The entire river is roughly 2300miles, more or less, depending on who you ask. It took Adam Briska and I 66 days to canoe it all, with several days of rest. If the waters are high, it could take half that long or less. There's another 50 to 100 miles of river after New Orleans, but Adam and I foregoed it (there being notoriously few bars in the Gulf of Mexico). From Lake Itasca on, the obstacles grow steadily bigger, so you barely notice the transition from a trickle of a stream to the greatest waterway in the world.

Here's some free advice for people intending on canoing the Mississippi River, which I heartily recommend by the way. At least the beginning part, from Lake Itasca to the Twin Cities, which is a beautiful wilderness waterway which the state of Minnesota has liberally outfitted with frequent campsites and facilities. The section of the Mississippi from Minneapolis to the Wisconsin River (or Prairie du Chien, depending on how you want to look at it) is exceptionally scenic, but it's very busy with both pleasure and commercial craft. From there on down, the ratio of funability (is that a word?) to difficulty, boredom, and danger doesn't look so good. But you should do it anyways.

Here's some extra points to consider:

-Get maps: The Minnesota DNR has useful maps of the the wilderness waterway and facilities upstream of the Twin Cities. Below that, you're going to need the Army Corps maps of the navigable waterways, because that's going to tell you what facilities and municipalities you can access on a mile-by-mile basis.

-Get entertainment: South of Cairo, IL the Mississippi is the most boring place in the world. It all looks the same, and the view barely changes hour-by-hour because of the huge scale and relatively slow speed of your canoe. Radios are a good start, but you're going to have a choice between country or Christ stations for most of the trip. You might consider investing in satellite radio. Remember, you will need entertainment for ten-hours straight for day after day. CDs and even your podcast shuffle will get pretty boring pretty quick.

-Get food: You may never burn as many calories in your life. Pasta is a good start, but it might not be enough. Consider king-sized snickers bars slathered in peanutbutter. If that doesn't satisfy your hunger, you're in huge trouble.

-Plan for rain. You and all your things have many opportunities to get wet, both in camp and in the boat. Being wet and outside is no fun.

-Graciously accept anything that's offered to you, no matter what it might be. The river is a surpisingly small community. You might see the same people over and over again. Just like in the Creedance song, "people on the river are happy to give." You will be a minor celebrity for what you are attempting, so accepting small gifts from people is a way of including them in your adventure and being a good guest in their community.

Here's some photos taken by "Bruce." Maybe later I'll put some more of these up.

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