On May 29th, a little more than two months ago, our voyage down the Mississippi River began. Back then, the "Mighty Miss" wasn't so mighty. At the headwaters, the river was quite shallow, and small enough to walk across. The current was nearly nonexistent, and the banks unpopulated. We drank water from the river, and went swimming often. The Mississippi River was, in other words, like most other rivers I've encountered: beautiful, unpolluted, and generally pretty neat.
Much has changed since Lake Itasca. 60+ days, 10 states, and 2000 miles downstream, the Mississippi has evolved into a river that is far from ordinary. With strong currents, crazy wingdams, and barge traffic, you never really know where the river will take you. Everyday is an adventure. We paddle through cities, under interstates, and past flying fish. Draining 40% of the United States, the Mississippi is the third largest river in the world. Quite mighty, if I may say so myself. However, this also means that the river is quite polluted. I think I've seen more trash than fish in the water, and every time I go swimming I fear that I'll get some kind of disease. Don't get me wrong - the Mississippi is still a great river - but sometimes I wish I could be back at Lake Itasca, paddling through clear, clean, and cool waters.
We paddled through Baton Rouge, Louisiana today, and are now approximately 230 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. This final stretch of the river has been called "cancer corridor" by many. I'm not sure why exactly, but to be honest I don't think I want to know... The end is near, and more change lies ahead. A week from tomorrow we'll be exposed to the luxuries of modern society again. Air conditioning, running water, clean clothes, and good food will be nice, but I sure will miss the Big Mudy come September.