A journey across the rivers that bond America

PITTSBURGH, SC, UNITED STATES

Story by 1st Sgt. Michel Sauret  

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District

Neal Moore continues his journey north on the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, Aug. 31, 2021. Moore began his canoe travels in Portland, Oregon, in February 2020 with a plan of paddling along 22 rivers across America and finish at the Statue of Liberty in December 2021. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District photo by Michel Sauret)

PITTSBURGH – If you could choose any mode of transportation to travel across America, would you pick a canoe?

Neal Moore chose exactly that, opting for a two-mile-an-hour, paddle-powered vessel on the riverways, instead of the comforts of a cozy RV coasting the major highways. His trip will have taken nearly two years once he reaches his finish line.

Neal Moore (right) carries his canoe with the help of Trish Howison, a fellow paddler, as he prepares his belongings to leave Pittsburgh from the Roberto Clemente Bridge Boat Launch to continue his journey north on the Allegheny River, Aug. 31, 2021. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District photo by Michel Sauret)

Moore began his journey in Portland, Oregon, in February 2020, and he plans to take a victory lap around the Statue of Liberty in New York City by the end of this year.

Once he finishes his journey, Moore will have paddled more than 7,500 miles across the United States. Along his route, Moore crossed through many locks and dams on the riverways operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Neal Moore (center) carries his belongings with the help of Trish Howison, a fellow paddler, as he prepares to leave Pittsburgh from the Roberto Clemente Bridge Boat Launch to continue his journey north on the Allegheny River, Aug. 31, 2021. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District photo by Michel Sauret)

In late August 2021, Moore stopped in Pittsburgh for a weekend, before continuing north on the Allegheny River. We caught up to him under the Robert Clemente Bridge for an interview to ask about his journey.

The interview below has been edited for brevity and clarity.

PITTSBURGH DISTRICT: What have you discovered about yourself during the past 18 months you have spent on the water, so far?

NEAL MOORE: Part of the journey is pushing yourself out into nature, and the other part is that you, yourself are enveloped by nature. You have to embrace the wildness within yourself as well. This journey – it’s just been an awesome experience. It’s the perfect blend between town and country. I’m dreaming about these rivers. The islands that I’m going to sleep on. I feel stronger. My body is moving from strength to strength. Mentally, I’m clearer. I’m happy every single day. I find myself laughing on the river, just at the ridiculousness of how beautiful it is, and how free I feel.

Neal Moore carries his canoe as he prepares his belongings to leave Pittsburgh from the Roberto Clemente Bridge Boat Launch to continue his journey north on the Allegheny River, Aug. 31, 2021. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District photo by Michel Sauret)

PD: You’re turning 50 somewhere along this journey, right?

NM: I’ll turn 50 just before I hit New York City.

PD: How does that hit you as part of the journey, turning 50 during the journey?

NM: Some people might look at a crazy journey like this, like a midlife crisis. But I see it as a celebration. Every single day is a gift. I’m a cancer survivor. I’ve gone through two bouts of cancer, and I realized that this stage in my life right now – I’m healthy. I’m free and clear, cancer-wise. I just feel really, really privileged to be able to have this time, and every single day, every single moment to highlight and underscore the importance of that, and to truly make the most of it.

Neal Moore (right) pulls on his boots as prepares to leave Pittsburgh from the Roberto Clemente Bridge Boat Launch to continue his journey north on the Allegheny River, Aug. 31, 2021. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District photo by Michel Sauret)

PD: What have you discovered about our nation, or the American people, during the journey?

NM: Part of the journey is exploring how the waterways of this land connect from West Coast to East Coast. The end game is the beacon hand of the Statue of Liberty. I’m also looking to explore how we, as Americans, connect. I’m looking for the positive ingredients of what it takes to be an American, from people from all walks of life, backgrounds, ethnicities, and to really highlight those positive stories. When times are tough – like we’ve seen this past year with COVID – this is when people roll up their sleeves. This is when people look out for the people around them. I love the word empathy, because when times are tough, the community has a chance to become family.

PD: What has been your favorite region or body of water you have navigated so far?

NM: The easy answer is my favorite bodies of water are all the places I haven’t seen yet. I am so excited about the Allegheny River. I’m excited about the Chadakoin. I’m excited about Lake Chautauqua, Lake Erie, the Erie Canal, and of course to have the privilege of coming down the Hudson.

