Man embarks on journey to canoe entirety of Mississippi River for disaster relief

A Florida man is canoeing the entire length of the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico to raise awareness for natural disaster relief.

You could call Erik Elsea the one-man, modern day version of Lewis and Clark.

"I've got a GPS satellite and a smart phone with the weather app and all kinds of technology that poor Lewis and Clark didn't have," said Elsea.

So the Florida-born expeditioner has a little help with virtual maps and cell phone service, but the trek to canoe from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico along the Mississippi River is quite adventurous.

“There’s probably going to be challenges that I haven’t even thought of yet, but that’s what makes this exciting and I think I’m prepared to handle anything that gets thrown my way,” said Elsea.

Twenty-three days ago, Elsea took off into the headwaters of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca. He says thanks to all the rain recently, the conditions in Minnesota have been great for canoeing.

"A couple of the areas where typically at this time of the year where the water levels are low - people have to carry their equipment and their canoe - just breezed right over it," said Elsea.

Canoeing has always been a passion of Elsea's. Growing up in St. Louis along the Mississippi, he has dreamed of paddling the entire river one day. The ultra-endurance athlete says combining his love of sport, adventure and passion for volunteering drove him to finally accomplish this goal while raising money for Shelter Box. The organization sends response teams to deliver aid around the world to help people affected by natural disasters.

"For instance this is the 25 year anniversary of the great flood of ’93—I spent a good chunk of my summer—25 years ago—sandbagging the Mississippi trying to prevent the levees from breaking and flooding is one of the disasters that Shelter Box responds to most frequently,” he said.