History of the World Record

People have been setting and breaking the record for fastest paddle down the Mississippi River for over 50 years. The record is recognized by the Guinness World Records under the title “Fastest Time to Row the Length of the Mississippi River by a Team”. All the teams that have set the world record, to our knowledge, have done so in a canoe, though per the guidelines issued by Guinness a scull, rowing boat, kayak or canoe would be permissible.

Sometime prior to 1980, the record was set by a British Royal Air Force team at 42 days, 5 hours and some minutes(1). In 1980, KJ Millhone (who is part of this current attempt) and Steve Eckelkamp set a new world record at 35 days, 11 hours and 27 minutes. KJ recalls so many teams breaking the record in just the few years prior to 1981 that they had to keep re-thinking how fast they would have to go. The record was next set in 1984, by famed paddlers Verlen Kruger and Valerie Fons(2). Fons and Kruger’s time was 23 days and 10 hours(3). Kruger and Fons’ record was broken sometime in the late 80’s by another team(4). In 2001, Bob Bradford partnered with Verlen Krueger to try and reclaim the record, but various authorities forced them off the river on multiple occasions due to flooding(5), and they just missed setting a new record, paddling the river in 24 days. Bob Bradford made another attempt two years later, paddling with Clark Eid. Bob and Clark set the current world record on May 10-23, 2003: 18 days, 4 hours and 51 minutes(6).

Since 2003 there have been at least three unsuccessful attempts to break the record. A team of four consisting of Tim Muhich, Colin Bright, Clint Adams and Boot Baweja made and attempt in 2014(7), and in 2017 they made another attempt with Dale Waldo replacing Boot Baweja(8). Kevin Eckelkamp (nephew of Steve Eckelkamp), Nate Lastinger and KJ Millhone made an unsuccessful attempt in 2018(9).

  1. Personal correspondence with KJ Millhone, 12/13/18.

  2. https://people.com/archive/two-unlikely-canoeists-fight-wind-snow-and-nonstop-pain-trying-to-run-the-mississippi-in-record-time-vol-21-no-21/

  3. https://www.collegian.psu.edu/archives/article_054bfaea-b374-5770-9086-03d08e949760.html

  4. Phone call with Bob Bradford 11/14/18

  5. https://www.canoekayak.com/canoe/krugerobit/

  6. http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/mississippi-river-by-canoe-kayak

  7. http://www.noladefender.com/content/mississippi-river-canoe-record-attempt-passes-nola-today

  8. http://www.wafb.com/story/35795499/group-of-paddlers-attempt-to-canoe-the-entire-mississippi-river/

  9. https://www.twincities.com/2018/05/14/minnesota-man-tries-to-set-second-record-canoeing-mississippi-river/

KJ Millhone (right) and Steve Eckelkamp circa 1980

KJ Millhone (right) and Steve Eckelkamp circa 1980