Our Paddling Man (PM) is quick to say, “The real art is the art of living in small, old, red brick river towns— peaceful places with a sense of being scaled to the rhythms and size of human beings—and learning the rhythms of the Great River. Walkable downtowns along the riverfront with sidewalks and overlook viewpoints connect people with the Big River so close by.”
This was not PM’s first paddling adventure on the Mighty Mississippi with the Great River Rumble (run by volunteers as a not-for-profit). For eight summers he has joined 200 or so strong-in-body-mind-and-spirit folks (united by their love of big rivers and belief that rivers belong to everyone) who together launch their canoes and kayaks at start points, varying year to year, for 100 to 150 miles of downstream paddling. About 50% of the paddlers are women. Annually about 80% of participants are returnees from previous years. Lasting friendships, made and renewed with each Rumble, insure that no one gets left behind. In 2021, the seven nights camping and six days paddling began in Mud Lake Park, Iowa, and finished at LeClaire, one of Iowa’s “Quad Cities” on the River’s banks.
The Mississippi River, host to every kind of launch from rafts like Tom Sawyer’s to a gigantic barge tow a quarter mile long, is the second longest river in North America, flowing for 2,350 miles from its source at Lake Itasca, a small glacial lake in northern Minnesota, through the center of the continental United States to the Gulf of Mexico. (The longest river by 100 miles is the Missouri River.) Home to 25% of all North American fish species, the Mississippi's widest point is over 11 miles across. Two people have swum the entire length of this river where water-skiing was invented.
In years past the Rumble’s organizers pre-arranged low-impact overnight camping in small town parks where local bands provided evening music and breakfasts and dinners were catered by fire departments or ladies church auxiliaries. This summer, the route dictated that the group spend several nights in remote areas, far from towns. With CDC protocols observed to keep the paddlers and townspeople safe, catered meals were delivered by nearby small town grocery stores.
Surely there is art in all of this—the last Great Rumble on the Great Mississippi!
At Hyde House, 1110 East Thirteenth Street in Carthage, the METAMORPHOSIS Exhibition concludes September 18, 2021. Gallery Hours are Fridays and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. For more information call (417) 358-4404 or visit ArtCentralCarthage on Facebook or online at artcentralcarthage.org.