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Paddle the Mississippi? Try Swimming It

While writing a story about this weekend’s Outdoors Inc. Canoe & Kayak Race, I remembered an Outside magazine article I read a few years ago by Memphis-born Hampton Sides about swimming the Mississippi River.

Yes, swimming the Mississippi.

Sides (in town this week to promote his new book, “Hellhound on His Trail”) swam from the Arkansas side of the river to Memphis under the watchful eye of river rat John Ruskey, who followed Sides and a couple other swimmers in a boat.

Sides admitted that swimming the river was a “subversive, if not suicidal idea” because of the river’s reputation as being dangerous and dirty.

“Growing up in Memphis, I was told it was sure death to go in that nasty, stinkin’ river,” he wrote. “It was a big drainage ditch swirling with the country’s foulest waste—Our National Colon. Every category of danger lurked in there: snags, whirlpools, menacing big-a** catfish, industrial sludge, burning chemicals, snarled trotlines, and cottonmouths, not to mention a wicked current intent on sweeping away everything in its path.”

I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s a great read. Anyone up for a dip?