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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

Vol 9 No 10b, Tuesday Oct 8, 2013

Rivergator 2013

celebratory trips

Sign up now and join in:

Celebrating the opening of the Rivergator:

Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

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Candy-Colored 2nd Chickasaw Bluff draped with Kudzu

November 4-8

Caruthersville to Memphis

November 12-15

Memphis to Helena

November 18-22

Greenville to Vicksburg

Welcome to the 2013 Rivergator: Paddlers Guide to the Lower Mississippi River!

We have added on three new sections to www.rivergator.org website to accurately describe the Lower Mississippi River from Caruthersville 450 miles downstream to Vicksburg (the Missouri Bootheel to the end of the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta). This includes the cities of Osceola, Memphis, Helena, Rosedale, Arkansas City, Greenville, Lake Providence and Vicksburg, and wild deep river topography including the Chickasaw Bluffs, Crowley's Ridge, Macon Ridge and the dizzying loops of the giant river meanders through the ArkLaMiss alluvial floodplain. Missouri, most of Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and all of eastern Arkansas are now covered by the Rivergator. Next year we will run the Rivergator all the way north to St. Louis and south to the Gulf of Mexico.

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Utah meets the Mississippi at the 2nd Chickasaw Bluff

Caruthersville to Memphis:

113 miles of the big river from the paddler-friendly town of Caruthersville, Missouri to the thriving metropolis of Memphis Tennessee, the largest big river city south of St. Louis. Along the way you’ll paddle over mud that’s over 6,000 feet deep and an entire loess bluff caving into the river. You’ll see towboats and fishermen and a few crusty river towns like Osceola and Randolph. You’ll camp on beaches the size and feel of Caribbean beaches, and paddle through narrow chutes with lush overhanging willows and cottonwoods. You’ll be hemmed in by revetment and dikes in one place, and then released into long sections of the main channel with no levee -- where the floodplain forest/wetlands are still connected directly to the river, creating an incredibly vibrant ecosystem of bayous, sluices, chutes, pools, and back channels overflowing with wildlife. In some places you might think you’re in the Amazon jungle for all the mud and trees, in other places you might be overwhelmed by the large agricultural landscapes, or by a couple of sprawling steel plants. In one special location you’ll think you’ve discovered a land of the lost where the Mississippi River meets Utah (at the base of the startling candy-colored ridges and buttes of the 2nd Chickasaw Bluff).

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Hickman Bar

The river here rolls out of the Missouri Bootheel and into the wild floodplain below between Tennessee and Arkansas, it’s so wild that no levees are needed for 60 miles along the left bank side of the river from Moss Island to Memphis! This section is full of tributary rivers with deep woody bottoms, strange colorful mud slides, and dozens of islands and back channels to explore, many protected within wildlife refuges and state parks. There is some heavy industry along the way, a couple of noisy steel plants and a giant power plant (below Osceola), and some busy grain docks and two harbors -- none of which you’ll want to camp near. Nevertheless your hard paddling will be rewarded again and again with fabulous views of the Chickasaw Bluffs along the Western edge of the state of Tennessee and adjacent bottomland hardwood forests, including the colossal cliff-bluffs at Fort Pillow (1st Chickasaw Bluff), the astounding colorful chalky glacier of mud above Richardson’s Landing (2nd Chickasaw Bluff), Meeman-Shelby State Forest (3rd Chickasaw Bluff) and finally the sweeping view of the Memphis skyline, including the Memphis Bridge and the Pyramid, and downtown Memphis (which straddles the 4th Chickasaw Bluff). The vista from the river is unparalleled! Points of interest include Obion RIver, Moss Island Wildlife Management Area, Nucor Yamamato Steel, Island 30/Osceola Back Channel, Hatchie River Bottoms, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, Hickman Bar, Loosahatchie and Wolf Rivers, the elegant “M” Bridge and finally the eye-popping view of skyscrapers over the Beale Street Harbor and Landing. The vista from the river is unparalleled! You’ve never seen downtown Memphis if you haven’t viewed it from the river!