But looking back I really have been touched by the places that have surprised me with the wildness and the ruggedness. The Clark Fork River in western Montana is ridiculously beautiful. It is wild and rugged, and you’re surrounded by nature. The stretches of the Missouri are wild and scenic. It just blows you away. In the North Dakota and South Dakota region – the Missouri River – this is where “Dances with Wolves” was filmed. You have these sunrises and sunsets that are awesome. One more surprise for me was the Gulf of Mexico. I decided to make my way out to the barrier islands, off the coast of Mississippi and Alabama. Stringing those islands together out there, I was escorted by a pod of dolphins. This canoe was hit by a bull shark. You just have nature everywhere, and it’s a phenomenal experience.

Neal Moore refills his water bottle as he prepares to leave Pittsburgh from the Roberto Clemente Bridge Boat Launch to continue his journey north on the Allegheny River, Aug. 31, 2021. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District photo by Michel Sauret)

PD: How has the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers helped you with navigation access, and how has the organization been involved in your journey?

NM: The Army Corps, from my experience, especially on the Ohio River, I’ve just been bowled over by the professionalism, by their service to country. A lot of folks are ex-military with the corps, and they show just a life of service. They’re interested in the journey. They have lots of questions. The first thing they say is, ‘Do you need anything? Feel free to call back with your marine radio if you have any problems whatsoever.’ Just some practical advice I find with river travel, you should listen to locals. It could be a kid fishing on the side of the river. It could be an old timer. For me, it is absolutely the Army Corps of Engineers.

One of the lock masters (on the Ohio who knew I was coming) raises chickens and goats, and he wanted to make sure he had breakfast ready for me when I got there. At another lock, I had to charge my marine radio, and they had me come up. The folks are friendly and professional. Navigation has been so much easier thanks to them. It’s been a privilege to be able to lock through.

Neal Moore prepares his belongings to leave Pittsburgh from the Roberto Clemente Bridge Boat Launch to continue his journey north on the Allegheny River, Aug. 31, 2021. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District photo by Michel Sauret)

PD: What do you think connects the American people the same way these rivers connect our land?

NM: By the time I reach the Statue of Liberty, the big idea is that thread by thread, story by story, when you add them all up, the indigenous American culture, the African American experience, the Latino experience, the immigrant experience, each story is unique and special, but when you bring them together: this is America. We are the microcosm of the world. We are the melting pot. It underscores and celebrates our humanity. New York is the most diverse place on the planet. My journey started with stories of diversity in Oregon, and I’ll finish off with stories of diversity in New York City.

Neal Moore launches his canoe to leave Pittsburgh from the Roberto Clemente Bridge Boat Launch to continue his journey north on the Allegheny River, Aug. 31, 2021. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District photo by Michel Sauret)

PD: Once you complete this journey, who will you be? What will this journey make you? And what will you remember?

NM: That’s a great question. I think – I know I’m going to be in the best shape of my life. I’m going to be just newly-minted at 50 years old. I’m going to be in a unique position to not just speak about the American experience, but to really have an understanding. That understanding comes from listening, from really dropping my preconceived ideas about people and places and cultures and whatnot, and really listening and documenting my way across the land. By the time I get to New York City, I think I’m going to be and feel strong, both in body and spirit.

I’m hoping to be an example as well. If an average, middle-aged guy can make this ridiculous, epic journey from coast to coast, then no matter what struggles other people are going through – be it illness, be it hard time with the economy, be it COVID, be it anything life tends to hurl at you – we can overcome. We have the strength, and the strength is not ‘me.’ The strength is the people around me. The strength is the nature of these waterways and the nation as a whole. To push yourself out there, out of your comfort zone, you have the opportunity to learn and to grow. It takes a community.

Neal Moore paddles from the Roberto Clemente Bridge Boat Launch in Pittsburgh to continue his journey north on the Allegheny River, Aug. 31, 2021. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District photo by Michel Sauret)

Oregon man canoeing across country makes a stop in Pittsburgh

THE PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE

By JOANNE KLIMOVICH HARROP

Neal Moore is traveling 7,500 miles from Oregon to New York City — in a canoe.

He will cross 22 bodies of water, two of those in Pittsburgh — the Ohio and the Allegheny rivers.

