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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.

Seven Weeks In - Paddle Forward Presses Closer to Destination


Eleven explorers – carrying the name Paddle Forward -- have pushed beyond their seventh week on the Mississippi River. Martha Brummitt provides our weekly update.

Martha Brummitt shares highlights of Week 7 on the Mississippi.

They started at its headwaters in Minnesota, and are headed toward New Orleans, now the team is more than two-thirds of the way through the adventure.

Martha Brummitt talked with me “aboard ship” as the crew paddled.

She reported the headwind was stiff and rain was falling. Still, Brummitt was psyched! The paddlers were well below the Mississippi’s lock and dam system; the river was picking up speed, and Memphis Tennessee was only about 200 miles away.

“We don’t have any more major rivers flowing in; we just passed the Ohio and that’s the last big one and the river is becoming much more windy so we’ll be paddling north, south, east and west most days as it meanders toward New Orleans.”

The crew continues to gather interviews – they’ll be folded into a documentary, about people and communities along the way and their relationships to the river.

Big Muddy Mike autographs Paddle Forward canoe.

Brummitt says a fellow named Big Muddy Mike – his last name is Clark – is one of the people helping to protect and explore the river. She describes him as a river “angel”.

“He’s built his own canoes – Voyageur canoes – that are pretty big. And we were able to dry out our gear in his garage and he is in the process of making his place into a paddle in and paddle out for bikers and paddlers along the Mississippi River and so we were sort of guinea pigs to test out his new quarters for these people to stay in.”

Big Muddy Mike is based near St. Louis.

Not far away, the group came across another river advocate, the Army Corps of Engineers. Brummitt learned that in additional to dredging waterways and coping with hurricane and storm damage, the Corps is developing a Mississippi River Water Trail.

“So like a hiking trail, but instead of hiking you paddle this trail. So there are campgrounds that the Corps sets up and lots of signage for people to paddle safely on a stretch of the river just north of St. Louis in a town called Alton Illinois.”

The crew continues to stay in touch with online followers, as much as limited Internet access allows. Brummitt says in some cases, the paddlers are reaching out for help.

This week they spotted a large and intriguing amber-colored bug, that joined them for a lunch break.

The crew blogged a photo in hopes an intrigued student or scientist will identify the as-yet unnamed creature.