Where do you camp at night? What happens if you run out of water? Where do you get food?
While finding the basic staples for survival isn't difficult, your options on the river will vary greatly and it may require a bit of planning.
Read on for more about finding food, water, and shelter on the Mississippi river.
On this portion of the river, the Minnesota DNR regulates many nice campsites along the river bank, many of them accessible only from the water. These campsites do not provide water, shelter, or restrooms and are conveniently labeled on the (free!) DNR Mississippi River maps, which are absolutely necessary for the first part of the river. These campsites are sometimes located a couple of miles apart or sometimes as much as 20 miles apart, thus, you should keep your pace in mind and coordinate your end-time with the location of your desired campsite. If for some reason you are unable to find a proper campsite, don't worry. The river is full of potential impromptu camping spots--some are just better than others.
South of Hastings, you will need to rely on maps from the US Army Corps of Engineers. While boat landings, marinas, and private campsites are often labeled on these maps, the free Mississippi Upper River Valley campsites are not. The Upper Valley campsites usually consist of just sand and a fire-pit, and they are often labeled by a white sign, making them easy to spot from a distance. On this portion of the river, these campsites are less frequent and are typically found just a few miles outside of river towns.
Once again, if you are unable to find a labeled camp ground, finding an alternative space to camp along the river shouldn't be a problem. Islands are numerous along this stretch of the river, and we often preferred to camp on them so we could stay away from unexpected strangers during the night.
After St. Louis, finding campsites gets even easier, particularly when the water level is down. There are thousands of sandbars or flat grassy perfect for camping. A word of advice: tie up your boat at night because the water level may sometimes change overnight and carry your boat away and we've heard many horror stories about this happening.
Finding drinking water on the Upper Mississippi (north of St. Louis) is incredibly easy. Typically, we stopped at marinas to fill up with water, mostly due to the convenience of not having to travel very far. We were never turned down and people often asked us if there was anything else that we needed. If a marina can't be found, stopping at people's homes or going into a restaurant are also viable options.