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Memphis Lower Bridges

Memphis to Helena:

73 miles of the big river from the pyramid city of Memphis to the paddler’s oasis Helena Arkansas. After leaving downtown Memphis you’ll swish under the last three bridges and some industry along the south bluff, and then you’ll quickly return to the wilds of the Lower Mississippi with nothing but forested islands, big river and big open skies as your scenery. Of course there’ll be towboats and fishermen and a few casinos along the way, but it’s amazing how quickly the city disappears into the wilderness. You’ll camp on beaches the size and feel of Caribbean beaches, and paddle through narrow chutes with lush overhanging willows and cottonwoods. You'll be hemmed in by revetment and dikes in one place, and then released into long sections of the main channel where the floodplain forest and riverbank wetlands are still connected directly to the river, creating an incredibly vibrant ecosystem of bayous, sluices, chutes, pools, and back channels overflowing with wildlife, notably at Tunica Runout and the mouth of the St. Francis River.

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Tunica Cutoff

This is the land that gave birth to the Delta Blues, and was once the cotton kingdom of the world. Its forest was America’s Amazon, millions of acres of deep woods now removed for farmland. Leaving Tennessee and entering Mississippi the paddler is welcomed by a long line of casinos that rivals Atlantic City, but which you’ll see little evidence of as you paddle behind long chains of islands in the same area, although you should stop for a visit to the Tunica Riverpark Museum.The river carves elegant S-curves through deep woods as it meanders through Commerce Bend, Mhoon Bend and Walnut Bend, and then wanders down through a floodplain fifteen miles wide to the mouth of the St. Francis River. The St. Francis is the biggest west bank tributary downstream of St. Louis. The big river engulfs mind-boggling swaths of muddy landscapes as it is forced southerly by the strange geophysical anomaly Crowley’s Ridge, which parallels the Mississippi out of Missouri. Buck Island invites exploration, picnicking or camping, and Helena, Arkansas commands the base of Crowley’s Ridge. As result of the high ground Helena is the only population in between Memphis and Vicksburg (300 miles) that sits right on the main channel. Visit the Delta Cultural Center, or coordinate your adventure with one of the world’s greatest celebrations of music, the King Biscuit Blues Festival (October). Canoeists, SUPs and kayakers will find provisions, maps, gear, and paddling tips at Quapaw Canoe Company in Helena, as well as water and Wi-Fi.

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Kentucky Island

Greenville to Vicksburg

After leaving Greenville the Mighty Mississippi flows south in giant meandering loops through the verdant and fantastically fertile Mississippi Delta. This is the land that gave birth to the Delta Blues, and was once the cotton kingdom of the world. The blues musician Muddy Waters was born near Rolling Fork, and a thriving blues and arts scene survives in Greenville. There are no tributaries along this 100-mile stretch of river, as result the water gets cleaner and cleaner the further downstream you go from Greenville (no point-source pollution), and by the time you enter Vicksburg the sandbars are almost completely free of trash and the water at its cleanest since leaving the state of Minnesota! The Mississippi floodplain forest was once America’s Amazon, but millions of acres of trees have been removed for farmland. Remnants of the deep woods are protected along the river between the levees by the extreme rises and falls of the big river. Giant oxbow lakes are found on either side of the river, notably Chicot Lake (largest oxbow in North America), and the oxbow congregations found at Possum Chute/Old RIver and Chotard/Albermerle/Eagle Lake/Paw-Paw. The river carves elegant C-curves and S-curves through deep woods as it meanders through Kentucky Bend, Sarah’s Chute, Marshall Cut-Off and then wanders down through its deepest woods above the mouth of the Yazoo River, the “River of Death.” Here the big river engulfs mind-boggling swaths of muddy landscapes as it is forced south-southeasterly by Macon Ridge, which parallels the Mississippi out of Arkansas into Louisiana. The big river slams headlong into the towering Vicksburg bluff at the Yazoo confluence and here ends the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta. Possible alternate route through Paw Paw Chute for expert paddlers only. Vicksburg is the best place for resupply and reconnoiter. Paddlers will want to visit the Mississippi River Museum located inside the MV Mississippi towboat, as well as the National Military Park, and Vicksburg’s other offerings.

