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Kayakers make Miss-Lou stop on Mississippi River journey

Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Mississippi Challenge teammates, from left, Harry Hogg, Sam Norman and Matt Fraser unpack their kayaks after arriving Under the Hill in Natchez Monday.
Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Mississippi Challenge teammates, from left, Harry Hogg, Sam Norman and Matt Fraser unpack their kayaks after arriving Under the Hill in Natchez Monday.

NATCHEZ — Natchez is the latest of many stops for a group of British kayakers traveling the Mississippi River.

Harry Hogg, Matt Fraser and Sam Norman pulled into Natchez Monday for a pit stop on their 2,200-mile journey from Lake Itasca, Minn., to the mouth of the Mississippi.

The group is kayaking the river to raise money for Help For Heroes — a British charity that supports soldiers injured in war. They call the trip Mississippi Challenge 2013.

“We wanted to do something like this for a little while,” Norman said. “We looked at the Mississippi River and it looked awesome. We would have done the Amazon River but I’m not sure we would have made it out alive.”

Their journey began on June 5, and they plan to complete the journey by August 25.

The group’s fundraising goal was $15,000, but they smashed that mark at an event in Britain before the trek began. In total, the group has raised more than $25,000 for Help for Heroes.

Norman said the group shipped most of their supplies from Britain, but had kayaks waiting for them at Lake Itasca, the origin of the Mississippi River. He said all of their supplies were paid for through sponsorships.

Fraser said the journey has allowed the group to see parts of America even many U.S. citizens may not see.

“There are absolutely beautiful beaches that we passed on our way down the river, especially once we got into less populated areas,” he said. “People here probably don’t know, but there are beautiful beaches just a few miles right up the river.”

When they stopped in Natchez Monday afternoon, the group had traveled 1,865.3 miles.

“It’s been quite a journey,” Hogg said. “It’s nice to see the real America. We don’t really get to see this side of America from the touristy spots we have been to.”

Norman said the biggest danger they face is large boats and barges.

“We just have to get out of the way as quickly as possible,” he said. “It would be nice if the barges and ships made their wake a little smaller.”

In addition to battling barges on the river, the group has also worried about wild animals.

“One night as we were asleep on our hammocks and we heard what we thought were coyotes off in the distance,” Hogg said. “It turned out that they were right under our hammocks.”

The group has 12 days to complete the remaining 335 miles of the journey, giving them time to enjoy the surrounding landscape, Norman said.

He said the group plans to stay two to three days in Natchez before departing for Baton Rouge.

As the group inches closer to the coast, Norman said they have to worry about larger ships.

“We are just going to hug the bank and try to stay out of their way,” he said.

Once they reach the mouth of the Mississippi River, Fraser said he plans to take a swim in the Gulf of Mexico before returning to Britain.

“I’m actually a little sad that it’s coming to an end,” Fraser said. “It’s been a great experience.”