As of Thursday, he had traveled 6,600 miles to date. His goal is to document America from the water.

Moore paddled 890 miles on the Ohio, averaging two miles an hour. He arrived Wednesday and plans to leave here on Monday and travel the Allegheny.

“Yes, it’s a little bit crazy,” said Moore on Thursday as he stood under the Roberto Clemente Bridge on Pittsburgh’s North Shore. “The view here is spectacular from this vantage point.”

He said Pittsburgh’s rivers appear to be cleaner than they used to be.

“I want to experience my home country and experience it by seeing so many parts of it up close and personal,” he said.

He said exploring the waterways will give him the opportunity to connect with the people across the country in a unique way.

“Your body adapts to the river,” said Moore who will turn 50 on the trip by the time he finishes at the Statue of Liberty. “I feel like I am in the best shape of my life.”

Moore was raised in Los Angeles but moved to Africa as a teenager where he lived for three decades before returning to the states. People can follow his journey on Instagram.

He has packages sent to various parts of the country to people he has connected with –called River Angels. Items he made need such as a wet suit will be waiting in Buffalo, N.Y. when he gets there.

He eats freeze dried food and drinks lots of water. He said there have been times other boaters have offered him an ice cold beer or pop and “it’s wonderful.”

He doesn’t own a home and sells African art to make money. He has a cell phone and marine radio. He doesn’t have any family. His brother died when Moore was 13. His mom died when he was 19. He said he didn’t have a relationship with his father who died in 2012.

Moore began the journey on Feb. 9, 2020. Moore barely made it out of Oregon 30 minutes before the governor locked down the state because of the coronavirus. There was a nine-day stretch where he didn’t see anyone.

“It was surreal,” he said. “I could have sheltered in place because of the pandemic but for me sheltering in place was canoeing on the water.”

The plan is to dock by mid-December where he hopes to paddle around the Statue of Liberty. Along the way, he has stayed in hotels, camped and with others such as Trish Howison of McCandless, an avid kayaker who heard of Moore’s travels when she was on a trip from the Ohio River to Louisville. She invited him to stay with her.

“Complete strangers will help you out,” she said. “It’s about paying it forward. I love being on the water and I will follow his journey the rest of the way. This is in his blood.”

A kayak would travel faster but Moore likes the analogy of the open canoe. He said it was an early mode of water transportation. He paid $650 for his canoe which weighs 60 pounds and is 16 feet long. He uses paper navigation charts as well as Google maps.

Moore wears muck boots, shorts, a T-shirt, baseball cap and a personal flotation device.

People he meets along the way write messages in the vessel.

“Canoeing I have to endure everything that nature throws at me,” Moore said. “And I have been through hell and high water in it. When it turns the river can become wicked you have to be cautious and know how to read the water. I respect the water.”

New York seemed like the perfect place to end the journey.

“I chose to end at the Statue of Liberty because her hand is extended to every American,” Moore said. “We as Americans know if we fall we have the strength to get back up. I want to find what unites us. Because we all know what divides us. “

Traveling Through Appalachian Rivers By Canoes And Coal Barges

INSIDE APPALACHIA

West Virginia Public Radio

View from along the Ohio River, headed toward Pittsburgh, entering the Willow Island Locks & Dam. Courtesy Neal Moore

This week’s episode of Inside Appalachia is all about how we interact with water and our rivers. We’ll hear from people who make their living on the water — like Marvin L. Wooten, a longtime river boat captain. He started working in the riverboat industry in 1979. “I got two job offers the same day, and I took this job,” Wooten said. “My dad always said the river will always be there. So that’s what I’ve chosen to make my living at.”

And we’ll meet Neal Moore, who’s been canoeing for 17 months, on a journey that will cover 7,500 miles coast to coast. Moore hopes to wrap up his 22-month-long trip this December at the Statue of Liberty in New York. Recently, he made his way into Appalachia. “For many days, I’m in the canoe from from first light until last light,” Moore told Inside Appalachia producer Roxy Todd on a recent stop along the Kanawha River in Charleston, West Virginia.

“I sort of have to find my landlubber legs when I when I step onto a dock like this at times. But for the most part, I actually feel pretty strong,” Moore said.