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Willow Island

Vicksburg marks a significant change of geography for the Lower Mississippi River paddler. Vicksburg heralds the end of the Mississippi Delta and the beginning of the Mississippi Loess Bluffs. From here down to St. Francisville there are no continuous levees on the Mississippi side because of the high ground created by the bluffs, which approach the river and then retreat along various tributaries like Bayou Pierre, Coles Creek and the Big Black River. The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta technically ends at the mouth of the Yazoo River, also known as “the River of Death.” This junction also marks the first left bank tributary since Noncannah Creek in Memphis, 300 miles upstream! The Yazoo River (along with its major tributary the Big Sunflower) drains all of the Mississippi Delta and much of the Hill Country. If there was ever any river that had the blues, it is the Yazoo. Its reach includes Delta blues stars like Memphis Minnie, Charlie Patton, Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Robert Johnson, and also Hill Country blues stars Mississippi Fred McDowell, Othar Turner, and Jessie Mae Hemphill, and many, many others. Almost anyone you can name in the Delta Blues or Hill Country blues traditions were born and raised in this drainage.

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What's Missing here? You, Your friends, and Your family!

What are The Rivergator

Celebratory Trips?

This is your chance to get to know the river -- in the best season to see it: the cool, beautiful, rich-colored & sunny days of the Fall. In November 2013 we’ll be running a series of multi-day expeditions to celebrate the opening of the Lower Mississippi River Water Trail from Caruthersville Missouri through Memphis to Vicksburg, Mississippi. By voyageur style canoe. No previous experience necessary, but must enjoy wilderness-style camping and must be willing to paddle! We are reserving 4 seats on every segment for writers, photographers and any journalists who will help us share the story about the beautiful and dynamic Mississippi River and the Rivergator Water Trail describing it!

Please contact John Ruskey, 662-902-7841 or john@island63.com to reserve your seat, and for more information. November 4-8: Caruthersville to Memphis; November 12-15 Memphis to Helena; and November 18-22: Greenville to Vicksburg.

November 4-8

Caruthersville to Memphis

Meet: Monday, November 4 at 9am at Mud Island Memphis. Park your car, shuttle to Caruthersville. Put in around noon. 5 days on river. Return to Mud Island around noon on Friday, November 8th.

November 12-15

Memphis to Helena

Meet: Tuesday, November 12 at 10am in Helena (or 9am in Clarksdale). Park your car, shuttle to Memphis. Put in at noon from Mud Island. 4 days on river. Return to Helena around noon on Friday, November 15th.

November 19-22

Greenville to Vicksburg

Meet: Monday, November 19 at 12noon at Warfield Point State Park, Greenville. Park your car. Board canoe to Vicksburg. 4 days on river. Arrive in Vicksburg around high noon on Friday, November 22nd. Shuttle back to Greenville (3pm).

Itinerary subject to adjustment depending on wind, water levels and prevailing weather conditions.

Quapaw provides all necessary river gear & emergency equipment. Normally we prepare all food & refreshments, drinks include spring water, juices and milk. Alcoholic beverages BYOB. We will pack all necessary cookware and eating utensils, as well as camp tables and camp chairs.

Bring all personal gear and stuff into our waterproof drybags before launching (or use your own). These are backpack-style bags made of tough waterproof material - great for packing on a rainy day! It takes three complete fold to make them water-proof, be sure to lock all four buckles! If you have any questions, check with your guide.

Be prepared for rain or intense sun UV exposure! Sunlight is surprisingly intense on the river, even in the winter (you get the sun twice – once from above and once reflected from below). Sunburn is our number one complaint and has caused more than one Mississippi River paddler very painful days and sleepless nights. Be forewarned! Sunglasses, sun screen, long sleeve clothing and a wide brim hat are all good ideas, especially for anyone particularly sensitive.

We can supply tents & sleeping bags to anyone who needs them, $35ea/person/trip regardless of length. Otherwise, bring your own and pack with your gear into our dry bags.

Camping: Remote islands, sandbars, towheads, usually sandy places, sometimes it’s necessary to make a muddy landing. In inclement weather it might be necessary to find shelter within the forest. This is primitive camping on a river island, no services of any sort. Bring everything you need to make yourself comfortable. Bring your own toiletry. Bring a change of warm clothing, including summer months, when mornings can be cool. It’s always cooler on the river.

Charge is $125/day which includes canoes, paddles, lifejackets and all necessary river gear, first aid kits and emergency gear; and meals, which include all the food prep, campfire cooking, cookware and eatware, and cleanup. There is a separate shuttle fee of $100-200/person depending on which section of river. Shuttle fee covers transportation of canoes and gear plus our vehicles and drivers to and from Clarksdale for drop-off and pickup.

The Rivergator is overseen by the Lower Mississippi River Foundation which is dedicated to access, education, and the betterment of public outdoor recreation on the Middle & Lower Mississippi River.

