Windy City

Episode 6: Mississippi by Canoe

“Unquestionably the discovery of the Mississippi is a datable fact which considerably mellows and modifies the shiny newness of our country, and gives her a most respectable outside-aspect of rustiness and antiquity.” — Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi

For the new country of the United States, the river that bisected it was old. This mighty river shaped the destiny of the towns and cities along its many miles of shoreline. Chicago was just a backwater to St. Louis, Missouri and Galena, Illinois before the railroads began to dominate transportation and Chicago’s rapid rise to prominence.

Our esteemed guest Paul Meincke took full measure of this river on an epic 70-day journey and joins the Windy City Historians in a special episode of our “Canoe Chronicles” to share some history and present reality of the “Mighty” Mississippi. In 2017, Paul, with friends Bill Baar, Tim Clark, and Tom Lobacz, started this adventure at the river’s headwaters in Minnesota and canoed some 2,320 miles to Gulf of Mexico. Captured in the documentary ”Mississippi by Canoe” on YouTube, Paul will tells of the trip’s challenges, triumphs, and insights and offers some behind the scenes in the making of the documentary. We hope you will enjoy this lively tale of paddling, politics, and history sprinkled with legends, mosquitoes, alligators, and how life is better when experienced by canoe, even 950,000 paddle strokes later.

Paul Meincke is “mostly” retired after 30-years of general assignment reporting for ABC7 Eyewitness News in Chicago, and ironically Paul’s celebrated 45-year broadcast career began on the banks of the Mississippi River in his hometown, Rock Island, Illinois. It was a real pleasure to met and talk with him.

Links to Research and History Documents

Episode 5: Missing at Death’s Door

Our examination of René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle continues in this episode, as we follow the progress of the 1976-77 La Salle II Expedition, which ran into rough weather in Door County, Wisconsin and plot their progress as winter forces the crew out of their canoes to walk or portage the frozen rivers and roads, as they try to make it to the Mississippi. Author Lorraine Boissoneault shares her insights from her book The Last Voyageurs and we interview Reid & Ken Lewis who organized this epic reenactment and and Rich Gross who was part of the crew on this trek seeking the Gulf of Mexico.

We also gained fascinating insights from our interview with veteran broadcaster Paul Meincke recounting his 2017 trip canoeing the Mississippi from its headwaters to the Gulf and the ever present dangers of paddling this river of commerce of America’s heartland.

Links to Research and History Documents

Episode 1: Who Was First?

Released Friday, March 29, 2019 – On the 344 Anniversary of Father Marquette getting flooded out of his winter camp in 1675, at the place the Indians called Chicaogua.

In real estate it’s all about “Location, Location, Location.”  So what happens if our Chicago isn’t really in Chicago? Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet explored a land that Native Americans called “Chicagoua” in 1673 and left clues to where this place can be found. It took historian John Swenson over three decades to unravel the mystery of the location of Chicago, and the evidence he found – remarkably – calls into question the story told by most 19th century historians.

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