They made it: Mississippi River paddlers set new record

Published 2:56 pm Saturday, May 27, 2023

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A team of four canoe paddlers who just three days ago passed through Natchez has set a new record for the fastest team to paddle the entire Mississippi River, from source to sea.

Updates of the teams progress have been shared on the Mississippi Speed Record page on social media and will later be shared in a documentary by Wilderness Mindset.

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The team reached the Gulf of Mexico early Saturday morning after completing the trip in 16 days, 20 hours and 16 minutes, shattering the previous record set in 2021 of 17 days, 19 hours and 46 minutes.

Video of the paddlers was shared on the Mississippi Speed Record social media page on Wednesday afternoon at approximately 2 p.m. as they passed through Natchez and Vidalia waters with fans cheering for the group ashore.

Read the story here. 

The paddlers, Judson Steinback, Wally Werderich, Paul Cox and Scott Miller take turns — three of them paddling while one sleeps for three hours a time, or two sleeping for four hours at a time at night, one post said. A support crew of around 35 people, some driving on land along the river and others in two boats traveling alongside the paddlers keep the men “hydrated, caffeinated and fed,” the post said.

Moo’s Barn & Grill in Natchez supplied the team with barbeque sandwiches.

“That will get them Moo-ving down the river for sure!” one comment said.

Miller, the team leader, is from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

He first had the idea to set the world record for the fastest team to paddle the Mississippi River in 2018 and has been training and planning for it ever since. He was the leader of a 2020 attempt that held a 7-hour lead over record pace but was thwarted by a storm near New Orleans.

Video from Miller’s camera inside the racing canoe shows the exact time they passed Natchez.

“We just passed Natchez, Mississippi, which is a highlight for the crew and a signal that we’re getting closer to the end,” Cox said. “It’s always great to hear (the fans). It makes us feel loved.”

The four men entered the headwaters of Northern Minnesota on May 10.  As they reached the Vidalia ramp, they were ahead of the 2021 world record pace by 23 hours and 42 minutes with just over 371 miles left.

“Can you smell the finish line yet?” said Roy Fenstermacher in the live video recording, to which Steinback replied, “One stroke at a time.”