Rivergator

Lower Mississippi River

Water Trail

What are The Rivergator Celebratory Trips?

In November 2013 we’ll be running a series of multi-day expeditions to celebrate the opening of the Lower Mississippi River Water Trail from Caruthersville Missouri through Memphis to Vicksburg, Mississippi. By voyageur style canoe. No previous experience necessary, but must enjoy wilderness style camping and must be willing to paddle! We are reserving 4 seats on every segment for writers, photographers and any journalists who will help us share the story about the beautiful and dynamic Mississippi River and the Rivergator Water Trail describing it! Please contact John Ruskey, john@island63.com to reserve your seat, and for more information. November 4-8: Caruthersville to Memphis; November 12-15

Memphis to Helena; and November 18-22: Greenville to Vicksburg.

Rivergator 2013

celebratory trips:

November 4-8

Caruthersville to Memphis

November 12-15

Memphis to Helena

November 18-22

Greenville to Vicksburg

What is The Rivergator?

The Rivergator describes the Lower Mississippi River Water Trail. The Rivergator is a website full of stories, maps, photos and accurate information concerning the BIG RIVER!

What is Lower Mississippi River Water Trail?

The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail described by The Rivergator is the longest free-flowing water trail in the continental United States, over 1100 miles from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico (including the Middle Miss from the Missouri River confluence). There are thousands of islands, backchannels, side channels and oxbow lakes to explore. The trail connects cities, states, public lands, festivals and all of the people and businesses found along the Lower Miss.

Who is The Rivergator written for?

The Rivergator is written specifically for paddlers who want to explore the wilds of the Lower Mississippi River. Canoeists, kayakers and stand up paddle boarders will all find it to be the definitive guide to the BIG RIVER.

Who is The Rivergator written by?

The Rivergator is written by John Ruskey with consultation from a team of regional river experts including Ernest Herndon, Big Muddy Mike Clark, Paul Hartfield, Ken Jones, Joe Royer, Dale Sanders, Tim McCarley, Adam Eliot, Mike Beck and Paul Orr and others. This team varies with the section of river being described.

Why is The Rivergator important?

The Lower Mississippi River is possibly the most spectacular and yet also the most unrecognized wild river in North America. It should be one of the classic paddler destinations alongside the Boundary Waters, the Okeefenokee, or the Alagash. Big volume water, towboats and industry have scared paddlers away. Until now there was no good written description of how to navigate the powerful waters. Enter The Rivergator !

When will The Rivergator be completed?

The Rivergator is still under construction. Go to www.rivergator.org for a preview. We are on a 3-year timeline to be completed in 2015. This year we will add 3 new 100-mile sections to cover the BIG RIVER including the greater Memphis region, the Chickasaw Bluffs, and the entire length of the Mississippi Delta, everything from Caruthersville, Missouri to Vicksburg, Mississippi. In 2014 we will add the Middle Mississippi from St. Louis down to Cairo, and then continue the Lower Miss connecting back down to Memphis. In 2015 the entire Lower Miss will be completed with the addition of the river from Vicksburg to the Gulf of Mexico, including Natchez, St. Francisville, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Venice.

How do I get involved with The Rivergator?

Any knowledgeable river rats are welcome to join in! The more eyes the better. Write me john@island63.com and I will include you in the circle of reviewers.

Furthermore, any interested paddlers can participate in the creation of The Rivergator by joining in on one or more of three exploratory trips coming up in the next two months:

What are The Rivergator Celebratory Trips?

In November 2013 we’ll be running a series of multi-day expeditions to celebrate the opening of the Lower Mississippi River Water Trail from Caruthersville Missouri through Memphis to Vicksburg, Mississippi. By voyageur style canoe. No previous experience necessary, but must enjoy wilderness style camping and must be willing to paddle! We are reserving 4 seats on every segment for writers, photographers and any journalists who will help us share the story about the beautiful and dynamic Mississippi River and the Rivergator Water Trail describing it! Please contact John Ruskey, john@island63.com to reserve your seat, and for more information. November 4-8: Caruthersville to Memphis; November 12-15

Memphis to Helena; and November 18-22: Greenville to

Vicksburg.

Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

brought to you courtesy of the:

Lower Mississippi River Foundation

For recent stories & news with photos:

www.bigmuddyisland.org