A screenshot from the 1983 documentary “Mississippi Challenge” (embedded below)

By Jim Dale Vickery

Bemidji, Minn. – Nothing seems to be stopping an Australian paraplegic from becoming the first person to solo down the Mississippi River in a kayak.

Early last May, Ron Bath, of Adelaide, Australia swamped in two-and-a-half-foot waves on Lake Irving near this city (pop: 10,000) on the headwaters of the Mississippi River. According to an Associated Press story, Bath, 26, had paddled 51 miles—"a long day"—before the waves filled his flatwater kayak and he had to jump out. His brother, Kevin, 19, who was following in a 14-foot motorized canoe, picked him up.

An Australian film crew documenting the adventure used a 4-man raft to assist in the rescue.

Bath, a well-known Australian marathon kayaker, was the first person to paddle the entire length of the River Murray, Australia’s longest river. Looking for more adventure, he chose the Mississippi which flows through Lake Irving, his momentary nemesis.

"It was a little setback," Bath told reporters about his bath. "This is no problem. Bloody right I am (going on)."

Bath’s legs have been paralyzed since he was six months old. He began kayaking as an Australian Boy Scout.

If all goes well, Bath’s trip—dubbed "The Mississippi Challenge" by the film crew—will end at the Gulf of Mexico, after the July issue of Canoe has gone to press. Stay tuned.


Steve Landick Unfiltered

Caleb Brousseau Is My Hero

Waterfalls: Forbidden Fruit or Calculated Risk?

More from the August 1983 issue