‘From sea to shining sea’ via canoe

The Daily Sentinel

By Brittany Hively

Canoiest Neal Moore plans to circle Liberty Island in December. He set off from Point Pleasant’s Riverfront Park to continue his journey Tuesday morning. Brittany Hively | Courtesy

POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — For the last year and a half, adventurer and canoeist, Neal Moore has turned the lyrics “from sea to shining sea” into a life journey.

Moore set out in February 2020 to explore the United States from Astoria, Oregon to Lady Liberty in New York, crossing 22 states and 22 rivers. The interesting part, he is traveling by canoe.

“The big idea was to connect the rivers from sea to shining sea, from coast to coast, with the Statue of Liberty as the end game,” Moore said.

Moore moved to Africa as a teenager and spent several years in Asia, inspiring his journey to explore his home country more. He is originally from Los Angeles, Calif.

“I’ve been an expatriate for most of my life. The big idea was to come back to my home country and to really see it and really experience it up close and personal,” Moore said

Moore has been stopping in small river-towns across America during his journey. Stopping in Point Pleasant earlier this week, he said there is about 1,200 of the 7,500-mile trip left.

“Most days, I launch out at first light and paddle until last light. So, you have the hour after the sun goes down to make camp,” Moore said. “I’m looking for towns and looking for places to make camp.”

Islands, RV parks, a few host families and the occasional hotel stay has been Moore’s way of life for the last 18 months.

“It’s turned into about 10 nights of camping wild and one night with a host family or a hotel or an Airbnb or a RV park,” Moore said.

Moore said he looks forward to the home-cooked meals often offered by host families as they are “too good for words.”

With no tracking or GPS devices and little phone usage, Moore said part of the plan was to really see America without the interference of constant availability. All his worldly belongings are what fits on the canoe, aside from a few resupply boxes along the way.

Neal Moore prepares to pack his gear into his canoe at Riverfront Park Tuesday. Moore set out in February 2020 to explore the United States from Astoria, Oregon to Lady Liberty in New York, crossing 22 states and 22 rivers. Brittany Hively | Courtesy

“When you push yourself out into nature, it’s really a great thing. Water itself it’s a stabilizing experience, I think,” Moore said. “On a journey like this, when you push yourself out into the water and into the wildness and you have the wildness all around you and it’s just you and nature, it’s an incredible feeling. You’re embraced by the wildness and by being in the wild, you have embraced the wildness inside of ourselves as well, which can be scary but a really great experience.”

While navigation is important, Moore must be constantly aware of the weather and any impending storms.

“A couple of side trips, one was up the Kentucky River to see the capitol, Frankfurt, and this other one was to come up the Kanawha River to see Charleston, which I was able to do,” Moore said. “When I was on my up the Kentucky, they only operate those dams on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I was setup on Friday morning, continued forward. The second dam was about 30 miles in, so I wasn’t going to make that before dark. As I was paddling up, I just have a couple of new apps on my phone and one of them gave me a warning – flash flood warning. And then right at dark came the second warning which was extreme lightning storm.”

Moore said he could see the storm moving in from the Ohio area into Kentucky and knew he needed to get to the highest ground.

“I found a spot that was just ridiculously high after dark. It was sandy. It’s a really muddy river, just beautiful – wild and natural and muddy,” Moore said. “So, I sort of, climbed up to this ledge with the sand up there and it was so high up. I grabbed all my stuff; I could see the storm coming but it was a dry lightning storm to start with.”

After a quick debate on taking his canoe up the hill, Moore decided it was best not to leave it. Carrying all his possessions and the canoe to high ground, he was able to make camp and rest.

“I slept like a baby,” Moore said. “The next morning when I woke up, I opened the front [tent] and the water was right there. It had come up about 10 feet.”

After speaking with one of the dam operators, Moore learned about more expected flooding and headed back to the Ohio, but not before meeting some locals.

“As I was starting the portage of that last dam before the Ohio these two local guys, they looked like fisherman,” Moore said. “They were whooping and hollering up on the hill, and then high-fiving each other.”

The men thought Moore had found their lost canoe.

“These are local guys who know the area, they had been on the river camping just below where I was, they lost their canoe, they lost all their gear. They had a spot device and they hit SOS, so they were rescued by emergency services.”

