How Long Does It Take to Kayak the Mississippi River?

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Are you an adventure-seeker looking for a unique challenge? Have you ever considered kayaking the entire length of the Mississippi River? If so, you’re probably wondering, “how long does it take to kayak the Mississippi River?” In this article, we’ll explore the various factors that influence the time it takes to complete this extraordinary journey and provide helpful tips on preparing for the adventure of a lifetime.


The Mississippi River: An Overview


The Mississippi River, North America’s largest river system, spans over 2,300 miles from its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico. The river’s winding course passes through ten states, boasting diverse landscapes, rich ecosystems, and an abundant history.


Throughout history, the Mississippi River has played a significant role in the development of the United States. From Native American tribes to European explorers, the river has been a vital transportation route, spawning the growth of numerous cities along its banks.

Factors That Affect the Time It Takes to Kayak the Mississippi River

Distance and speed

The time it takes to kayak the Mississippi River depends largely on the distance covered and the average paddling speed. A typical kayaker can maintain a speed of about 3 miles per hour (mph). At this rate, kayaking the entire river without breaks would take roughly 767 hours or 32 days.

Weather and water conditions

However, weather and water conditions are crucial in determining the actual time needed for the journey. Currents, winds, and water levels can either help or hinder your progress. Additionally, you may need to take breaks during severe weather or to navigate around obstacles like dams and locks.

Experience and physical fitness

Your experience level and physical fitness will also affect your paddling speed and endurance. Beginners may find the journey more challenging and time-consuming, while seasoned kayakers may be able to cover more ground each day.

Preparing for the Journey

Proper equipment

Having the right equipment is essential for a successful kayaking trip down the Mississippi River. Invest in a sturdy kayak, a comfortable life vest, and reliable navigation tools. Don’t forget to pack enough food, water, and camping supplies for the entire trip.

Paddling techniques

Refining your paddling technique can help you maintain your energy and increase your speed. Consider taking a kayaking course or practising with experienced paddlers before embarking on your journey.

Safety precautions

Staying safe during your trip is paramount. Familiarize yourself with the river’s hazards, such as strong currents, whirlpools, and commercial boat traffic. Also, be prepared for sudden weather changes and emergencies.

Key Sections of the Mississippi River for Kayakers

Headwaters to Minneapolis

Smaller, winding channels and lush forests characterize this section of the river. Expect to spend about 7-10 days in this section, depending on your paddling speed and the time you take to explore the surrounding areas.

Minneapolis to St. Louis

As the river widens and becomes more navigable, you’ll encounter a more urban landscape along the way with several major cities, including Minneapolis and St. Paul. This section can take approximately 14-20 days to complete, depending on how much time you spend exploring the cities and resting.

St. Louis to New Orleans

This final stretch of the Mississippi River is the longest and most challenging, with strong currents and commercial traffic. You’ll pass through the Mississippi Delta and end your journey to the Gulf of Mexico. Depending on weather conditions and your endurance, this portion may take around 21-30 days to complete.

Related: How Long to Kayak the Murray River


Is it safe to kayak the entire Mississippi River?

With adequate preparation, equipment, and knowledge of the river’s hazards, kayaking the Mississippi River can be a safe and enjoyable adventure. It’s important to respect the power of the river and always prioritize safety.

What is the best time of year to kayak the Mississippi River?

The ideal time to kayak the Mississippi River is during the spring and fall months when the weather is milder and water levels are generally more favourable.

Do I need a permit to kayak the Mississippi River?

No permits are required to kayak the Mississippi River. However, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with local regulations and restrictions that may apply to certain sections of the river.

What kind of wildlife can I expect to see while kayaking the Mississippi River?

The Mississippi River is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including various bird species, fish, turtles, and even alligators in the southern sections of the river.

Are there designated camping spots along the Mississippi River for kayakers?

Yes, there are numerous public and private campgrounds along the Mississippi River, sandbars, and islands where kayakers can set up camp. Planning your stops in advance and respecting the environment and any private property along the way is essential.


The time it takes to kayak the entire Mississippi River can vary greatly depending on factors such as paddling speed, weather conditions, and individual experience levels. On average, it may take anywhere from 6 to 10 weeks to complete the journey. With proper preparation, equipment, and a sense of adventure, kayaking the Mississippi River can be a rewarding and unforgettable experience.

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