Nate Denofre: First Bilateral Amputee to Paddle the Mississippi River
People who are living with limb loss or limb difference can still be physically active. Nate Denofre, a bilateral below-knee amputee, believes that you can do anything you want to, as long as you grow with the challenges.
Denofre and his wife Christa began their voyage down the 2,300-mile Mississippi River in May and ended in August.
Paddling the Mississippi River is the most challenging river expedition in the country. It’s composed of 15 or 16 different rivers in one. There are tricky currents and even alligators. The Denofres prepared for the trip for two years, but all the research didn’t prepare them enough for what they had to endure—miserable cold, sweltering heat, and lots of mud.
Despite all that, they pushed through until the end.
The trip, aptly called “Paddling for Perseverance,” has two goals: to raise funds for Courage Incorporated, a non-profit organization Denofre founded in Wisconsin and Michigan, and to inspire other people with physical disabilities that they can do things they once thought were off-limits to them.
Paddling for courage and inspiration
Courage Incorporated takes physically disabled adults and veterans on various outdoor adventures all over the US, from camping to hiking to fishing. It aims to break the misconception that people can’t do certain things because of their physical condition.
The organization doesn’t charge participants for anything, and they organize everything—gas, food, and volunteers.
Denofre was born with amniotic band syndrome, a rare congenital disability. It left him without legs below his knees. Despite that, Denofre has always been active. He played football and worked as a machinist. Denofre manages his condition by continually challenging his limits. Through Courage Incorporated, he wanted other adults with physical conditions to experience the same freedom.
Until Denofre, no double-amputee has successfully paddled the length of the Mississippi River before. He hoped that other people would get inspired by his expedition.
Denofre wanted to show people with physical disabilities that anything is possible. He wanted to give them hope and a different perspective.
Relying on the kindness of strangers
Denofre was so close to quitting when they arrived in Greenville, Mississippi, and the exhaustion of the past few weeks started to set. They had not eaten or drank water all day, and the person who was supposed to supply them with water didn’t show up. At the same time, Denofre had a touch of sunstroke.
A retired minister picked the Denofres up and took them to his house, where the couple could eat and sleep on a real bed with air conditioning. The couple stayed there for two days. It was what they needed at that moment to push through.
They were also assisted by the river angels, an organization composed of individuals who live along the Mississippi. They help paddlers traveling the river. The angels take them to grocery stores or resupply their gear. Some angels also connect paddlers to a house where they can get a good night’s sleep.
When the Denofres stopped in Vicksburg, they were assisted by Layne Logue, a river angel. With her help, they were able to resupply and learn more about the area’s history. They also spent two nights at a hotel in the area.
Through the expedition, Denofre learned valuable life lessons. He realized that in the wilderness, what you look like doesn’t matter. What matters is that is you get through the challenging spots and grow as you move along.If you or a loved one wants to experience the great outdoors, get in touch with Courage Incorporated. If you can, please consider donating to the organization.