One Year Canoeing Across America

By Rebecca McPhee

ExplorersWeb

Adam Elliott

Neal Moore has now been canoeing his way across America for an entire year. The 49-year-old freelance journalist first dipped his paddle into the Columbia River in Oregon on February 9, 2020, to begin the long journey to New York. The 12,000km route encompasses 22 rivers and 22 states.

The Route. Image: 22rivers.com

His initial idea was to make this an exercise in slow journalism: For two years, he wanted to “come face to face with America’s soul” throughout the national election and find “positive stories of what unites us”.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 put a swift end to that and other aspects of the trip that he had envisaged. Various friends were to join him for sections of the route. That has fallen through, making it a much more solitary trip and a chance to document a unique moment in history.

Day 1: Getting ready to launch from Pier 39, Astoria, Oregon. Photo: Floyd Holcom/22rivers.com

As the pandemic spread, he continued to make his simple way up and down America’s rivers. “The journey itself—the canoe and my tent and all of my gear—became my home,” he said in a recent interview.

He has completed the first two parts of his three-part journey. The first section, which he called To the Great Divide, ran 1,800km up the Columbia, Snake, and Fork Rivers to the Continental Divide.

For the second section, dubbed To the Big Easy, he canoed 5,200km along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. He has now begun the final 5,000km section, To Lady Liberty.

He hit the one-year mark while on the Gulf Coast waiting for the winds to die down so he could continue making his way north.

An early morning launch. Photo: Neal Moore

Among the many challenges since he set out: becoming trapped in a cove during a gale on the Columbia River, where mounting waves smashed his canoe against the rocks; on the Snake River, a powerful wind pushed him against the riverbank and sloshed water over the gunwale. More water poured into his open canoe as quickly as he could bail it out. Luckily, the winds changed.

Adam Elliott

The canoeing has been unexpectedly hard on his legs. Though his arms and back were “well-tested and honed” even back when he began, his legs were not accustomed to such long trips. For over a year, they have strained to keep him properly seated against the waves, winds, and current. “This journey is a perpetual all-body workout,” he said. He says that by the time he hits New York, he will be in the best shape of his life.

You can follow the remainder of his journey on Instagram.

Man canoeing 22 rivers stops in Cape Girardeau

By Isabelle Hanson

CBS affiliate KFVS

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) – A man paddled his canoe up to the Cape Girardeau riverfront, just one stop along his 7,500 mile journey.

“Just a chance of a lifetime,” said Neal Moore.

Moore’s adventure started in February in Oregon, and he plans to make his way to New York City by December 2021. His trip takes him through 22 states and 22 rivers.

“As a kid, 12-years-old, probably as a Boy Scout, I spent a half a day on a canoe. I just fell in love with it,” said Moore.

Now, he gets to see the country from a unique perspective, from sleeping on sand bars to navigating the currents on the river by day.

“The opportunity to see it like this. Up close and personal, and to be able to experience the nature and the towns and the people as well, and to be able to learn from the community. To learn from our history,” said Moore. “Not really having an agenda but by coming through and just listening to folks, it strengthens my takes on humanity itself, on the best of us.”

Folks like Donna McClark from Jackson, who waved him down to come to shore in Wittenberg, Missouri a few days back.

“I was so excited. I have a video of it. I was really excited,” said McClark.

She then decided to stop and cheer Moore on in Cape Girardeau as well.

“He’s right. We do need to all pull together in all of these smalls downs and learn the history of each place and take care of each other. It’s just an absolute must, especially right now,” said McClark.

Although times are tough right now, Moore said he sees people step up and come together each stop of the way.

“To be able to come through and try to document that and learn from the people and feel of their spirit just feels great,” said Moore.

Moore isn’t new to canoeing. He paddled the length of the Mississippi River once before.

He plans to write a book about this trip. You can follow his journey on his website, 22rivers.com.

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