This New England woman just swam the entire length of the Connecticut River
A woman from South Hadley, Massachusetts, just finished her four-year odyssey to become the first known person to swim the entire length of the Connecticut River.
Kari Kastango completed her feat Oct. 15 at the mouth of the 410-mile waterway in Old Lyme.
She spoke with Connecticut Public Radio’s Jeni Ahrens about what she learned about the river — and herself.
Jeni Ahrens: What gave you the idea and why did you do it?
Kari Kastango: The idea arose out of the fact that there were no immediate lakes or ponds where I had moved to in South Hadley. I was tired of doing flip turns in a pool and a friend had stated that they swim in the Connecticut River. I swam a lot at Elwell Recreational Park in Northampton, but I'm not one necessarily to swim in one spot, and then I just thought, well, this would be fun to do the entire river. In doing this, it was to develop a relationship with the river.
Ahrens: Was there always someone next to you?
Kastango: Yeah, there was always someone next to me for safety reasons. Either it was my wife, or a good friend in a canoe or kayak. And after one particularly exciting outing from Turners Falls to Sunderland, which is an 11-mile stretch and I did that in two hours and eight minutes with the help of a water release from a dam, my wife Alison said, 'I think we should get a boat.'
Ahrens: You are looking at the tides and you are looking at when water is being released; what kind of logistical planning went into each little chunk you were going to swim?
Kastango: The amount of time I spent planning logistics was about four times the amount of time it took me to swim. The Connecticut River’s boating guide was a key resource. This past year, all my swims were at least three-and-a half hours driving one way and I was doing this on the weekends.
Ahrens: So you saw the whole length of the Connecticut River. What was the worst thing you saw or experienced?
Kastango: The number of tires that I've seen tossed into the river throughout the entire length. I'd like to go back and try to retrieve them.
Ahrens: What was the best thing you experienced or saw?
Kastango: The wildlife; from a bald eagle eating a fresh catch on the left bank of the river just below Ryegate, I saw a little baby duck learning how to navigate river rapids with its siblings and parents. Blue herons have graced the majority of my swims and those now hold a near and dear place in my heart. I now know squirrels can swim. One crossed my path from Sunderland to Hatfield. I swam past a sturgeon and I was in awe the rest of the swim. There were loons when I was swimming on the third Connecticut Lake, which is gorgeous.
Ahrens: Is there anything else I haven't asked that you'd like to mention?
Kastango: This swim would not have been possible without the Connecticut River Conservancy … As well as the people who just recently participated in the Source to Sea Cleanup this past year. The other is that I didn't understand how my passion for swimming could make an impact. So what I encourage others to do is find out what you're passionate about and find a way to bring that into your communities. So that you can create a connection and a relationship to your communities and give back. And in giving, you will also be receiving.