Adventurer and canoeist, Neal Moore, departs Riverfront Park in Point Pleasant earlier this week. He is canoing across the country. Brittany Hively | Courtesy

This is Moore’s second attempt at the journey. During the first one, his canoe flipped in rapid, frigid waters after turning and being blocked by two large, downed trees.

“The natural environment, she can be beautiful, but she can be wicked at the same time,” Moore said.

Moore has a marine radio to communicate with towboats and said his job is to stay out of their way. He also must stay aware of all obstacles – logs, debris, trash, etc. – that could be in the way.

If completed, Moore will be the first to complete this adventure.

“It’s been done from east coast to west coast, specifically in a canoe, solo and continuous. It has not been done from west coast to east coast,” Moore said.

Moore said his journey along the rivers and river-towns, many the first towns, connects the then and now.

“What I’m trying to do is to see how the rivers and waterways connect across the country, but also to look for and document how we as a people connect… looking for the threads of our common humanity and what it means to be an American,” Moore said. “By the time I get to the beacon hand of the Statue of Liberty I will, in my mind, earned that view from the American side, from the American experience to see where a lot of us had started off back in the day.”

Americans know what divides, Moore said he wanted to highlight what brings them together.

“I think a truism with humanity anywhere in the world you are, when times are tough, this is when we as a people roll up our sleeves and this is when we look out for each other. Families come together and communities can come together as well,” Moore said.

When needed waterways are closed Moore walks, pulling his canoe on wheels. He recently learned he will need to do this for the last 135 miles before reaching Syracuse, New York.

Moore plans to circle Liberty Island in December. He set off from Point Pleasant’s Riverfront Park to continue his journey Tuesday morning with one goal.

“From sea to shining sea to really see and experience and highlight and underscore the positive of where we’ve got ourselves off to and what has come of us as Americans,” Moore said.

© 2021 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.

Cross-country canoeist visits Huntington

By SARAH INGRAM HD Media

THE HERALD-DISPATCH

Canoeist and outdoor adventurer Neal Moore paddles up the Ohio River outside of Harris Riverfront Park on Monday, July 19, 2021, in Huntington. Moore is currently traveling through the area as part of a 7,500 mile journey across America, which began in Astoria, Oregon on February 9, 2020. Photo by Ryan Fischer – The Herald-Dispatch.

HUNTINGTON — A canoeist traveling from Oregon to New York stopped in Huntington on Monday evening on his journey to learn about American culture and history.

Neal Moore began traveling through the country in February 2020 with the goal of reaching the Statue of Liberty by New Year’s Eve 2021. Entering Huntington by stopping at Harris Riverfront Park was the first time he has visited West Virginia, he said.

“I’ve been excited about West Virginia from the very beginning,” Moore said. “A big reason for this journey for me is to try to explore my own backyard, to come back to my home country and see places I haven’t been before, and this is my first time to the Appalachian plateau.”

Photo by Ryan Fischer – The Herald-Dispatch

Moore is at about 6,000 miles so far of the total 7,500 miles, and his trip entails traveling 22 rivers and touching 22 different states. He planned out about 100 towns and cities to visit before beginning his trip, but he has stopped in unplanned areas as well, he said.

Moore said the goal of the trip is to learn more about American history from the people who live here. From rural communities to bustling cities, Moore said he has enjoyed his time learning about people’s lives and has stumbled upon great stories in towns he did not originally plan to visit.

With plans to stay in Huntington for a few days, Moore said he hopes to learn about the culture that surrounds the town. After Huntington, he plans to visit Point Pleasant and Charleston, and he said he is excited to see the state’s capital.

Photo by Ryan Fischer – The Herald-Dispatch

“I’m just looking forward to sampling the local cuisine and learning some of the history and the culture and really the rich heritage,” he said. “What I’ve seen so far coming up this river between Kentucky and Ohio is sort of the Appalachian experience in motion over the years, that migratory nation but also the sense of community and sense of pride as well.”

Having started his journey just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic escalated in the United States, Moore said he had to consider returning home and what his safest options would be if he continued. Since he had already attempted the trip in 2018, Moore said he was determined to finish it this time, and he believed there were not many safer options than being in a canoe on the river by himself.

Moore’s journey started out in Astoria, Oregon, and he traveled upstream through Washington, Idaho and Montana in just 97 days. He then traveled down the Missouri and Mississippi rivers to reach New Orleans, Louisiana.

