Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
11 paddlers, one from Whitefish Bay, are taking on the Mississippi River.WUWM's Environmental Reporter Susan Bence will check in with Wisconsin native Martha Brummitt throughout her 10-week journey.

Half Way Mark Achieved - Paddle Forward Mississippi River Expedition


An 11-member expedition – called Paddle Forward - has reached the half way mark in its 10-week canoe trip down the Mississippi River. We check in with one member, Martha Brummitt.

Conversation with Martha Brummitt as Paddle Forward expedition slips beyond the half way point.

She’s been updating us on the crew’s mission to chronicle the people along the way and turn the whole voyage into a documentary. Paddle Forward is also communicating with school groups.

When I telephoned Brummitt this week, the crew was in the middle of breakfast. She was about to sink her teeth into a cinnamon roll – made from scratch. She says two crew members mixed the ingredients inside heavy-duty ziplock bags and then slipped the dough into their sleeping bags.

The cinnamon roll bakers

“They slept with the dough last night because they wanted it to rise – so inside of a plastic bag was the dough with the yeast and it rose in their warm sleeping bags and then this morning they woke up early and on the bottom of the canoe - used it as a kitchen countertop – and spread out the dough – and then put cinnamon sugar in it – rolled it up – sliced it with dental floss and are baking it on the fire as I speak.”

The campsite - south of Muscatine, Iowa - on the Illinois side.

While the team was living large with fresh bakery, the weather has become a bit more erratic. The day before, snow and sleet fell.

“We had a snowy paddle yesterday – it was very windy but luckily it was a tailwind but we wanted to make some mileage.- and so we paddled around 10 miles to a lock and dam and there was a barge up ahead of us and we radioed in with the marine radio to the lock, letting them know that we were approaching and asked if we could sneak in between the barge and he said, no, you’ll have to wait an hour and 45 minutes.”

However a family-owned tugboat, queued up as well, invited the crew into the warmth of their vessel.

.”And we stayed inside their warm place for about a ½ hour and then with them we paddled over back to the lock and snuck in before another barge was approaching

Brummitt says the crew’s dedication to spreading the story of the Mississippi was reinforced, when members toured a water treatment plant in Moline, Illinois.

“I think it’s really easy on a micro scale whether you live on a farm or in a suburb of a city and to not really realize how you impact the river. But when you think of it on a macro scale, we together are impacting the river in so many ways.” Paddle Forward now enters the second half of its voyage. In terms of the river, Brummitt says its dams and locks will soon give way to a wider, deeper waterway.

Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.