KAYAKING 2,300 MILES on the MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI — They boated every inch of America’s most famous river

Modern day Huckleberry Finn-style adventurers on the Mississippi, Ryan (left) and Phillip take a break from their 2,300 mile kayak trip to snack on watermelon just north of Memphis. Mark Twain’s famous book, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” tells of Huck stealing a watermelon – Ryan and Phillip were given theirs by a farmer who lives on the river.

Modern day Huckleberry Finn-style adventurers on the Mississippi, Ryan (left) and Phillip take a break from their 2,300 mile kayak trip to snack on watermelon just north of Memphis. Mark Twain’s famous book, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” tells of Huck stealing a watermelon – Ryan and Phillip were given theirs by a farmer who lives on the river.

“Hey, Phillip, let’s take a boat trip down the entire length of the Mississippi River!” So began a remarkable Huck Finn-style river voyage by two self- described adventurers, travelers, and videographers.

Ryan Jeanes’ casual remark to his business partner, Phillip Hullquist, planted the seed that grew into the duo’s three month odyssey from one end of America’s most iconic river to the other — a 2,300 mile river adventure from the Mississippi’s headwaters in Minnesota to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico…and resulted in their full length documentary movie, “The River is Life”.

Ryan paddles while Phillip (not shown) shoots video on their first day on the Mississippi River about two miles from its headwaters. The water's only six inches deep there - nothing like what you expect in the Mighty Mississippi.

Ryan paddles while Phillip (not shown) shoots video on their first day on the Mississippi River about two miles from its headwaters. The water's only six inches deep there - nothing like what you expect in the Mighty Mississippi.

“What’s stopping YOU?”

Many people may dream of being adventurous enough to drop everything and do something like travel the length of the Mississippi for three months. Some may talk about their plan for years. But few will actually do it. And that is the whole point film makers Jeanes and Hullquist drive home in their documentary, “The River is Life.”

“Dream it. Live it. Film it” is the slogan the duo has pinned to their video company, 11 Visions. Phillip sums up their philosophy with a poignant question. “What’s stopping you,” he asks, “from doing the things you really want to do?”

Ryan and Phillip have made a boating adventure film that’s an engaging, watchable,  and very interesting film about America. “It’s hard to imagine who wouldn’t enjoy this sweet, terrifically amiable documentary,” writes Mike Schulz in the River Cities’ Reader, a newspaper serving five cities along the upper Mississippi.

Passion for adventure

“When we started our film company, says Phillip, “we wanted to do and document the things we’re passionate about.” Adventure is their passion, and they did it on a shoestring. “Kayaking down the Mississippi is a fairly inexpensive venture although you’ll need to commit a significant period of time to complete such a journey.”

Business-and-adventure partners Phillip (left) and Ryan (right) at the Mississippi River headwaters in Lake Itasca, Minnesota about to embark on a 2,300 mile journey in Sea Eagle kayaks.

Business-and-adventure partners Phillip (left) and Ryan (right) at the Mississippi River headwaters in Lake Itasca, Minnesota about to embark on a 2,300 mile journey in Sea Eagle kayaks.

Boating for weeks on end, and camping nightly at the water’s edge, meant they had to pack all the camping gear any adventurer would need for an extended trip, plus all their cameras and video gear. Ryan and Phillip chose twin Sea Eagle 380x Explorer Kayaks. “We took a test run in a Sea Eagle,” says Phillip, “and decided we really needed two boats to carry us and all our gear.”

Experimenting with various loading arrangements, they found their best plan was to ride and paddle in tandem in one 380x while towing their boatload of gear behind them in the second kayak.

“The 380x can carry a lot of gear,” says Ryan. “It can carry 300 lbs. of stuff, gear, tents, cook stoves, computers, video gear, backpacks, food, clothes, even solar panels to charge our cell phones.”

The choice of serious adventure boaters

Sea Eagle’s Explorer Kayaks are the kayak-of-choice for serious adventurers. Watch Sea Eagle owner, Ted Pasternak, navigate white water rapids in his Sea Eagle 420x Explorer Kayak.

