Steve Kueny’s Epic 38-Mile Expedition Along the Missouri River Sets New Record
In a remarkable feat of determination and whimsy, a Missouri man has shattered this year’s Guinness World Record for the longest journey by a pumpkin boat. Steve Kueny, hailing from Lebanon, Missouri, embarked on an extraordinary adventure aboard his 1,208-pound pumpkin boat christened “Huckle Berry.” After nearly 11 hours navigating the challenging waters of the Missouri River, Kueny emerged from his 38-mile odyssey in Napoleon, Missouri, expressing feelings of satisfaction despite the cold and fatigue.
The journey commenced at 7:30 a.m. in Kansas City, Kansas, and culminated at 6:18 p.m. in Napoleon, as reported by Kueny in an interview with USA Today. To ensure safety during this audacious endeavor, Kueny was joined by the Paddle KC Paddling Club and half a dozen accompanying boats. Their presence was vital in maintaining a vigilant watch over Kueny’s progress and ensuring he did not navigate the river in the dark.
Inside the carved-out pumpkin, the experience was as one might imagine—chilly and slightly slimy. Preliminary calculations indicate that Kueny covered a distance of just over 39 miles while kneeling within the confines of Huckle Berry.
Kueny’s vision of this extraordinary journey began to take shape around February of the same year. His passion for both water adventures and cultivating colossal pumpkins converged in this ambitious undertaking. He reasoned that the distance was attainable, motivating him to pursue this audacious quest.
However, the full weight of the situation did not truly register until Kueny reached the launch point. He recalled, “We’re really, really doing this.”
With meticulous planning, Kueny intends to submit comprehensive evidence to corroborate his record-setting journey. This evidence includes witnesses, GPS data, time stamps, video footage, photographs, and other documentation, all of which will be forwarded to Guinness World Records for verification.
In a similar feat the previous year, Nebraska man Duane Hansen secured the Guinness World record for pumpkin paddling, using an 846-pound pumpkin, thus surpassing all prior records.
For a bit of added stability, Kueny thoughtfully included sandbags on the floor of his pumpkin vessel, as revealed in KCTV5’s report.
The process of cultivating Huckle Berry to boat-worthy dimensions consumed Kueny’s entire summer. The pumpkin variety used, known as Dill’s Atlantic Giant, is uniquely capable of achieving such significant sizes. Kueny harvested the pumpkin approximately two weeks prior, transported it to a weigh-off event, and subsequently carved it over the weekend. Scooping out all the seeds took approximately 45 minutes of meticulous effort.
“We test floated it before we carved it so we would know which end wanted to be up. Once we figured that out, we marked it, made the hole at the center,” Kueny shared in an interview with KCUR-FM.
Kueny did not have the opportunity to test Huckle Berry in the water beforehand, which added an element of unpredictability to the venture. “It may take all day, or it may be over in five minutes,” he acknowledged.
The Paddle KC Paddling Club crew implemented comprehensive safety measures to protect Kueny during the voyage. These measures included monitoring the water temperature, water speed, the presence of other vessels, and marking multiple ramp access points, as stated by Christy Kurtz, the founder and manager of the Paddle KC Paddling Club. She added, “We’re hoping that we might be able to reach 4 1/2 miles an hour. If we float at 3 miles an hour and hit some eddies, it could be up to 12 hours. But we don’t want to be out on the river (after) dark tonight.”
Theresa DeSalvo, a board member of Friends of the Kaw, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the Kansas River, served as an official witness to the record-breaking achievement. Another witness in Napoleon documented Kueny’s triumphant arrival.
Reflecting on the occasion, DeSalvo shared her excitement, stating, “I was all excited about the great pumpkin coming to Kaw Point. It’s all in the spirit of Halloween and bringing people together on the river on this beautiful day,” as reported by KCUR-FM.
Kueny’s daring adventure follows in the wake of several other daring individuals who have navigated bodies of water using makeshift pumpkin vessels in recent years. Previous record holders include Duane Hansen in 2022, who completed a 37.50-mile journey down the Missouri River, and Rick Swenson in 2016, who traversed 25 miles from Grand Forks, North Dakota, to Oslo, Minnesota.
Using pumpkins as watercraft is not an entirely new concept; a Tennessee resident grew a 910-pound pumpkin in 2019 that was buoyant, and a small Illinois town used to host 500-pound-pumpkin boat races at their annual festival.
For Steve Kueny, this remarkable achievement encapsulates his spirit as “just a guy with a giant pumpkin and a whimsical sense of adventure.” He summed it up succinctly, saying, “It seemed like a good enough way to spend a Monday morning.”