Fun fact: The Mississippi River drops 1,475 feet over 2,340 miles.

As some of you know, there’s a nonprofit (founded by Puget Sound Crew alums!) called OAR Northwest that’s all about adventure education and long, self-propelled journeys via water.  They’ve won an open-water rowing race across the Atlantic Ocean, mostly completed a second Atlantic crossing to collect scientific data and run online webinars, have tootled around the Salish Sea and Puget Sound a bit, and most recently have rowed the length of the Mississippi River to collect water samples and visit local schools doing environmental education programs.

The Mississippi trip (also known as Adventure: Mississippi River, or AMR) isn’t just supposed to be a one-time thing, though.  They’re hoping for it to be an annual trip with a new set of rowers each time, each with a different story and each experiencing the river in different ways.  For example, last year, the group of OAR Northwest guys was trucking along, doing their thing, chatting to kids in an elementary school in Tennessee, when apparently they heard a boy say that girls couldn’t do what they were doing.  Therefore, the trip this fall will not be all guys.  It’s a changing beast – both the river itself and the AMR.

Anyway, on Thursday I got to row with Jordan Hanssen, president of OAR Northwest, in one of the modified skiffs that they rowed from Minneapolis to the Gulf of Mexico (the first 400+ miles, from Lake Itasca to Minneapolis, were traveled in canoe to account for the narrower and shallower waterway).  I’ve been rowing since my freshman year of high school, but this was a bit different from competitive racing.  For one thing, the two person boat weighed more than an eight person racing shell.  It’s a whole lot wider and doesn’t need anyone’s help to balance itself.  Also, the oars are an entirely different shape, which sounds trivial, until you consider the fact that the hydrodynamics of your water propulsion have changed.

I hear you get used to it pretty quick, though.