Canoeing the Mississippi River

This trip did not happen after years of dreaming. It came about because at age 59, I had the skills, a small bit of history with the river, an income for a few months and acres of free time.

Plus of course that urge to be someplace else.

It did not seem momentous to me when I began, but I have to admit it did when I finished. I had paddled across the country, from north to south, for 2,200 miles. I spent three and a half months mostly camping out.  It was something I am happy and proud that I accomplished and I am writing it all down in case my family (and future family) and friends want to share the memories with me.

Looking at the image below of the entire river in the context of the whole county still leaves me a little speechless.

I hope you enjoy the journey.

The Logistics page will tell you about what I took along with me and how I planned for this voyage.

The Trip page contains my journal, my photos and often a map of each day’s travel.  I split that into three subpages for ease of readability: Lake Itasca to Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minneapolis-St. Paul to St. Louis, and St. Louis to New Orleans.

The Press page contains some newspaper clippings about my trek.

This map shows many of the major cities I passed through on my voyage from Lake Itasca, at the top, to New Orleans.

20 Responses to Canoeing the Mississippi River

  1. Marcia Biggs says:

    Are you the same Ron Haines who knows me?

    Marcia Biggs
    Safety Harbor FL


  2. ralph Frese says:

    Ron: Too bad you didn’t see the mouth of the river. When we reenacted LaSalle’s voyage from Montreal, I was with them as they entered the Gulf. It was awesome to see the trees along the shore disappear, then the brush willows, then the reeds and finally, just a sand shoreline and an expanse of water as far as the eye could see. The 23 voyageurs raised a cross of driftwood, sang the Te Deum, and LaSalle once again claimed the entire Mississippi vallkey for France. What memories I have of our great river.
    Ralph Frese

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ron Haines says:

      Wow, that was great you were able to be there for that, Ralph. I remember being really envious of the folks on that reenactment when I reported on their passage though Davenport, Iowa, in the 1970’s. I don’t think I met you then, but I do recall interviewing you by phone. Amazing that we should run across each other in 2011 because I needed a part for my Grumman canoe’s sail rig and you had it! Glad to see that the Chicagoland Canoe Base is still alive and well.


  3. Ralph Frese says:

    Ron: When you saw my voyageurs at Davenport, it was not LaSalle’s expedition, but my reenactment of the discovery of the Great West by Louis Jolliet 300 years before in 1673. LaSalle’s voyageurs never reached that far north as they entered the Mississippi from the Illinois River, far downstream. Jolliet had two canoes and seven men were involved. LaSalle had six of my 20 foot birch barks and 23 persons and they started in August from Montreal, came through the Midwest during the coldest winter in 100 years and reached the Gulf on April 19th. Camped out all the way even when wind chills dropped to 50/60 below. All of this happened because back in the early 60s I wanted to make a canoe that was different and I tried making some that looked like a birchbark, not knowing what it would lead me into!
    Happy Ca-New Year! Ralph


  4. Linnea says:

    Hi Ron!

    My fiance and I are planning to canoe from Itasca to New Orleans, and we saw your blog while we were researching. We’ve been doing a ton of planning, but I was hoping to connect with people who’ve done the trip to hear about your experiences. If you have a chance, I’d love to hear about your trip.



  5. matt mulville says:

    i m thinking of traveling down the Mississippi. And would like to have some advise.


  6. Caleb Thompson says:

    I plan on doing a similar trip in the summer of 2015. I am going to start in the head waters of the Missouri and end in the gulf. I was wondering if you had to portage in New Orleans at any point to reach the gulf


  7. Dawn Dechow says:

    Awesome adventure…thanks for sharing!


  8. Pingback: Canoeing the Mississippi River | James's Blog

  9. donna nickerson says:

    My son and his best friend started out yesterday and will paddle to New Orleans.


  10. Tim Roediger says:

    Enjoyed your story. My friend Jerry and me canoed it 1990, met great people on a great adventure.


  11. Rick Haines says:

    Good idea, Ron, but I will probably need a tutorial to learn how to use it. But that’s a personal battle with my own ignorance.


  12. Marla Kontak says:

    Hi! Wanted to ask where you got the picture of the Mississippi River map? Our son and friend paddled the Mississippi this summer and would like to make a poster of his trek. This map would work perfect but want to have the best resolution after making it larger.

    Thanks for your help.

    Mother of paddler,

    Marla Kontak


    • Ron Haines says:

      Sorry Marla I can’t be of much help. I just copied it from somewhere years ago. Search for images of Mississippi River and it may pop up for you. Finding a high res version suitable for printing at poster size will be difficult I suspect and you may have to go to commercial map makers for that. Regards and thanks for looking at my website. Has your son touched base with John Sullivan on the Mississippi River Paddlers facebook group? If not he needs to. Check it out:


  13. Marla Kontak says:

    Thanks. Appreciate your reply. We found a map that will work. Happy paddling!


  14. Maggie says:

    Thanks for checking out my site. I love your sense of adventure. Maybe we will run into each on a river somewhere, someday!

    Liked by 1 person

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