MSU alumni prepare for 'Big River Challenge'
MSU alumni Luke Rookus and Dale Waldo, who graduated this year, will depart on June 1 in pursuit of paddling down North America’s longest river system in record time.
With the current record standing at 72 days, the pair hopes to do it in less than 40, Rookus said.
They will start at the source of the Missouri River in the Centennial Mountains of Western Montana, and will paddle to the Gulf of Mexico. This route is roughly 3,800 miles.
The pair said they met through the MSU Outdoors Club and soon began collaborating on possible trips they could take together.
Waldo has traveled both the Mississippi River and the Missouri River and wanted to take on the challenge of doing both in one trip. The two agreed to paddle down the entire river system.
Unlike Waldo, this will be Rookus’ first major long-distance trip. Though he has gone on trips of a few hundred miles, he said this is unlike anything he has experienced.
He anticipates the biggest challenges the pair will have to take on will be staying motivated, traveling through bad weather, soreness and keeping their eyes on the goal.
“We’re trying to basically see how far we can push things,” Rookus said.
They obtained a boat with a sleeping compartment so they can each take six-hour breaks for sleep while the other continues to paddle. They said they plan on only making a small handful of stops for things like showers and lengthier nights of sleeping.
They will paddle roughly 80-120 miles a day in order to break the record.
Members of the paddling community have already signed up to help them along the way. Some have already assisted with preparation while others are scheduled to provide them with food and supplies.
“I know that everyone who has done this tells me how overwhelmed you’ll be with people’s kindness, and I just can’t wait to experience that firsthand because I know that’s going to be true, and I’ve already seen it,” Rookus said.
Though the previous trips the pair has taken together, as well as paddling in general, have improved their skill levels, they said they have learned life skills as well.
“I think the great thing about rivers is that they’re really dynamic environments; they change all the time,” Rookus said. “One river isn’t the same as another river. They present a lot of challenges. They’re just so great at teaching about preparation and the importance of being ready for anything.”
Though the trip will bring its share of challenges, Rookus and Waldo said they look forward to the rewards that will come along the way.
“My favorite part about paddling is waking up in a different place every day, and for this trip I’m looking most forward to paddling at night and seeing all the stars out away from all the light pollution we get here,” Waldo said.