
    http://www.bucktrack.com/Missisippi_River_Canoe_Speed.html

    Good luck!

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  173. Hey Buck, I was wondering if you encountered a lot of mosquitos (I'm sure you did) and how bad they were. Also what suggestions you would have to deal with them. Thanks!

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  174. Hi ndficek,
    The worst mosquitoes, I believe, were in August in northern Minnesota. Obviously the timing of your trip is a big factor, and also your personal tolerance. I have a fairly high tolerance for mosquitoes. Normally if there's just a few I ignore them. When they are moderate I will wear a bandana under my hat and around the back and sides of my head and face and neck "foreign legion style" and put DEET on the backs of my hands. I will add more DEET as conditions warrant. Contrary to popular belief DEET has been shown to be quite safe, and effective.

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  175. Darrin8:00 AM

    Hi Buck, Thanks for documenting so much info for our use. 2 questions: how did you clean your clothing on the trip and did you take anything for self defense purposes?

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  176. Hi Darrin,

    If you've experienced long trips like this you're already aware that standards change a little. You find you don't need a shower every day, nor do your clothes need to be washed nearly as often. Most of my washing was just rinsing stuff off in the river.

    In smaller streams and lakes I wouldn't do it, but I'd sometimes use a little shampoo to hand-wash items of clothing in the river. And of course there are towns along the river where you can do a load of laundry as needed.

    I did not carry a weapon. In my opinion good judgment is far more important, specifically camping in places where I was "out of sight, out of mind" when it seemed appropriate.

    Buck

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  177. Darrin1:40 PM

    Thanks for the quick answer, I have taken a few multiple day canoe trips on the AuSable river so I do know a little bit about doing whatever it takes to get by, but Im sure a multi month trip is somewhat of a different story. Two more questions if you dont mind: I wonder if you lost alot of weight on your river trip or if you had to consume more food than you normally might? Also, I have a form of Muscular Dystrophy but I am interested in doing the river trip. From what youve said, it looks like starting below the twin cities is the best for a guy that doesnt want to portage alot, but is there still portages I would have to make below the twin cities or can I go thru locks all the way?

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  178. Hi Darrin,

    I'm sure I was eating more than in my normal life because I was paddling most of the day. In a canoe like that, though, it was easy to carry plenty of food. I'd just completed hiking the Appalachian Trail, too, so I think that makes your body more efficient. I likely gained a little weight on the river. Most people would probably lose some weight.

    Below the Twin Cities you shouldn't have to do any portages if you don't want to. I portaged over some wing dams just to save time. You should be able to do all locks if you like.

    Good luck!

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  179. Hello Buck,

    I am planning a canoe trip down the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico with one other.

    We were just wondering if you had to possess any type of canoeing license or permits throughout your trip? We were wondering about the various parks the river runs through (Mississippi National River and Recreation Area etc.)

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,

    MB

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  180. Hi MB,

    It's been a few years since my trip, but at the time a Minnesota canoe license was good for the whole trip. I suspect if you have a boat licensed in your state it will be good for the whole river, but you might want to verify that, and perhaps report back here.

    Buck

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  181. Anonymous5:52 PM

    Just my experience. Most states do not require a license on non-motorized watercraft. A canoe certainly fits this bill. I have taken boat registered in Michigan all over the country and have never had any trouble. Once in a while you have to buy a permit for a lake but I would think on the Mississippi it would not be needed. If you want to be really safe check with the Army Corps of Engineers.

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  182. Hi Anonymous,

    I suspect you're right. But Minnesota DOES require a license for canoes and kayaks, so someone wanting to do the whole river will need a license regardless.

    Buck

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  183. Hello! My friends and are are following your canoe trip for our adventure this summer. We are partnering with a company to raise money to end the hunger problem around the world. I am doing some research before we start with some things this summer. I was looking at your list of places that you stopped on your trip, but I cannot find anything on Island 67. can you tell me about this location. Thanks so much

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  184. Hi Kfaulk,

    I "winged" my camping all the way down. Off the top of my head I can't tell you anything about island 67, sorry about that. Things change along the river of course, the water is higher or lower, islands build up and get washed away. You might cover much more or much less distance in a day or week than I did. If you're flexible you should do fine on finding camp spots.

    Good luck!

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  185. Ken Robertshaw10:56 PM

    Hi Buck, thanks for the site and all the information.
    I am in the early stages of planning a trip down the Mississippi, but not being a resident of the USA have a few extra logistical difficulties! Still, should add to the fun.
    I am a UK resident and would like to know what, if any permits, licences are needed and for what sections. If I read correctly the Minnesota DNR have a permit system but it is unclear what is needed for what craft and what applies in other parts.

    Your advice would be of great help.

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  186. You will need a boat license, and to the best of my knowledge if your boat is licensed in any state, like Minnesota, you should be good down the whole river.

    There are no other permits specific to navigating the Mississippi River for small, recreational boats that I'm aware of.

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  187. hi buck,

    back again -including having read all Q&As posted on all your sites- since i was here last ...

    three questions, one (surprisingly) not self-serving.

    1. i'm figuring out how to get my boat from the end back to las vegas, NV ... you say it cost $300 to ship your canoe back to MN. who did you use, how did you decide on them and how did you get your boat from the edge of the water to the shipping people?

    2. you mention hitching a ride from the salt water back to the cities ... how, exactly, does this "hitching" work? did they throw you a line and tow? did they take both you and your boat onboard? something else?

    3. there's no doubt that you are the unofficial mr. Q&A of everything having to do with trekking the MS river ... i'd say odds are 95% that i'll be doing the trip myself this summer thanks in a very large part to your help, inspiration and advice ... is there anything you would like me to look out for, watch or report back on? i feel as though i have a great debt that can never be repaid ... i should do something.

    as always, i appreciate your help,
    b1

    PS i'll likely be blogging everything having to do with my trip ... let me know if you need/want a link to my site ... and who/where i should send it to.

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  188. Hi b1-66er

    I called around to numerous shipping and trucking companies. I don't recall who I used but things change so it would pay to shop around again. I chose the company that would ship it the cheapest. At Port Eads someone volunteered to give me a ride from there to Venice. They just put my canoe in their boat. From there, someone offered me a ride to New Orleans and they dropped my boat off at the shipping company. Getting a friend to pick you and your boat up at the end of your journey will reduce hassles, as would giving away or selling your boat at the end. But with a little flexibility and a good attitude many plans will work out well, especially for "people persons." A surprising number of people will want to help if they find out you just traveled the whole river!

    Why don't you post the link to your blog here for now? Also, please just report here anything important you learned that may not appear on this site.

    One thing people can do to support this site is to make their Amazon.com orders, any of them at any time, through my website. I will get a small percentage for each and every order! The link is on the right side of every page. Bookmark it and you can help me out with every single order! Thanks, and good luck!

    Good luck!

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  189. Richard Reedy6:48 PM

    Buck, I posted on another page but will try this as well. My wife and I are in our 70's, I am 75 will be 76 when doing 'the river'. Figured best to avoid portages so will put in at So. St. Paul. That should allow no portages right? Also due to age figured to use a square back transom with a 3 to 5 H.P. on a minimum 17'er. Troller should help with wind, that seems like the biggie for an old duck and should a huge safety factor for senior travellers don't you think? Will have both a rowing set up and paddles, sound like a good plan? Richard

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    Replies
    1. I replied on www.bucktrack.com as well but that sounds like a good plan. Make sure you take the correct channel and miss Chain of Rocks near St Louis.

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