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