Ask Cindy Samples why she loves to kayak and canoe on the Mississippi River, and you instantly get a sense of why she and others are excited about the Americas Great Outdoors Summer of Paddling 2012.
The Mississippi is legendary, Samples tells you. Its Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Its the heart of America, and everyone knows this river by name. Its a working river. Its a river you can step across at one end, and one that canoes and kayaks cant navigate down in the gulf.
Furthermore, the longtime park ranger at Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge says: The river changes. Its different every time I go out. If I paddle a trail in spring, I might not be able to paddle the same route in fall. High water, low wateror beavers decide they like the trail, too, and build a dam across it.
Summer of Paddling 2012 is a series of events on the Mississippi for new and experienced paddlers. More than 100 events are to be hosted by federal, state and local entities in the 10 states along the riverMinnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. There are almost three dozen National Wildlife Refuge System units on or near the 2,350 miles of river from Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico beyond New Orleans. Most are planning to host events.
Summer of Paddlings primary goal, Samples says, is to connect people with Americas Great Outdoors, the Obama administration initiative designed to focus the public on conservation goals and recreation activities nationwide.
Summer of Paddling 2012 didnt just come from my experiences as a young boy on Lake Tahoe, Upper Mississippi Refuge project leader Kevin Foerster blogged on the events Web site, SOP2012.org. It all started one day during a conversation with Cindy Samples. We reminisced about the importance of paddling to our lives and wanted to make paddling accessible to others.
There never has been anything quite like it on the Mississippi.
This is the first 10state, oneriver, 100event celebration ever held, says Samples. Many of the events are annual events. They just have never been marketed together.
More than a dozenandahalf partners and sponsors are affiliated with Summer of Paddling, including state departments of natural resources, private companies, Friends groups, the National Park Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, nongovernmental organizations and the Mississippi River Connections Collaborative.
Summer of Paddling events will include water trail grand openings; celebratory large group paddles, such as Floatzilla and the Great River Rumble; night paddles; guided paddles with authors, songwriters and federal conservation specialists; and more.
We are using Facebook to promote SOP2012, so we are gaining friends every day, says Samples. We have businesses, a guy who is going to paddle the entire river and many, many canoeists/kayakers interested in participating.
SOP2012.org gives individuals a chance to set goals for themselves via a Pledge to Paddle page. Among its entries are: I pledge to paddle in each pool of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge ... After I finish the Paddle with a Park Ranger event in Winona, MN, Im going to pick up 5 pounds of trash from the river ... I pledge to take my niece with me to a Summer of Paddling 2012 event. She loves watching wildlife! ... I pledge to paddle with my 4 & 2 year old sons on the Mississippi & Rock Rivers. Fostering a love of the outdoors and environmental stewardship can never start too early.
The most rewarding aspect of organizing Summer of Paddling, says Samples, has been finding an activitypaddlingthat all partners can embrace and participate in whether large or small, main channel or backwater, or bayou events. This celebration fits everyone.