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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.

Paddle Forward Mississippi Expedition Pushes Beyond Halfway Mark

M Brummitt

Paddle Forward is pushing nicely into the second half of its canoe cruise down the Mississippi River. We catch up with Martha Brummitt south of Clarksville, Missouri.

Conversation with Martha Brummitt as the paddle beyond six week mark.

A week ago, when we caught up the Whitefish Bay native was about chomp into a cinnamon roll the paddlers had made from scratch. This morning, it’s a donut.

“None of us really eat donuts that often but they taste so good out here.”

More than the sweet taste, Brummitt had weather on her mind....heavy fog blanketed the river, and she was excited to share news.

Part of Paddle Forward’s mission is to connect with students learning about the Mississippi. Thirty people had crowded onto the shore at Montrose IA – in the dark. hile a stiff headwind prevented the canoes from arriving on time, four middle school students were among the groups that waited out the delay.

“Four girls were there with their teacher and they had a display case of all the students work from the assignments they’ve had related to Paddle Forward – so they drew pictures pictures of animals and wrote stories and poems about the river.“

The students’ work resulted from the connection they made with the Paddle Forward website.

Yet Brummitt says she’s learning that her crew is a drop in a very large bucket of groups concerned about the Mississippi.

Last Monday the crew dropped into Grafton, Illinois where a conglomeration of environmental and recreational groups celebrated recruiting 10,000 “river citizens.”

Some – not all 10,000 – had gathered aboard what’s called the Living Lands & Waters Barge. It’s the brainchild of 39-year-old Chad Pregracke.

“I think around 12 years ago, he started traveling up and down the Mississippi River on this big barge. So just like the barges we see carrying grain or coal, he has a barge that collects trash and he lives on the boat with his wife.”

The fleet has swelled into FIVE barges and two towboats.

Brummitt suddenly reverted to thinking about food. She had procured donations from a company based in Chicago – and the crew would soon fetch the goodies.

"Everything we’re getting from them is dehydrated – we have five pounds of broccoli flakes to look forward to."

The morning’s paddle promised to be challenging – soupy fog still filled the air, along with gunshots of hunters.

Brummitt says the Forward paddlers simply sing at the top of their lungs to announce their presence.