When my 76-year-old mother, 19-year-old nephew and I joined four high school juniors and leaders David and Sam T., they had already paddled 439 miles from Lake Itasca at the headwaters of the Mississippi to St. Cloud, Minnesota. We joined them for the final 81 miles of this 518-mile Paddle for the Planet.
Mary, Colby, Sophia and Jamiah; juniors at Scattergood Friends School
These students, plus Sam C. who left midstream when he got news that his best friend had died in a car accident [“Everyone, please drive defensively!”], had set out into the wilderness for four weeks with the gear they could lug on their capable backs, including water testing equipment to see how human activity was affecting the Mississippi River.
To prepare for the the trip, Jamiah had done a Dead Zone Report to explore how what folks do
in Minnesota affects the health of the river and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. To find out for themselves, they took nitrate samples each day from the river.
To their surprise, they found very few nitrates – almost none – in the river water!
Why is that
important? Because it means that very little fertilizer run-off from
farmland is flowing into the river during the weeks they tested.
Potassium nitrate is used in chemical fertilizers to supply crops with
nitrogen, along with the other key nutrients of potassium and
phosphorus. I was eager to learn about the impact of
agriculture along the river, and the fact that regulation could make a positive difference was very encouraging.
Here is trip leader, David Abazs, doing the nitrates test and talking about the revival of the Bald Eagle and other wildlife along the river.
Background on Paddle for the Planet:
As captured in the Paddle for the Planet bulletin insert (pdf) from Valley Community Presbyterian Church, who welcomed the group to join their Pentecost worship service and picnic last Sunday, the goals of Paddle for the Planet were to:
1) BUILD COMMUNITY along the river banks and within our international crew celebrating each other, the river and the planet
2) CONDUCT RESEARCH on water quality and watershed issues along the full length of the river
3) EDUCATE ourselves, the community and planet about our connections between the river, energy and agriculture.
4) FUND RAISE for non-profit organizations working on energy and agricultural issues.
Phenology Report What is phenology? Well, Mary didn’t know until she put together this report. It has currently been lost in the elctronic world, but the time for her story is not ready!
Useful Plants Report Jamiah found some interesting plants and more that can help clean the water and save the planet. Some of his links are amazing!
This slide show with music, prepared by paddler Colby Abazs, will give you a feel for what they saw and experienced while canoeing the mighty Mississippi.