The Great Loop: Bill Nedderman’s 6,000-Mile Journey

Posted on July 24, 2012

On July 6, Bill Nedderman paddled onto Lakeside’s shore while on his journey along The Great Loop.

He simply stopped to mail a letter and was surprised to discover a very unique community atmosphere he had never experienced before.

The Great Loop is the continuous waterway that encompasses the eastern portion of North America, including the Atlantic and Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes, the Canadian Heritage Canals and the inland rivers of America’s heartland.

Also known as the Great Circle Route, The Great Loop is considered one of the safest long distance cruising routes in the world.

Because of the long distance, most members of the American Great Loop Cruisers’ Association (AGLCA) who choose to embark on the journey sail in yachts.

The AGLCA is an organization of people who share a sense of adventure and a curiosity about America’s Great Loop.

The primary purpose of the group is to enhance the overall experience for those learning about, exploring and safely cruising America’s Great Loop.

Very few choose to paddle along the 6,000-mile loop, Nedderman being one of those few.

"I think things like this really help make life fun and interesting," he said.

Nedderman began paddling The Great Loop in October 2011 and has been continuing along the loop ever since. He is paddling in a boat he constructed himself called the Helen Lucille, named after his grandmother.

While on any trip, he pays close attention to the weather, especially storms and extreme temperatures. Weather is a big influence on the distance and time it takes a paddler to make each day.

He started from his home in Lovilia, Iowa, and headed down the Mississippi River to the Ohio River down to the Tennessee River. From there, he continued south to the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, and by Christmas Eve he reached Mobile Bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico.

He followed the Gulf Coast through the Okeechobee Canal, across the state of Florida, until he reached the Atlantic Ocean.

Once he reached the Atlantic Ocean he paddled along the east coast up to the Hudson River in New York and to the Erie Canal.

Nedderman traveled along Lake Erie for 15 days before he reached Lakeside, where he stopped to mail a letter for a new paddle because his broke along the journey.

"I’ve never experienced anything like this," he said of Lakeside. "I really like the nice, relaxing feel of the community."

When he stopped in Lakeside he was nine months into his trip and has three more to go before he finishes The Great Loop and returns home.

"I really want to paddle the Ohio River," he added. "I think that will be my next trip."

After leaving Lakeside, he will finish his journey by paddling through Lake Superior and Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. He plans to reach Chicago, Ill., by September and end down the Mississippi River until he reaches his home in Iowa.

Nedderman has participated in several six-eight month paddling trips before paddling The Great Loop. He also enjoys long-distance hiking and cycling.

"I’m all about human power," he said.

For more information about The Great Loop, visit