In recent weeks, I have been following the Old Man River Project, a video series posted on Vimeo about a team rowing the length of the Mississippi River in a reproduction of a historic boat. Spearheaded by Canadian Brett Cliff of Brett on the Water, the group recently completed its 110-day journey, and above is the intro trailer video for the series.

The rest of the episodes can be found here.


Growing up in a Mississippi River town (Iowa/Illinois area), I occasionally would come across people attempting to float the entirety of the Big Muddy.


I once wrote about a couple who launched from Port Byron enroute to the Gulf of Mexico. Another time, I interviewed a guy about his plans to swim its width in handcuffs.


Then there was the Scandinavian. My wife, friends Mike and T.J. and I met him as he pulled his canoe onto a sandbar in Rock Island just down river from the Centennial Bridge. It was sunset, and one person in our party had just mooned a passing barge. The canoeist set up camp by overturning his vessel and rigging a plastic tarp for additional shelter.


As he scavenged driftwood for a fire, he filled us in on his story. He was from Sweden and was visiting the United States, decided the best way to see the country was to paddle its largest river, started in Minnesota, spent the prior night north of LeClaire where someone was having a party on the banks.  We talked for awhile and then left him to his sandbar campfire and walked back to Mike and T.J.’s place in downtown Davenport.


It rained real hard that night. Thunder, lightning, high winds. I often wondered if the Swede made it all the way to the Gulf.


At least with Brett’s crew, we know the end.