F. Dale Sanders

Beyond the Mississippi

The Man, The Myth!


An Up-to-date: By GrayBeard Himself

On my 87th Birthday I launched my human powered 15 foot canoe named “Perseverance” and started paddling down river from Lake Itasca, Minnesota. My mission was to paddle the full length of the Mississippi River, and into the Gulf Of Mexico, alone, solo, in 87 days. I am happy to say that twelve miles passed mile zero “0” on September 8, 2022, at 12:10 pm, some 2,360 river miles later I reached salt water in the gulf. When I paddled passed the Port Eads, Louisiana Lighthouse I knew yet another age based World Record would shortly be broken. Thirty days later Guinness sanctioned this paddle as the Oldest Person to do so. I am grateful, not only to Guinness but my crew, the videographers, the donors, my sponsors, river angels, family and friends.

Although I paddled alone, a crew of two experienced Mississippi River paddlers followed me for all 87 days, not missing a beat. Thank you Matt Briggs and Dan Faust. Having paddled a Source to Sea before, they were a tremendous source for info. They were great teammates, served as witnesses for Guinness, providing much needed daily encouragement, navigation, media and coordination support. No doubt, without your dedicated support, personal contributions, blood, sweat and tears this difficult expedition would never have succeeded. Also, of value was a third person that joined the team above St. Louis, Missouri. Team member and seasoned veteran warrior – Matt Taylor. He paddled, each and every day with us, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Along with others that came out to paddle that last day and experience the victory of this great accomplishment.

I must mention our Mascot and now record holder – Meadow. The only Pomeranian to have done a Source to Sea on the Mississippi River. Meadow – You were an inspiration, a super morale builder and your love and companionship never wavered. Her unconditional love was well received by all. Thank you Matt for bringing her along.

This paddle was not a new experience for me. I actually held the Mississippi River oldest person record at 80 years old when I did my first Source to Sea paddle in 2015. Used the same route as I paddled this “Last Great River Paddle”. Then youngster Stan Stark broke my record setting a new Guinness age record at 81 years old. RIP my friend. May your good will, love for mankind, nature and your spiritual commitment on earth shine with dignity forever. We were good friends. And I hope others will benefit through examples like Stan and other adventures often endure. (No – his passing two years later was not related to the paddle)

Thank You to the River Angels that came out to help and a big THANK YOU those that made personal / financial donations. I would like to express my gratitude to all the companies and individual sponsors. For all of you, your names are recorded in a very special place on my heart. You were appreciated.

Both my Doctors have supported my age related record breaking paddles and hiking adventures. The future looks bright. God Willing and the Creeks Don’t Rise I will hike

the Appalachian Trail again, setting yet another age record at 90 years old.

With all the thanking and express of appreciation I must say family takes top honors.  My wife Meriam. She Has been with me on every adventure. If not in person, in spirit. She sometimes, works so hard in the background that her efforts go unnoticed. But, we Love you honey. Please stay loving and caring as you have been for the past 44 years. Thanks must also go to our children Jony, James and Sunshine. Our Grand Children, Bella daSilva and Isiah daSilva. As well as my lovely sisters  Dr. Elaine Sanders Bush and Judi Silvey. And to my extended family, in-laws the others – we love you all.

I am literally overwhelmed with joy with the quality of this website. I love the Images selected, DVD layout, jacket design and the DVD art work. Man! I was so blessed when Zak Rivers, Alex Maier, Amy Robin and Kyle Johnson came into my life. You guys are amazing. A BIG THANK YOU to the the website developer and videographers that sorted through 25 terabytes of raw data to select the footage needed to produce this film. All in 130 days from the last day on the river to the first showing of this award winning film.

We encourage you to purchase the DVD. Every effort is being made to at least recover production cost. And the best way we have found to do that is to sell DVD’s.

I trust you will agree with me. Be strong and happy, stay active and live a quality spiritual life my friends.

By: F. Dale Sanders 

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It all started in 1935, Lickskillet, Kentucky, where Dale Sanders was born on the banks of the Whippoorwill Creek. A typical day of leisure in his early years was spent in the waters and woods circulating three quarters of his parents’ tobacco farm. He added acrobatics to his outdoor skills, and also found himself to be a proficient swimmer.

Dale’s first real job was lifeguarding on Kentucky Lake. There, he launched his professional career, teaching swimming, first aid small craft. During this period, he certified thousands through these American Red Cross programs. His quest to be one with the water and it’s environment continued growing into his early 20’s and in 1958 influenced him to join the US Navy. During his active duty Navy life he also became a Navy Hospital Corpsman, Hard Hat Deep Sea Diver and served medic with the US Maine Corps in Okinawa.

By the mid 1960’s, Dale was nationally recognized through competitive sports such as swimming, springboard diving and spearfishing. He also started a SCUBA commercial driving and underwater company, all of which helped launch his life-long career in the field of Park and Recreation.

His first big travel adventure were with his wife Meriam. In 1983, the couple made a backpacking trip around the world. They passed through 26 countries, walking wherever possible, using commercial transportation only when necessary.

Dale’s thirst for adventure has never settled, but only continued to grow over the years. He is the only person known to have canoed (dragged where paddling was impossible) his boat the entire length of Tennessee’s Wolf River from its source to the Mississippi River in one continuous trip. Dale has hiked several of the south-west US canyon land landscapes. His favorite was “The Wave” accessible by permit Through upper Buckskin Gulch in southwest Utah. 

