It's a 6K-Mile Journey You Likely Haven't Heard Of

About 200 people complete America's Great Loop each year
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 16, 2022 1:25 PM CST
Updated Nov 20, 2022 7:55 AM CST
More People Climb Everest Than Do America's Great Loop
The Erie Canal is part of the Great Loop.   (Getty Images/nikonphotog)

You know about impressive feats like summiting Everest, completing the full Appalachian Trail, or swimming the English Channel. But as USA Today and the Wilmington News Journal point out, there's another trek that's completed by just 200 people a year—far fewer than the 700 who stand atop Everest, 1,000 who traverse the entire AT, and hundreds who make it across the Channel. It's known as America's Great Loop, a 6,000-mile circumnavigation of the eastern US that skirts into Canada. The route makes use of a long list of waterways, among them the Great Lakes; the Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee rivers; the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway; the Erie Canal; and the Atlantic Ocean, from Cape May, NJ, to New York Harbor. As for what it's like to complete, Jill and James Iverson weigh in.

The Wisconsin couple departed from the Manitowoc Marina on Sept. 2, 2021, traveled south to the Gulf of Mexico, sailed around Florida's coast, then headed north to Canada before making it back to Lake Michigan on Sept. 10 of this year. They say they went a full year without spying a strip mall, but they did take in sights like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Ellis Island, and groups of dolphins in the Atlantic—as many as 35 at once at one point. Their single-engine boat topped out at about 10mph, meaning they generally logged 40 to 50 miles a day. The Muddy River News notes boaters usually flow with the current, which keeps them in warm weather during the typically yearlong journey.

In its 2021 look at the Loop, National Geographic delved into the history, noting it was "never officially forged or constructed" but rather "follows existing waterways mostly maintained by federal and state governments." An 18-year-old was the first to realize the loop was possible; Ken Ransom and three friends departed in 1898 and were successful in their quest. But it hasn't gone unchanged, with National Geographic pointing out that the 1984 construction of the 234-mile Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway allows boaters to avoid the lower Mississippi, which can get crowded with commercial shipping vessels. (More sailing stories.)

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