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MK-FH Photographer: Mark Kalch Location: Volga River, Russia

Humans have always been drawn to rivers. The greatest civilizations in history have sprung and flourished alongside them. They flow through every environment on the planet, bringing us the essentials of life. But, what rivers give, they can also take away. They are powerful, frightening, majestic, and awe-inspiring. They are life.

Paddling the world’s longest and largest rivers is magical. Like climbing or trekking amongst mountains, you become a part of that place. You are connected to it in a way that travelling by other means just does not allow. It becomes, for just a short time, your natural environment. The people who call the river banks home become your neighbors, and you share their lives.

Dusk on the wide Amazon River, snow covered trees beside the Missouri River in Montana, watching the sun rise on the Volga River by a city a thousand years old, the sun setting over cowboys herding cattle across the Darling River in Australia; the images and stories are endless.

Descending these rivers provides a unique insight into the life they have built and sustain. The great waterways of the world have shaped the very existence of humans and the ecosystems in which they live. Bringing these stories to life is the reason to paddle them. From the fisherman, the hunter, the family and the power company worker, to the farmer, the trees, the predator and the prey. All have inspiring and thoughtful stories to reveal.

Days, weeks, or months on a river bring a paddler closer to the planet and its people. Understanding our place here is the wonderful outcome.

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Mark Kalch is attempting to paddle the longest river on each continent from source to sea. For more on his project, check out http://markkalch.com/.

MK-1 Photographer: Scott Martin Location: Apurimac River, Peru
MK-2 Photographer: Scott Martin Location: Apurimac River, Peru
MK-3 Photographer: Mark Kalch Location: Upper Missouri River, MT
MK-4 Photographer: Mark Kalch Location: Mississippi River, MS