Expedition kayaker and explorer Mark Kalch has just completed a 117-day, 3780 mile source to sea descent of the Missouri-Mississippi River system, the longest river in North America and 4th longest river in the world. The journey began at Brower’s Spring in the Centennial Mountains of Montana and finished in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. Throughout the paddle Mark gathered and published stories and images about the river and the people connected to it. The aim was to highlight the importance of the world’s largest rivers to our existence and the continued need to protect them.
The successful descent has seen Mark become the first person to ever paddle the river from it’s utmost source to where it empties into the ocean. He has also become the first person to ever paddle from source to sea both the longest rivers in North and South America (Amazon River, 153 days, 4300 miles, 2008) respectively. The descent is part of Mark’s 7 rivers 7 continents project to paddle from source to sea the longest river on each continent. A combined distance of more than 22 000 miles.
Beginning on snow shoes in Montana’s Centennial Mountains on 11th June 2012 Mark trekked to Brower’s Spring, the utmost source of the river system at an altitude of nearly 9000 feet above sea level (2743m). From this point he followed the trickle of water on foot for 2 days until big enough to launch his 17-foot P & H Scorpio 170 kayak. Then, for nearly 4 months he paddled the entire river as it wound it’s way across Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and finally Louisiana, into the gulf.
The journey saw him paddle across lakes (including Fort Peck, Sakakawea, and Oahe) hundreds of miles long and miles wide, portaging his kayak by hand around huge dams. He encountered wildlife including bear, moose, wolves, coyote, deer, rattle snakes, water moccasin, wolverine, possum, beaver, raccoon, bald eagle, golden eagle and countless other bird species.
The heavily industrialised lower river had him dodging an endless stream of barge traffic, tow boats, tug boats, crew boats, work boats, fishing boats, fuel tankers, grain and container ships. In his kayak he was invisible to their radar.
At 1300 hours on 5th October 2012, Mark paddled his final strokes on the river beyond Port Eads, Louisiana and into the breaking waves of the Gulf of Mexico, completing his epic journey.
Mark says, “I am excited to have paddled another of the world’s great rivers from source to sea. It was a journey I will never forget, for the river itself and the communities connected to it. While at times supremely exhausting and a mental and physical endeavour like few others, paddling into the ocean to finish was an amazing feeling”.
Mark Kalch is a world-class expedition paddler, explorer and speaker. Previous expeditions include multiple on foot journeys throughout Ethiopia’s Omo Valley, a 4300 mile source to sea paddling descent of the Amazon River and walking alone across the entire Islamic Republic of Iran. Mark’s 7 rivers 7 continents project sees him making source to sea paddling descents of the longest river on each continent. A combined distance of more than 22 000 miles. Mark has been invited to speak on several occasions for the Royal Geographical Society and National Geographic Society. He is sponsored by Rab, Suunto, Kokatat, Seal Line, MSR, Therm-a-rest, Zeal Optics, P & H and Pyranha kayaks, Lowe Alpine, Snap Dragon Designs, ASUS, Lowa, C-TUG and H2O performance paddles. Mark supports International Rivers (www.internationalrivers.org) and American Rivers (www.americanrivers.org).
Visit the website at 7riversmissouri.com
Expedition Amazonas was a journey and undertaking of a lifetime. Over 7 months and 7000km, a team of explorers paddled the entire length of the world’s biggest and longest river – the mighty Amazon!
Excerpt below from the expedition website - www.expeditionamazonas.com
This is a traverse of the South American continent, from near the Pacific coast of Peru to the mouth of the Amazon River where it meets the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil.
Encountering a range of terrain from harsh deserts, the snow-capped mountains of the Andes and ultimately the Amazon itself, the team face adventure, adrenalin, peril, hardship and life-changing experiences at every twist and turn of the mighty river.
To be the first is not the aim of the expedition.
To break records is not the aim of the expedition.
The aim of the expedition is the journey itself!
Partnered with environmental and indigenous rights action group, Amazon Watch, the expedition will highlight the absolute need for a balance between global, sustainable development and the protection of the earth’s natural environment, along with its most vulnerable populations.
The expedition is being undertaken by a team of experienced professionals using custom-built equipment supplied by industry leaders including Teva, Kokatat, First Ascent, ARK, Suunto and Garmin.
Please explore the website to learn more about the expedition, the team and their equipment, the work of Amazon Watch, committed sponsors and this amazing world in which we all live. Follow the progress of the team with news updates and a unique mapping facility as they face everyday, a new set of challenges and adventures. Be inspired to follow your own dreams and play a part in creating a planet that will allow others to do the same. Awe!
The Expedition in Detail:
The expedition can be broken into five distinct sections.
Summiting the Source
The Great Flat Expanse
The Amazon Basin
The Last Frontier
Summiting the Source:
Nevado Mismi, true source of the Amazon River
The team treks to the Andean summit of Nevado Mismi, which is officially regarded as the ‘true source of the Amazon River’. In May, 2000, a National Geographic team travelled to this region to determine the source of the Amazon River once and for all.
Altitude and unpredictable weather conditions are very real threats in this section of the trip!
Having reached the summit of Nevado Mismi and located the trickle of water which signals the beginnings of the Amazon River, we begin following the banks of the tributary, until such time it grows in size enough to begin the rafting component of the expedition.
It is from here that the expedition takes on a new dimension …
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The Apurimac River
The Apurimac River is the major headwater of the Amazon proper and marks the beginnings of our river journey. Rafting the entire length of the Amazon River awaits …
High in the Andes mountains, 4000m above sea level, the team begins six weeks of rafting some of the most dangerous whitewater found anywhere in the world, navigating rapids ranging from Grade 2 to Grade 6, and a descent through the Apurimac Canyon.
The Apurimac is a relentless test of technical skills and nerve. It is now that teamwork & performance under daily pressure will be tested. The Apurimac combines both technical rafting with big volume pushy whitewater – it has a reputation for intensity and punishment!
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The Great Flat Expanse:
The Apurimac Canyon gives way to the Ene River
At long last, the ‘Whitewater Fury’ eases but we now enter the Ene River, a ‘red zone’ hotbed of militia and rebel activity. Our technical skills will not be as important as our skills in negotiation and communication as we travel through a known political ‘hotspot’.
An oar frame is fitted to the raft and so begins a journey of endless days of rowing, filming, eating and sleeping (or at least trying to).
After time the Apurimac River merges with the Perene and Urubamba Rivers to form the Ucayali River.
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The Amazon Basin:
The Lungs of the Planet
Here the expedition crosses through the northern section of Peru, touches the border of Colombia and across the entire breadth of Brazil’s northern regions. This involves thousands of kilometres on a river that at times is so wide it is not possible to see its banks!
It is between the towns of Nauta and Iquitos that the Ucayali River merges with the Maranon River to first become the Amazon River by name.
With the Amazon River now in peak flow we will travel nearly 3,700 kilometres through the ‘Lungs of the Planet’ – the Amazon rainforest.
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The Last Frontier:
The Amazon Delta
The expedition reaches the Amazon Delta and the team does battle with some of the most powerful tidal flows on the planet, as well as huge waves originating from the Atlantic Ocean.
This final leg of the expedition is technically demanding and a true test of endurance nearing the end of the journey. Massive tidal surges lasting up to 12 hours a day mean patience and planning are vital.
The final destination is Ponte Taipu, at the mouth of the Amazon River!