His last big Grand Canyon adventure was a Rim to Rim to Rim, a hike from south rim to the north rim, turning around an hiking back down and again crossing the Colorado River and out the Bright Angel Trail — a challenge only a handful of 80-year-olds have accomplished. He received a Guinness World Record as the oldest person to be certified by Guinness as completing this R2R2R hike.

He says a most memorable adventure was paddling the full length of the Mississippi River from Source to Sea at 80 years old in 80 days, in support of Juvenile Diabetes. He claims to have set an age-based world record for this expedition and he challenged older paddlers to better this accomplishment. In 2020 hiker Stan Stark at 81 years old broke this age record.  At 87 Dale came back and re-claimed that record. This was Dale’s second certified age Guinness World Record.

Dale also was a recipient of the acclaimed 2016 Canoe and Kayak Magazine’s Spirit of Adventure Award. A prestigious honor given to the person(s) who most inspires others to pursue outdoor adventures. His Mississippi River Source to Sea paddle was the focus of this award.

Dale’s national and international titles include the prestigious Athlete of the Year award from the International Underwater Spearfishing Association, a record for Underwater Breath Holding and numerous U.S. national / southeast Asian team and individual spearfishing awards. He received the esteemed individual USA Nationals Sports Foundation award for Excellence in Parks and Recreation. His aquatic certifications included skin and SCUBA diving by the YMCA, NAUI, US Marine Corps and PADI, where he became a teacher and Instructor Trainer (IT). As staff member to three American Red Cross aquatic schools he also became an Instructor Trainer in water safety, first aid and small craft.

Dale is retired from a successful career in Parks and Recreation. For nearly six decades, he worked full time in the profession — including 37 years with the Department of the Navy. He holds a Masters Degree from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California and continued his post graduate education in Morale, Welfare, Recreation and Parks until he retired in 2002.

Following his formal retirement, Dale’s hobby became River Guide for the Memphis, Tennessee based Wolf River Conservancy. He regularly volunteered for the Conservancy until he joined their staff as the Director of Outreach in 2013. He has since retired to a “Life After Eighty” adventure world where he now hold several age related records.

His Memphis-area home has become a favorite stopping and re-supply destination for long distance paddlers. He welcomes canoe and kayakers passing through to sign and add artwork to a wall in his home. The self-declared “Paddlers Wall of Fame”. Online and in-person, Dale is often referred to as “River Angel” or “Grey Beard”. He also found time to serve as Staff Photographer at several of the U.S. salt water Spearfishing Competitions and Fresh Water Nationals and World Fresh Water Spearfishing Championships.

After completing the Mississippi River paddle he and teammates, also in record time, successfully paddle-boarded the MR340 human powered craft race across the State of Missouri, from Kansas City, Kansas to St. Louis. Eighty one hours at 81 years old. A fete no others his age have completed.

UPDATE: On 26 October 2017 Dale completed a “Through Hiking” on the Appalachian Trail (AT). At 82 years old he held the record as the “Oldest Person” to ever hike the full 2190 mile long trail for five years. (His record was broken by Dr. M.J. “Nimblewill Nomad” Eberhart in 2022). The hike took Dale through 14 states, ten months to complete through some of the most difficult wilderness areas mostly along the Eastern Continental Divide, from Springer Mountain in Georgia to the summit of Katahdin in central Maine. He has issued a challenge to anyone older that might like to “Through Hike” the AT and take the record home.

UPDATE UPDATE of Mach 2022: The word is out. Dale says: “God willing and the creeks don’t rise” he intend to put together a team and try and set the new record at 90 years old in in 2025.

Dale’s 2019 adventure hiking the second leg of the Eastern Continental Trail (ECT) from Key West Florida to the AT southern terminus at Springer Mt. Georgia. Plans were to hike the Canadian remaining roughly 800 mile in the future. Because the Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST) is part of the overall ECT he will also holds records for “Completing” and a “Through Hiking” the Florida Trail and the Florida National Scenic Trail.

Dale recently said: “My plans were to hike roughly 800 miles of the International Appalachian Trail remaining between Mt Katahdin in Maine and northern Newfoundland, Canada in 2020. That is if my health holds out Dale said and if my wife is still on board. Would be nice to also hold the age record, for hiking the entire ECT, along with the other five age records”.

UPDATE UPDATE of June 2020 : (Unfortunately Covid 19 resulted in the closing of the border between Canada and US, and remained closed for approximately two years. He has now hiked every step between Key West, Florida and Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park Main, near the Canadian border. After paddling the Mississippi River again in 2022 he still plans on some day hiking the remaining portion of the ETC.

In 2020 Dale also was awarded another Guinness Record: Hiking the Grand Canyon. Oldest Person to hike a Rim to Rim to Rim. (R2R2R). In six days. Dale said this was the easiest World Record he has ever received. Well – if you don’t consider that third day hiking up from Cottonwood Campground to the North Rim and back to Cottonwood. Elevation change about one mile. Once reaching the top we had to turn round and hike back down to Cottonwood; all in one day. That day took more than a piece of cake to accomplish. But I survived and now proud of my team, The Bluff City Canoe Club, for making it possible for me to do this hike.

A final note of interest – Frank and Jessie James parents were also born and raised in Lickskillet, and yes, they were related to Dale’s side of the Sanders family.