After finishing out his current stretch on the Ohio River, Moore will continue on into the Kanawha and Allegheny rivers, through the Chadakoin River eventually leading to Lake Erie. He will then head east and south to eventually end up at the Hudson River.

Neal Moore Paddles On, Through a Changing America

Explorers Web

By Martin Walsh

Neal Moore’s voyage of discovery has survived a close call with a barge and a pandemic. This year, he should complete his 12,000km canoe journey across America. We caught up with Moore while he waited out some rough weather in a Kentucky cottage on the Ohio River.

You have spent nearly 18 months on this trip. How mentally/physically challenging have you found the journey?

Starting over

Hanging up my paddles in mid-2018 on the first attempt at this route was rough. [A] friend said, “You do realize, Neal, you’re gonna have to start over now.” That took my breath away. But then I thought, Hell yes, what a pleasure to see the Columbia again, to make my way through Montana, to be granted the chance to truly earn my eventual view of Lady Liberty.

The thing is, my crazy route from coast to coast has the chance to be continuous. That is, if my strength, mental state, bodily health, and the flooding, derechos [windstorms], twisters, and COVID –- all the Acts of God that the natural environment might hurl my way — don’t derail me.

I’m stronger now physically and mentally than I’ve ever been. I truly feel that I am in the moment, positive and determined.

We last spoke in November when you were on the Mississippi. What route have you taken over the last eight months and where are you now?

I hopped off the Mississippi at New Orleans. It was just me and a lone waitress at the Clover Grill for Christmas. The place was empty.

After New Year’s, I paddled the Gulf of Mexico between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama, skirting the Mississippi-Alabama barrier islands just off the coast. Then I came up the Tensaw, Mobile, Tombigbee, and Tennessee-Tombigbee to the Tennessee. Here, I changed directions and came down the Tennessee, making my way back to Kentucky, to the Ohio River.

Moore’s mammoth route across America. Photo: Neal Moore

Floods and twisters

Has your route changed from your original plan?

My original route would have taken me up the Tennessee. From there, I’d have taken the Emory to the New River and on up to the Dix River to the Kentucky. Eventually, I would meet the Ohio near Louisville.

I had planned on 50 miles of portaging along historic Byway 27 (the original roadway from Florida to Chicago). I was excited to witness, paddle, and portage this stretch of rural Americana. But en route, I holed up in Demopolis, Alabama. There was flooding before I even arrived, and then two twisters passed through. The first one narrowly missed the historic downtown. These storms swept across multiple states and the flooding was intense. Folks were drowning in the floodwaters up in Nashville.

Historic Ohio River flood level markings outside Ginn’s Furniture Store, Main St., Milton, Kentucky. Photo: Neal Moore

I called a canoe/kayak outfitter in Knoxville and asked about conditions on the New River in the spring. Sure, it would be gnarly, with multiple class rapids in West Virginia, but I was not sure about her passage through Tennessee and Kentucky. I was told that I might be able to paddle just a mile or two in my open canoe. This would stretch my planned portage of 50 miles to 175 miles.

Avoiding drug dealers

I also spoke with long-distance paddler Towhead Steve, who had come down the entire Tennessee in 2020. He reported that the paddle between the confluence of the Tenn-Tom at Pickwick Lake and Knoxville had super high embankments. This meant that one could only camp at boat ramps. Here, kids were dealing drugs throughout the night.

A makeshift memorial to drug-related homicide victims. Big Branch, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. Photo: Neal Moore

Alternatively, he said that the paddle from Pickwick Lake to Paducah had glorious sandbars and friendly folks. This new diversion would keep me 100 percent on the water to reach the Ohio.

Are you still on track to reach the Hudson in December?

I had been budgeting an average of 10 miles per day to clear the Erie Canal before she closes in mid-November. Unfortunately, this year she will close early, on October 13. Beyond the now-rushed schedule, high water and flooding mean that locks 8 to 19 (of 34 total locks) are closed. So I might ask permission to navigate outside the season.

With a little luck, I’ll be paddling and locking through a portion. Most days on the Ohio, I’m covering between 20 and 25 miles, so I should make it. If I’m delayed, I’ll be portaging or pulling between Upstate New York towns to the Hudson, probably in snow. No matter how it goes down, I’ll complete the journey.

