Paddling the Heart of America

A 4,000-mile Kayaking Adventure from Minnesota to Key West to Protect Our WatersTallahassee, Florida, is a mere thirty minutes from the Gulf of Mexico. This made for some of Daniel Alvarez’s best childhood memories. He grew up playing on St. George Island, and the Gulf’s tranquil expanse was always within sight and traveling range. Over the years, his love of adventure has led him across the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide trails, but the five-state water body still has his heart. “It’s a very personal place for me and many others,” says Daniel “Out of Order” Alvarez, a 31-year-old law school graduate, “but it needs more commitment from the people who use it to help protect it.” Daniel is turning his latest journey, a 4000-mile kayaking trip, into support for a great cause: a healthy Gulf. Of course, the fate of the Gulf relies on the actions of much of the country because, as Daniel’s trip shows, our waters are connected.Starting at the northernmost point in Minnesota, Daniel won’t stop paddling until he hits Key West. Before he even reaches the Gulf, he will make his way through the Boundary Waters, Lake Superior and the Mississippi River. Then he’ll move along the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to the southern tip of Florida. He has the route plotted out and will stop to replenish food and supplies in towns along the way, as well as update his website and blog at This journey is certainly a huge undertaking, and Daniel has had little kayaking experience, but he is not hesitant. A home-made video on his blog shows he is both prepared and excited for the obstacles and wildlife (from snakes to snapping turtles to rapids) he will encounter across these interconnected waterways. The trip is new territory in more ways than one: “This is more than just another trip,” he explains. “I want to show people that adventure exists right in their backyards as well as the need to protect these natural wonders for future generations.” Beginning the adventure in the Northwest Angle! Daniel started out on June 11, 2012. Photo by Daniel Alvarez.Daniel’s cause may have personal roots, but he is certainly not working alone. To help tell his story and further his mission to protect our waters and the Gulf, Alvarez has teamed up with us at Gulf Restoration Network, along with three other great environmental non-profits: American Rivers, Florida Wildlife Federation, and Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.Necky Kayaks also got in on the adventure by donating a great kayak for the trip, and Daniel won a voting contest to win Outside Magazine’s $10,000 Adventure Grant! Along with the funding, Outside’s involvement will help publicize the trip.Here at Gulf Restoration Network, we’re excited to help make this adventure an effective tool for raising awareness and advocating to address environmental issues along the route. His route may cover some of America’s natural majesty, but some of its landmarks are upsetting: the nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in the Mississippi River that causes the Gulf Dead Zone, lingering impacts of the BP oil disaster, and scars of development and water mismanagement on Florida’s coast.We’re helping Daniel get up to speed on the various issues he’ll see along the way, and he’s reminding us of the beauty and wonder that can be found on the waters that flow to the Gulf and lap at its shores.GRN will be sharing updates of Daniel’s journey, and we’re excited to make sure the adventure and the causes it’s supporting get the attention they deserve. In the interest of hastening restoration, Alvarez will be using pit stops to spread the word about GRN and the other organizations. We’ll work together to earn media attention, organize storytelling events with Daniel, and use his trip to show the public and decision-makers the importance of protecting the Gulf. GRN will provide updates on this blog and through social media about the trip, and Daniel will share his perspective on our issues via its heart though, Alvarez’s website and blog are day-to-day (or close to it) accounts of his journey that take us into this crazy adventure with photos and prose in order to remind us just what’s at stake. “I hope this will open some doors and gain more support for the Gulf and all the waterways I am traveling,” he says earnestly. “They won’t always be there for journeys like this unless those of us who love them do more than just enjoy them. This trip is a great adventure, but also an opportunity to help raise awareness about the great work GRN and other organizations are doing to protect our lakes, rivers, and oceans. I hope it inspires others to help out however they can.”Getting used to the view. Daniel is now past International Falls, MN and preparing to enter Lake Superior. Photo by Daniel Alvarez.Dan Favre is GRN’s Communications Director. Jacob Dilson, Media and Communications Intern, also contributed to this article.

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