April 4th, 2009: Alexander Martin departed on his expedition to travel by canoe and foot 5,500 miles from Portland, OR to Portland, ME on the Atlantic Ocean in one seasonal year. The planned route lies entirely within the contiguous United States and traverses many of the country’s great and storied rivers as well as many hidden and wild places accessible only by water. All travel will be human powered, either by paddle or portage.
The 6,000 mile route is being tackled over a period of six months and will include over 2,000 miles paddled against the current, 3,500 miles with it, and over 600 miles of portaging. The route began on the incoming tide of the Pacific Ocean and follows the Columbia, Snake, Yellowstone, Missouri, and Ohio Rivers for much – and in most cases all – of their length, before joining Lake Erie, the Erie Canal, the Hudson River and a variety of smaller rivers and lakes to meet the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Presumpscot River.
“I will withstand the snow and wind of the Cascades in April, battle the power of the Rocky Mountain freshet, cross the continental divide by portaging 100 miles through the Teton Range,” says Martin, “and, depending on water levels and the most appropriate route, paddle through downtown Portland, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Louisville, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Albany as well as Yellowstone National Park, Teton National Park, fifty National Wildlife Refuges, four Wild and Scenic Rivers, and several National Recreational Areas, just to name a few”.
If successful, this crossing will be the first of its kind. It will be the first west to east crossing of North America by canoe in a single year and the first crossing of the United States, at its widest point, by non-bicycle human power in a single year. “The achievement of these arbitrary distinctions is not the goal of this project,” explains Martin. “My goal is to explore my country and interact with my countrymen and women, raising awareness of river conservation and education efforts of organizations. I will invite the people I meet and those that have only heard or read about the project to pledge a penny or a dime or any amount they choose for each mile I paddle, and direct that money to the organizations whose life work is the protection of these rivers and the education of their importance to the next generation.”
Martins’ choice to travel across the United States by canoe is a deliberate one. “The connection people feel with their backyard, their local river or town is immense, and the canoe is a ubiquitous object in our country. Therefore the chance of connecting and inspiring people is much higher; they can envision themselves exploring the same places that I will be and in the same way,” said Martin. “I hope to inspire young Americans to get outside and explore their local wild places, and as a whole live a more active and healthy lifestyle.”
You can find out more about his expedition and read his blog over at americanriversexpedition.com