How We Got to and From The River | Mississippi River Source to Sea 2023

Unlike a trip of a few hundred miles where you can generally rent a boat and get shuttled back at the end our epic paddle down the Mississippi saw us covering 2,300+ miles and crossing nearly the entire country. And so the process of getting to and from the river was a little bit more involved.

Powering Our Paddle With a $250 Voltaic Solar Box | Mississippi Source to Sea 2023

The piece of gear which provoked the most comments during our extended journey down the Mississippi was our solar box. I assembled it from pieces sold by a company called Voltaic with the goal of having something we could just set out on the boat and have it generate power without us having to micromanage it when the weather got bad.

I have always loved the idea of solar but at least so far I've found that the state of technology doesn't really lend itself to being usable on long distance hikes. When you're getting started early and hiking until evening you can't really set a panel out for any length of time during the effective hours of sunlight and putting it on the pack while hiking usually doesn't work real well due to the fact you invariably end up partially shading the panel. And then there's the fact that lighter panels tend to be fragile and even the few folks that I've met who have made it work seem to have had to replace them multiple times. And I'm harder on my gear in general than all those fine folks.

But when we started planning for our Mississippi Source to Sea paddle one of our goals was to avoid the constant need to go into town to charge our hiking batteries. Because it's one thing getting a ride into a hotel when all you have is a backpack and quite another when you have to deal with a 17 ft canoe loaded down with gear. And in fact we only slept in town 6 times over 75 days and when we did indulge it was never driven by the fact we were lower on power.

Since after the headwaters the river is quite wide we didn't have to worry about overhead trees shading the box. And I worked around the fragility issues by using a hard panel vs anything bendable or foldable.

And this was the end result which successfully saw us through 10 weeks and 2,460 miles despite all the rain, wind, boat wake, and heat waves. 

Our Mississippi River Thru Paddle By The Numbers | Mississippi River Source to Sea 2023

It took us 60 days to reach Old River Lock where the route diverges with two outlet options
It took us an additional 5 days to reach the gulf via the Atchafalaya ending at Burns Point
It took an additional 10 days to travel from the junction to the end of South Pass going by New Orleans

We were on the river for a total of 75 days
We took 0 zero days
We came off the river to spend the night 6 times

We resupplied 15 times
It cost us roughly $187 per person per week to be on the river excluding equipment costs

2,133 miles paddled from the headwaters to the gulf via the Atchafalaya
2,309 miles paddled not counting the Atchafalaya just headwaters to end of South Pass
2,450 miles paddled total in 75 days

Our longest day was 58 miles which was in the Big River section where we had some current and no obstructions.
The fastest current we measured was 3 mph which was after the Missouri came in.
Out fastest recorded speed was 6 mph but we weren't able to measure the wind sail day on Lake Pepin.

River Coordinates & Distances | Mississippi River Source to Sea 2023

Someone who wasn't familiar with the Mississippi River might assume that there would be a map somewhere with a set of river miles starting at the headwaters and counting down to zero where it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. Sadly the reality is a little more complicated.