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Canoeing down the Mississippi.........

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I'm planning a trip down the Mississippi. So far just my brother and I are going. It's a 2006 trip, so I have a while to plan. We'll take 2 weeks off work. So we figure a 9-10 day trip would be great. We are not experts, but we do both own canoes and go down the local rivers here in Indiana (I know it's no comparison with the Mighty Mississippi). But this is an adventure we have both wanted since we were kids growing up around the St. Louis area. I figure 20-25 miles a day (does that sound right?). 200 miles or so. OK, finally my question. I need help on where to put in and where to take out. The net isn't full of help on this matter except for Minnesota and I kind of want to either start or end within hours of St. Louis (My other brother will be dropping us off and picking us up). Cairo, Illinois looked like a possibility. Not sure wether to startthere or end. A start there looks like we could end in Memphis. Or starting somewhere north of St. louis would be cool too. But would canoeing through St. Louis be fun? The sight would be nice, but the barge traffic and all might get frusterating. Or is this area of the river not comparible to the deeper south. We are open to heading to New Orleans. I would appreciate any help or comments.

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I have some friends who pleasure boat on the Mississippi in the Wisconsin/Illinois area. Before your trip, check out the regulations for the lock system as far as priorities in going thru the locks. From what I understand, pleasure boaters are last in line thru the locks and can be delayed many hours waiting in line behind barges and other commercial vessels. Just a word of warning.

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While I haven't used a canoe, the area north of St. Louis, from the Iowa border to St. Louis is a beautiful trip by boat. An added plus is you have smaller towns and cities along the river, both on the Missouri and Illinois side of the river that are anywhere from 20 to 30 miles apart. Smaller towns are more open to people setting up tents at the riverfront areas than the big city .. and I won't even mention the safety issue.


Eagle90 is correct about the locks, as well. Get yourself a Corp of Engineers map of the Mississippi and find out where those locks are and what is in the area. In northern MO, at least, where the locks are there are also many, many fishing areas and boat access points around the locks. If the wait is too long, it's possible to portage around the locks to avoid the wait using these access points.


If you're camping along the way, there are some big sand bars and islands in the river north of St. Louis ... just bring lots of mosquito spray. If you're not camping, and you're north of St. Louis, IM me, and I can get you info on Scout troops along the Missouri and Illinois sides that might be able to provide a place to stay or advice on an area to camp along the river. I could guarantee a semi-comfortable bed and a good hot meal if you hit the Hannibal area. ;)



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Your day's mileage is a little on the high side....consider some days for more sight seeing and less paddling. And should you get favorable winds you might like using Seda's downwind kite to cover a lot of miles with little work.

Also, factor in a bad weather day just in case you get wind bound....bon chance

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I'm envious. I've wanted to do something like this for a long time and now time's getting a little on the short side. Be very careful of the other vessels, especially the barges and towboats. They seem slow and easy to avoid but they're much larger and won't be able to avoid you easily. It is a dangerous river in many ways.

My father told stories of travels to Shark River down in the Everglades back during the early 1930's. At the mouth of the river there was a trapper's roost and there they met a man who had taken a sailing canoe down from Minnesota. He was on his way around the peninsula hoping to make it up the coast to NJ or NY. Never heard from him again. I think I still have some of my father's old photos. What a great adventure!

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Thanks for the info from you guys. I do plan on getting a corps of engineers map before we go. It'll be quite an adventure. I'm sure I'll read Mark Twains Life On The Mississippi before I go.


Here's aneat link to sombodys Mississippi adventure:



If anyone else has any ideas or links, I'd appreiciate it.


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Hello Myles,

I live near the Mississippi R.below St.Louis @ Cape Girardeau, Mo. and farm along the rivers @ Cairo, Illinois (@ the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi). The dangers are many along this section of river for small boats ! Among them are : Extensive commercial barge traffic(tows in excess of 20 barges are common), extensive rock wing dikes extending out into the channel, whirlpool currents around these dikes, huge mosquitos, limited take-outs for re-supply or emergencies, flooding and large dangerous floating debris(logs) did I mention mosquitos after dark ?

I have met several solo canoeists and kayakers traveling to N.O.over the years (many from Europe). Most break their long-distance trip up into 2 - 4 segments with each leg of about 10 -15 days on the river, continuing another leg during a follow-up trip/vacation.

My Troop has talked about taking a group of Eagle Scouts and dads (canoes and a motorized safety boat) from Trail of Tears State Park, near Cape Girardeau to Ft. Defiance Park at Cairo for a 50 miler Afloat award. We'd do some riverbank clean-up along the way for a conservation project.

If I can assist with planning or logistics on your adventure, let me know ! Good paddling !


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  • 1 month later...

Hi Myles,


I've never done a long trip down the Mississippi River. I can't really say that I have any great desire to do so either.


We have paddled from DeKalb, Illinois to Davenport, Iowa crossing the Mississippi River. Thats a 200 mile canoe route we did in 8 days, using the Kishwaukee and Rock Rivers. We averaged 25 miles/day paddling. We then switched to bicycles and continued 325 miles over 6 days to St Louis biking along the mighty Miss.


We have also done shorter trips on the Mississippi river around Prairie du Chein, Wisconsin.


We've paddled on the Missouri River in central Missouri and the upper Missouri River for 150 miles through Montana retracing Lewis & Clark. (fantastic trip BTW.)


As for the mighty Mississippi River, there is the annoyance of pleasure craft. Their wakes become tiring, and can really slow you down. The wake off barges are so large you become a part of them. Wing dams can be treacherous. The Lock & Dam system is not designed for canoeists, so understand you're a low priority.


Personal Water craft like jet-skis can really be a problem too. They sometimes get too close for comfort.


Camping can be problematic. Even if you find places where you can get permission to legally camp, there are other considerations. We've camped along the Mississipi River, and between the horns and lights of river barges, and the deafening sound of freight trains whose tracks parallel the river much of the way, it was not very easy getting a good night's sleep.


I know the romantic image of Huck Finn and Jim floating down the mighty Mississippi is alluring. But the modern day reality of the river is not quite as welcoming.


Below Cairo the barge traffic increases.


Still, with all the inherint problems associated with a float down the Mississippi, I guess a part of me really does envy your adventure.


I wish you a safe and exciting adventure.


Here is some further advice from people who've been there and done it...




Good luck!



Cliff Golden

Scoutmaster Troop 33

DeKalb, Illinois

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  • 1 year later...

Reviving a long-dead thread.


I am an Eagle Scout, and last summer my fiance' and I paddled 2,150 miles down the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers to raise awareness of the Audubon Society's Upper Mississippi River Campaign.


If anyone is thinking about paddling a section of the river, I have a book coming out on the trip with plenty of river and planning resources in the appendix. I'm also happy to answer any questions via email that you might have (source2sea@gmail.net)


Our URL is www.sourcetosea.net if you'd like to take a look at our photos, journals, book excerpts and the like.


Yours in scouting,



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Thanks, you can bet on it that I will visit your site and buy the book. I'm still betting that I can last long enough for one good trip down. I have an old 25' Old Town wood-and-canvas expedition canoe that I am rebuilding for a trip like this. Coupled with my all-original 1937 Sea King kicker, I hope to have a wonderful experience some day. Looking forward to your book.

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Thanks for the link. I'm about halfway thru the guy's journal of his quest to kayak the length of the Mississippi and it is very interesting. His description of his young life is sad and the pain he feels over the loss of his father keeps bringing a tear to my eyes remembering when I lost my father 5 years ago. I didn't experience the pain growing up he did, but I can sure relate to wishing my dad was still here to spend time with. Thanks again for the link.

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