Burras: Ames resident nears completion of 2,100-mile fundraising paddle

Todd Burras, Eyes on the Outdoors
Special to the Ames Tribune

Ames resident Hank Kohler is nearing the completion of his 2,100-mile fundraising paddle from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.

As of Tuesday, Kohler had paddled through Mississippi and was nearing Louisiana on the final stage of the expedition.

►Previous coverage: Veteran Ames paddler to set off on 2,100-mile trip for charity

Kohler, 69, began his journey from East Leaf Lake in east Otter Tail County northwest of St. Cloud on June 3. The self-funded trip is a fundraiser for the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium (NMRMA) in Dubuque. All donations go to the museum and aquarium, and as of earlier this week, Kohler has raised $20,000.

Hank Kohler, of Ames, is shown a few years ago while paddling the Missouri River in Montana. Kohler is set to embark June 3 on a 2,100-mile excursion of the Mississippi River.

It’s not his first long-distance paddle. In 1979, Kohler, his brother Keith, also of Ames, and two friends left from East Leaf Lake on a 1,400-mile trip to Canada’s Hudson Bay. A 2008 book titled “This Water Goes North” recounts the trip that took place on waters that flow north rather than south.

On his current journey on water that goes south, Kohler is partnering with the NMRMA to raise funds for its Take Conservation Action through Advocacy, Research, and Engagement (CAARE) initiative.

Take CAARE is a collaborative effort with numerous conservation organizations across the country that is working “to preserve and restore the Mississippi River and its watershed, foster an awareness of and appreciation for the variety of plant and animal life in the Mississippi River and North American watersheds, protect threatened and endangered species, and promote and ensure environmental sustainability through intelligent and innovative use of energy and our natural resources.”

According to the NMRMA’ website, donations raised to date will be used to purchase:

  • buckets to assist with the rearing of young mussels to increase their populations and keep rivers clean
  • pollinator host trees to support pollinators vital to riparian ecosystems
  • water quality testing kits to assess the health of waterways
  • necessities for restoration days focused on the removal of invasive species
  • wildflower seeds and plants for native gardens to support vital pollinators
  • support for four teenagers and chaperones to present selected stewardship projects in Washington D.C.
  • eight teen-selected stewardship projects.

Kohler has had several friends and family members paddle with him during different stages of the excursion.

You can read more about the One4water initiative and donate to Kohler’s fundraiser at www.rivermuseum.com/one4water or get updates on his trip on Facebook at One4Water.

***

Tyler Harms of Iowa Young Birders and staff from Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop invite the public to learn more about chimney swifts and other aerial insectivores at an indoor program followed by an evening walk through downtown Ames at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28.

Participants should meet at the WBU store at 213 Duff Ave. for an informative presentation on swifts and other avian insectivores, such as swallows, martins and night hawks, then be prepared to walk a short distance to Main Street to watch congregating swifts prepare to roost for the night in a chimney atop the Octagon Center for the Arts, and other possible locations.

The program is free and open to the public, but registration is requested by signing up at www.iowayoungbirders.org or by calling WBU at (515) 956-3145.

Todd Burras can be reached at outdoorstoddburras@gmail.com.