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First Black Woman Solo Paddle: Source to Sea

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In 2013, Devin Brown was standing in the kitchen of her childhood home in New Jersey when the name came to her: Afrodiskayak. That was what she would call her project. Her goal: To become the first Black woman to paddle the entire length of the Mississippi River, from source to sea.

The following year, she moved to Minnesota in pursuit of that dream.

Since then, Devin has worked tirelessly toward her goal. Her first summer in Minnesota, she spent weekends camping on an island in the Mississippi while working at Clear Waters Outfitting. When her second job, guiding on the river, fell through because the owner did not feel her aesthetic (being Black) was a good representation of the company, she found a job at the retailer Midwest Mountaineering, before starting a career as a massage therapist.

In those years, Devin faced many challenges, financial and otherwise. But in 2021 she was able to purchase her very own kayak. As soon as she did, she starting living on the water every chance she got. On the Mississippi River, she found self-care and healing right in the middle of the city. If she wasn’t paddling, her boat was strapped to the roof of her car, waiting for the next moment that she could put in. After a host of losses and setbacks, the river put Devin back together again.

She knew more people deserved to feel this whole again, After all, water is life. It runs through us, nurtures us, cleanses us. She hadn’t felt that whole since she was a camper and adventure trip leader at the Frost Valley YMCA Camp in the Catskill Mountains.

In June of 2022, Devin entered in the MR48, a nearly 50-mile race on the Mississippi River. She wanted to quit around mile 26, but her belief in the ability to wade through the challenges of life, a deep breath and dig deep to get back to self saw her through. In the end she took first place in the solo women’s division, completing the race in 6 hours, 13 minutes, in her first kayak. She was the only woman of color in her heat, and one of just a few people of color in all the races.

Now Devin wants to help everyone learn the lessons the river has to teach. She wants to help her community reconnect with themselves and achieve their highest potential, as she did, through the nurturing waters of the Mississippi.

In 2024 Devin will paddle her kayak from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, and finish at Mile Marker Zero in the Gulf of Mexico. Please help support her journey this down these 2,350 miles of the Mississippi River, and follow along as she does something most of us only dream of.

(She might also be looking for other badass women to join for sections of this adventure If you’re interested, please contact her!)

photo credit: Sarah Whiting

Check out some of Devin's features:

How will your donations be used:

Most of the funds will go to ensuring that Devin's Road safety crew is taken care of, which requires an RV, gas and food allowance as well as the occasional hotel shower stop along the Journey. RV America is quoting 16k not including gas & mileage.

A safety boat during certain stretches of the river, i.e crossing lake Winnie and from Saint Louis down to the Gulf of Mexico- Especially when getting closer to Louisiana as she'll have to navigate through cruise liners and a much larger river than we have here in Minnesota.

Devin Dreams, and has, of having other women/ people of color on the water with her, who will be trekking in from different parts of the country (maybe even as far as the UK), so a small fleet of 4 performance boats and paddles will be used by multiple paddlers.

Gear & Food


  • Gregory Loff
    • $100 
    • 16 d
  • Nancy Soares
    • $50 
    • 19 d
  • Adria Laird
    • $50 
    • 21 d
  • Karol Rubin
    • $75 
    • 22 d
  • Kevin Johnson
    • $200 
    • 23 d


Devin Brown
Minneapolis, MN

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