Following 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'
The story: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
The trip: Paddling the Mississippi
The quote: "Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft."
The 200-foot barges that haul cargo up and down "the old regular Muddy," as Twain put it, make floating aimlessly a bit trickier than it was in the late 19th century. But the Mississippi can still be a paddler's paradise. Twain fans will want to start just south of St. Louis and head downstream toward Huck and Jim's original destination of Cairo, Illinois, a 180-mile trip that can be done in about a week. (A 60-mile trip between St. Louis and Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, can be done in a couple of days.) There are few real towns along the way, so plan on camping out. Renting a sea kayak and camping gear should cost about $1,000, says Mike Clark, of Big Muddy Adventures in St. Louis.
This section of the Mississippi is more peaceful – and a lot cleaner – than you might expect. As you approach Cairo, the river bends dramatically, allowing you to paddle the narrow channels between the islands and the mainland, where Jim and Huck hide out. But the best part is venturing into the middle of the giant river. Says river guide John Ruskey: "It's like being in a desert of water."