IN THE MIDST OF THESE “UNCHARTED WATERS,” adventurer/storyteller Neal Moore has taken journalism slow and low down from the view of a canoe.
To listen, and document, and connect.
In search of how rivers connect all the way across America, as well as how communities connect, how we can come together as a nation. To explore the ties that bind us together.
To take up the fight for the sacred Columbia River salmon, step in stride with an ex-offender upon release from prison, and crouch down low with a hobo on the tracks, train in sight, that whistle bell a’blowin’.
To come face to face with America’s soul.
For 675 days, from February 9, 2020 until December 14, 2021, Neal went the distance in a continuous storytelling expedition from Astoria, Oregon on the Pacific Coast to Lady Liberty at New York City. 22 rivers, 22 states, 22 months 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, 1,078 miles. It was a struggle, but Neal completed this first phase of the expedition in 97 days!
Act Two: To the Big Easy (COMPLETE): It was 3,599 river miles and an 8-month paddle down the Missouri, up and down the Mississippi (with a side jaunt up and down the Ohio to see Paducah thrown in), 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 (COMPLETE): It was a long, tortuous route of 2,890 river and portage miles to Lady Liberty at the edge of the Atlantic, which took Neal nearly a year. He got to connect the islands of the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coast in open, often treacherous water, paddle up the Mobile, Tombigbee, and Tenn-Tom waterways, down the Tennessee, up the Ohio, up and down the Kentucky and the Kanawha, then up the Allegheny and the Chadakoin. From Lake Chautauqua, it was uphill and downhill over Old Portage Road to Lake Erie, paddling on to the Erie Canal and the Seneca. Neal would navigate a 170-mile portage from Syracuse to Albany alongside the Oneida and the Mohawk (due to the NY Canal System shutting down operations in mid-October, 2021). And at last, the Hudson, to see and know what has always made America great[!]
Neal was canoeing, surviving, reporting and celebrating.
Expert canoeists have died on the rivers Neal navigated. While he did not intend to do that, make no mistake, this was a risky endeavor that involved 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 included, but were 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.
Neal was fighting to get to these stories. Other risks were related to these dangers, one way or another. Beyond navigating through the Covid-19 pandemic, the weather, which can be unpredictable, could also be challenging.
Because Neal was paddling in association with reporting, there were likewise delays as he stumbled upon stories, as he solar charged his batteries and edited his videos and drank his camp-brewed coffee.
Along the rivers and across this land, together, we can gain a unique insight to share with everybody who cares not only for America, but of the global community at large.