Open water. Photo: Adam Elliott

Sold down the river

You said that COVID curtailed the personal storytelling aspect of your journey. Has this changed as the U.S. has lifted restrictions?

Yes, I’m busily meeting characters left, right, and center. The country has opened slowly, and where I am right now, Kentucky, claims to have always been open.

I’m keeping to my mantra of documenting the folks I meet along the way. I’ve dropped the need to walk into a town with a camera to “pull off a story”. Actually, I only have one story in sight. Two river terms we all know, to be sold down the river and to be sent up the river are both negative. In NYC, “the river” is the Hudson, and Sing Sing [Prison] is the destination. I want to try to meet with an ex-offender on their release, to detail and document the gates opening for them to the big wide world, from their perspective, and to see who is there to greet them. To encourage them. To help them fly right.

Has the journey changed your perception of America or Americans? What has surprised you?

Yes, this second attempt was planned to chronicle the year leading into the national elections. I reached Memphis halfway, at 3,750 miles, on November 3 [election day]. The vast majority of the map I’m plying on this journey is solid red. Minus a few blue dots between Portland, Oregon, and NYC.

Funny, I just paddled past my very first Republican flag on a boat on the Ohio River the other day. It featured simply an elephant and the word “Republican”. It is the first Republican banner I’ve seen on this expedition that didn’t scream Trump. Or include a Confederate Flag on the same pole. Or shock with catchy expletives.

The first Republican flag not to mention Trump. New Richmond, Ohio. Photo: Neal Moore

A changing America

I think we are coming right as a nation. I took a ride over the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge, the longest continuous bridge over water in the world, as the inauguration played out live. As Amanda Gorman delivered her poem of hope, The Hill We Climb. And what I found on the streets of New Orleans later that day were kids of color in motion, laughing and pulling wheelies on their bikes along lower Bourbon Street. The city, the nation, I myself, could breathe.

I’ve found that folks from all political persuasions appreciate the idea to look for what binds us together as Americans as opposed to what tears us apart. And this is what I’m truly on the lookout for. To highlight, to underscore, to celebrate.

You can follow Moore’s journey on Instagram.

Man canoes 7,500 miles across country, makes way to Cincinnati

FOX Affiliate WXIX

By Catherine Bodak

CINCINNATI (WXIX) -One man is canoeing 7,500 miles across the country and made his way to the Queen City Saturday.

Neal Moore says that he is canoeing on this 2-year expedition to “explore how rivers, people, and communities connect.”

“The big idea is to go coast to coast, sea to shining sea to explore and celebrate this great land,” Moore said.

Officials with Moore say that he is more than 6,000 miles and 16 months into the journey.

Moore says that he has about 1500 miles and six more months to go until he reaches New York City.

As he paddles up the Ohio River, he plans on spending the Fourth of July weekend in Cincinnati.

“I’ll be taking in a reds game on the fourth. Just to see the reds stadium right here and the skyline, it’s just remarkable. The history that’s here, the people, the character, the grit. What I’m trying to do is explore how the rivers of this land connect but also as a storyteller how us as people connect,” Moore said.

Moore’s canoe is filled with signatures from people across the country wishing him well as he takes on this expedition.

“I think it is a unique way to experience this great land, the canoe is the first mode of transport these rivers were the thoroughfare to have the chance to come coast to coast to really see the country up close and personal is just a great experience,” Moore said.

Copyright 2021 WXIX. All rights reserved.

Man’s cross country canoe journey connects him to the past

ABC affiliate WCPO

A modern-day Huckleberry Finn on a cross-country canoe journey spent Saturday night in Cincinnati, reflecting on the 16 months he’s spent traversing the United States by water and the six still in front of him before he finishes.

CINCINNATI, Ohio (WCPO) — A modern-day Huckleberry Finn on a cross-country canoe journey spent Saturday night in Cincinnati, reflecting on the 16 months he’s spent traversing the United States by water and the six still in front of him before he finishes.

Writer Neal Moore started paddling his canoe in Oregon’s Columbia River and plans to end at Lady Liberty in New York Harbor. It’s a trip, he said, that connects him with the country’s past and helps him understand the journeys undertaken by earlier Americans.

You can watch and read ABC’s entire expedition interview here.