Madison Eklund Completes 2,400km Solo Kayak

Madison Eklund has successfully kayaked from Minnesota to Hudson Bay.

She began the 2,400km paddle on May 7 from Fort Snelling, at the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. Eklund took the Minnesota River, then paddled a chin of lakes to the Red River. She followed this across the Canadian border and continued north through Manitoba. Finally, after four and a half months, she arrived at Hudson Bay on September 24.

During the final part of her journey, she confronted the Hayes River and its 45 sets of rapids. Though an experienced sea kayaker, she did not have extensive whitewater experience. She portaged the worst ones but paddled others.

Eklund told the Grand Forks Herald, “Once I got there, it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be…Most of [the rapids] had a very logical spot where there was a portage.”

A map showing the route

Photo: expedition_alpine/Facebook


Her biggest challenge turned out to be not rapids, but spending much of the four months alone. She enjoyed the people contact. Early on, when spring floods forced her off the water, a family took her in for two weeks. Other locals offered her a bed for the night. Occasionally she camped near well-wishers. Looking back, she said that talking to people along the river was the highlight of her trip.

“You learn so much more about the local area, the history, and the environment,” she said. “You don’t have that context if you always stay on the river and never talk to anybody.”

A view of the river whilst paddling

Photo: expedition_alpine/Facebook


Knowing there was the possibility of meeting both black bears and polar bears along the way, her father tried to convince her to carry a gun, but Eklund refused. Eventually, she agreed to take a flare gun with her. In the end, she didn’t see any bears, wolves, or even caribou. 

Eklund sets up camp on the waters edge

Photo: expedition_alpine/Facebook


Eklund believes that she is the first person to complete the journey alone. A few years ago, she was looking for a long kayak expedition when she heard about two women, Natalie Warren and Ann Raiho, who had kayaked from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay in 2011. Warren later wrote a book about the expedition.

They, in turn, were following the route described in the book Canoeing with the Cree, about the initial journey from Minnesota to Hudson Bay by Walter Port and Eric Sevareid in 1930. In preparation for her trip, Eklund read both books and met with Warren. 

A view of the river whilst paddling

Photo: expedition_alpine/Facebook


The ending turned out to be somewhat anticlimactic. Eklund had pictured herself becoming emotional as she landed at York Factory on the shores of Hudson Bay. Instead, she was in such a hurry to get home for an imminent move across the country from North Dakota to California that she didn’t have time to be emotional.

Would she do this route a second time?

“It was an awesome experience,” she said, “but I have so many other trips I want to do that I don’t think I would dedicate another four months of my life to doing this one again.”

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.