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Canoeing the Mississippi River; Culinary kayaking

Canoeing the Mississippi River

It turns out I never really knew the Mississippi, said Nic Brown in Garden & Gun. On a 200-mile guided canoe trip from Clarksdale, Miss., to Vicksburg, my fellow paddlers and I experienced “no shortage of wild beauty” along the vast non-urban stretches that most Americans never see. Steady barge traffic meant that we were rarely enveloped in full silence, but we camped each night in virtual wilderness—including on a beautiful sandbar island that was “as remote a piece of earth as I’ve ever set foot on.” John Ruskey, our bearded guide and the founder of the Quapaw Canoe Co. (, regaled us with tales about his decades plying the currents and the river’s role in supporting life across the nation’s heartland. Standing midriver in my team’s canoe one day, I looked down upon the swirling, bracingly cold water before I finally let go of all preconceptions and plunged in. “You’ve been baptized!” a boatmate shouted.

Culinary kayaking

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Gourmet dining can add an extra dimension to waterborne adventure, said Lee Svitak Dean in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Each summer, cookbook author Beth Dooley teams up with a kayak tour operator ( to treat participants to a weekend outing built around great local food and Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands. Night one featured a “fresh, flavorful, and unfussy” dinner at our shoreline campsite with local farmers who’d produced the cheeses, produce, and grilled bratwurst we feasted on. After rising to the smell of frying bacon, we set off in our kayaks for an island two miles out that made a great picnic site before we hiked two miles to a lighthouse. That night, Dooley treated us to a fish fry, but the next night’s meal proved more memorable still: a post-kayaking benefit dinner at nearby Blue Vista Farm. “Musicians strummed, children scampered”; “the whole town seemed to have shown up.”

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