Phillip and Ryan were serious boaters, but not experienced ones. They gained their boating experience along the way. “We didn’t have that much boating experience,” says Phillip. “We didn’t know what conditions we were going to encounter. But we made the decision early to err on side of safety. People advised us to get longest boat we could. They told us they’re the fastest and had the most space for our gear.”

ARE WE HAVING FUN YET? You have to be ready for anything on an extended kayaking trip. The 380x's stability was much appreciated by Phillip and Ryan when storms hit near Natchez, Mississippi.

ARE WE HAVING FUN YET? You have to be ready for anything on an extended kayaking trip. The 380x's stability was much appreciated by Phillip and Ryan when storms hit near Natchez, Mississippi.

Ryan agrees, “We’re certainly long haul boaters but not professional boaters at all. The 380x is the perfect boat for all kinds of conditions” from bottoming out in shallow waters up north to crossing Lake Winnibegashish — a 67,000 acre Minnesota lake the Mississippi flows through. If we’d been in hard hull kayaks, I don’t know if we’d have made it. The performance and stability of the 380x are incredible. I love that boat.”

“I’ve always wanted to do X”

“Lots of people have great ideas for adventures,” says Phillip. “They’ll say, ‘I’ve always wanted to do X.’ Most peoples’ dreams are usually doable – but they haven’t done them yet. It’s basically a matter of really wanting to do something and going out and doing it.”

“There’s a spiritual pull to adventuring,” Ryan told us. “Human beings look for experiences to learn about ourselves. We like being challenged; we want to see how we’ll react to see what we’re made of. The idea of journeying is part of every culture in the world.”

Adventure a week at a time

Not all adventurers can clear their calendars several weeks or months at a time to live their dreams. But dreams are still doable. “We ran into a three- generation family boating the entire Mississippi as we were,” says Phillip. “But they couldn’t take three months off; they did it one week at a time. They boat to a certain point in a week’s time, then start from that point a year later. “They’re living their dream a week at a time and will eventually navigate the whole river.”

What’s next for this pair of video camera-toting adventurers? “I want to try white water kayaking,” said Ryan. His passing comment, like “Let’s boat the Mississippi,” may be the start of a new adventure documentary film. Watch for it at a movie theater near you!

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16 Responses to KAYAKING 2,300 MILES on the MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI — They boated every inch of America’s most famous river

  1. Gil says:

    What an adventure! Looking forward to the movie.

    Gil
    San Jose, CA

  2. Kathi says:

    Would love to see a movie re: your trip.

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  4. John Anderson says:

    Hi,

    Recently I came across some great articles on your site. The other day, I was discussing (http://blog.seaeagle.com/2012/04/04/kayaking-2300-miles-on-the-mighty-mississippi-they-boated-every-inch-of-americas-most-famous-river/ ) with my colleagues and they suggested I submit an article of my own. Your site is just perfect for what I have written! Would it be ok to submit the article? It is free of charge, of course!

    Let me know what you think
    Contact me at john26anderson@gmail.com

    Regards,
    John Anderson

  5. Really enjoyed your writing and was feeling as if I am with you. Please upload some videos.

  6. Milenko Grubor from NYC says:

    I want to do that but I can not find anyone who is crazy enough to join me. Can I do that by myself?

    • Curtis says:

      Milenko, Don’t wait to long (like me) start small like the Hudson from Albany to NYC.

      • Milenko Grubor from NYC says:

        Thank you Curtis, that’s good advice, I think i will try that this year and happy and healty still new 2013

  7. PJ Rogers says:

    Milenko: I read a book a few years back about a man that did it in a regular canoe by hisself. If I find the book I’ll drop the name.

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  10. Jack Miller says:

    Ryan and Phillip, where all ya’ll now, How can I get in touch with you?

  11. Jack,

    Can you contact us at staff@seaeagle.com and we’ll get Ryan’s contact info to you.

    Thanks,
    John

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