Two filmmakers are paddling down the Missouri and Mississippi River systems in a kayak to document the degrading quality of water as they head south toward New Orleans. Nick Caiazza and Joe Zimmerman started at the Missouri River’s headwaters in Montana and have made it as far as Omaha-Council Bluffs. Caiazza calls this the adventure of a lifetime.
“We are seeing the river from its birthplace almost to its death in the Gulf of Mexico,” Caiazza says. “To watch the water come out of the mountains and to watch it grow from a tiny stream to these giant reservoirs and have it transfer into the channelized river where you have barges, seeing the composition of the water change, seeing the wildlife change, there’s no experience like it.”
Caiazza says they are paddling the river without the use of any motors, which includes moving their kayak and equipment themselves around 16 dams during the journey. He says their film will try to answer a series of questions. “How are we as humans responsible for the decomposition of the river?” he asks. “How is what we put into the river affecting people downstream? I don’t want to say, ‘It’s filthy now, the water is horrible,’ but we’ve noticed drastic changes in the water quality, even in Omaha. This is our first big city and I imagine things are going to kind of digress.”
He’s already seeing more pollution in the waterway, the longer they paddle. “Passing through Sioux City, there was so much more trash, things in the water, contaminants,” Caiazza says. “Going through Williston (North Dakota) and seeing all of the oil and gas stuff, it’s just amazing how much industry is on the river, all the food packing plants, who uses the river and what is potentially going in the river.”
The goal is to reach the Gulf of Mexico in five months and produce a documentary for release next year. The journey will take the men through 14 states and nearly 4,000 miles.