Neal Moore was weeks into a cross country paddle when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. After discussing with trusted friends and colleagues, Neal determined that with the canoe as his only home, sheltering in place meant continuing the journey.
As we see the global pandemic both flatten and spike, we’re simultaneously up against an economic gut punch, or worse yet, a worldwide knock out. We’re all in the middle of this, health-wise, economy-wise, and really have no idea how bad the fallout is going to be.
This generation has seen the latter through the Great Recession of 2009. Neal covered the “human face” of that struggle as a citizen journalist for CNN, reporting from the epicenter of America – the Mississippi River – on how the river’s traditionally rough and tumble, hard luck towns were improvising, making the local economy spin.
Fast forward to 2020, and more than ever, we need to find and celebrate America’s collective ingenuity, diversity, and know-how, to tap into what’s working, roll-up-our-sleeves-wise, to re-discover and broadcast what advice Americans (of all walks of life) may have for the world.
In an all-time first, adventurer/storyteller Neal Moore is undertaking a solo, continuous canoe expedition from west coast to east, from the Pacific to the Statue of Liberty – in the midst of these “uncharted waters” – listening, curating, and re-discovering the threads that bind both Americans and the world together.
“A modern-day Huck Finn” — CNN
Neal Moore has paddled the length of the Mississippi River from the headwaters at Lake Itasca to New Orleans, resulting in the publication of Down the Mississippi: A Modern-day Huck on America’s River Road by the Mark Twain Museum Press. Armed with a gaggle of cameras and an Old Town canoe, Neal traversed America’s mightiest river while sourcing, capturing, and dispatching 50 “Human Face of the Great Recession” stories from the epicenter of the United States.
Beyond the Mississippi River, Neal’s got some experience. In 2018, he attempted this current cross-country sojourn, making it from Astoria, Oregon on the Pacific Coast to Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota (over 1,700 miles in total).
This time around, from early 2020 until New Year’s Day, 2022, he intends to go the distance in a continuous storytelling expedition from Astoria, Oregon, to New York City. 22 rivers, 22 states, and 7,500 miles (in a canoe).
Act One: To the Great Divide (COMPLETE!): We’re heading for the continental divide during a time when our nation is truly divided. It’s up the Columbia, the Snake, and the Clark Fork rivers to MacDonald Pass in Montana – all upstream and uphill, 1,111 miles (1,789 km). It was a struggle, but Neal completed this first phase of the expedition in 97 days!
Act Two: To the Big Easy: It’s 3,249 river miles and an expected 8-month paddle down the Missouri and the Mississippi, dodging acres of barges, 1,000 foot tankers, swirling eddies, and the Chain of Rocks to the French Quarter, New Orleans.
Act Three: To Lady Liberty: It’s a long, tortuous route of 3,127 river and portage miles to Lady Liberty at the edge of the Atlantic, which Neal reckons will take 12 months. We’ve got to skirt the Gulf Coast in open, often treacherous water, paddle up the Mobile, Tombigbee, Tombigbee-Tennessee and Tennessee rivers, down the New River, the Cumberland, the Dix and the Kentucky rivers. Up the Ohio, up and down the Kanawha, and up the Allegheny rivers. From Lake Chautauqua, it’ll be uphill and downhill for days over Portage Road to Lake Erie. Then it’s the Erie Canal, the Mohawk, and down the Hudson to see and know what has always made America great[!]
Neal will be canoeing, surviving, reporting and celebrating.
Expert canoeists have died on the rivers Neal will be navigating. While he does not intend to do that, make no mistake, this is a risky endeavor that involves paddling and hauling a solo canoe 7,500 miles in bright sun and harm’s way – in and on and alongside the rivers of these United States.
Multiple obstacles include, but are not limited to: river traffic (pleasure boats, ferries, dredgers, acres of barges pushed by tows, container ships, and mammoth oil tankers), far too many locks and dams, crushing rapids, swirling eddies, sunken rocks, submerged trees, freak waves on major lakes, and the stormy, open sea.
Other risks are related to these dangers, one way or another. Beyond navigating through the Covid-19 pandemic, the weather, which can be unpredictable, can also be challenging. A big flood season, hurricane, or other severe weather, could make one or more of the 22 rivers and waterways Neal will ply un-navigable for a time, or season.
Because Neal will be paddling in association with reporting, there will likewise be delays as he stumbles upon stories, as he solar charges his batteries and edits his videos and drinks his camp-brewed coffee. So the schedule and routing for the “22 Rivers Across America” canoe expedition has to remain flexible.
Neal will be fighting to get to these stories. Together, we’ll gain a unique insight into the soul of America that we can share with everybody who cares not only for America, but of the global community at large.