Blackwater Drifters pit stop in area near the end of five-month kayaking journey

ANDREW GREEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Nick and Joe have been camping and kayaking for 152 days to reach Plaquemine, and hope to finish strong in their quest for the Gulf of Mexico.

Joe Zimmerman, 25, and Nick Caiazza, 25, took it upon themselves to dedicate five months of their lives to kayaking America’s longest navigable waterway from Montana, through the Missouri River, and connecting to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the “Mighty” Mississippi.

The duo paddled through 14 different states, and by the end of their journey, would have conquered nearly 4,000 miles.  Zimmerman and Caiazza estimated they would reach the Gulf of Mexico in five months if they paddled eight hours a day.

“It took us 152 days of camping and kayaking every day to get to Plaquemine,” Zimmerman said.  Joe and Nick each left behind jobs and family to accomplish what only four other people have done before them.  The two still have quite the leg ahead of them and hope to reach the Gulf of Mexico by mid-November.

“It’s tough, you know,” Caiazza said  “but that’s what it’s about, though.  I get to learn a lot about myself.” 

“We don’t have any kids or anything, and decided this was the time we have to do stuff like this,” Zimmerman said.  “So we made the jump.” 

Caiazza’s background is in filmmaking, and Zimmerman is experienced in white water rafting.  The duo will culminate a feature length documentary about their adventure highlighting specific ways the country’s food production system “impacts our waterways from source to sea.”

Zimmerman expressed his opinion on how the Mississippi changes upon reaching Louisiana.  “One of the unique parts of Louisiana is the difference in wildlife,” Zimmerman said.  “We haven’t had to think about water moccasins and alligators before.”  Worrying about dangerous wildlife isn’t the hardest part of the journey for the Drifters, though.  They each expressed concern in areas in which the other was experienced.

“The hardest part for me is being a novice,” Caiazza said.  “I was flipping my boat all the time and getting all my clothes wet, and trying to keep my camera gear dry all the time.  I’ve lost about four hats, a camera, a tripod and the majority of my clothes to the Mississippi.”

“For me, it’s probably the filming part,” Zimmerman said.  “We have to set up shots, find a way to charge batteries and make the best movie we can.”  Originally the trip was for fun, but Zimmerman researched the route and the several challenges the waterway is facing today. 

“They apparently call this the ‘cancer corridor’ because of all the chemicals going into the water,” Zimmerman said.  “We’re focusing on the way the industrial agricultural system is affecting the waterway, and we feel it is a way for us to give back to the river as a token of gratitude.”  One of Caizza’s favorite parts of their journey are stopping in the small towns and meeting as many different people as he can.

“The people are unbelievably friendly here,” Caiazza said.  “Everyone has been amazing to us on our journey.  This trip showed me what a great community the world really is.  I would like to do something like this again, but probably not film it.”  Not only did the duo leave families behind, but Zimmerman took a personal leap-of-faith in what he sacrificed for their adventure.

“I quit my job for this expedition,” Zimmerman said.  “I decided now was the time, and I just got out and did it.”  Zimmerman hopes his next expedition to be an around-the-world sailing trip when their journey is completed, and has little intention of going back to his banking job.  “We’re hoping this movie makes us millionaires,” Zimmerman laughed.  “But I may have to save up the money between projects and then go off and do them.”

For more information, and a live GPS update on the Blackwater Drifters’ current location, visit www.blackwaterdrifters.com.