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Meet the 80-Year-Old Who Solo Paddled the Length of the Mississippi River

Dale Sanders

This 80-year-old is still adventuring! 

Dale Sanders is not your average 81-year-old. He became the oldest person ever to solo paddle the entirety of the Mississippi River.

Sanders’ journey was for a good cause. He hoped to raise awareness about juvenile diabetes since his niece was diagnosed with type 1 at age 4. “I paddled the full Mississippi River, under every bridge, around every dam, through numerous life threatening conditions, in record high waters, sometimes enduring great hardships for all those kids suffering from T1 diabetes,” Sanders said in press release from SPOT Communication.

His 80-day journey helped raise some $22,000 in that effort. Sanders began his journey back in May 2015. It took until August 15 for him to complete the 2,340 mile journey from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.

Sanders’ journey wasn’t without some hardships. On one occasion a storm almost forced him to call for help using the Spot communicator he had on him. “It’s a bad portage by Blanchard Dam through gullys, rocks and forests, and it was 39 degrees and storming,” Sanders said. “There was no town, nothing there, not even a building to go in and seek refuge.”

It was lucky another river traveler met up again with Sanders and they were able to get a fire going that evening to keep them safe. “Had we not gotten the fire started, I thought I might need to push the S.O.S. button that night,” Sanders said.

Sanders’ journey down the Mississippi was also filmed for a documentary called Source to Sea.

And if you thought conquering the might Mississippi would be enough for one lifetime, you’d be wrong. Because Sanders now has his sights set on the Appalachian Trail. If all goes according to plan, he’ll be the oldest to ever hike the trail.

He also encourages others to get out and have their own adventures, regardless of their age. “Get out there and find some adventure you may have only dreamed of,” Sanders said. “Do it, no matter how little it may seem at first – rewarding surprises await at the other end.”

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Meet the 80-Year-Old Who Solo Paddled the Length of the Mississippi River