(Sunflower River after recent snow)
Rolling on the river: Mississippi’s reputation
is muddied with mysticism and misunderstanding
Story by Amber Crawford
University of Memphis Daily Helmsman
Thursday, January 13, 2011
It is one of the longest, most powerful rivers in the world. Rusty signs dot the shores, warning visitors not to swim in its waters. Some say they whisper short prayers every time they cross its bridge.
Colton Cockrum, assistant director of the honors program at The University of Memphis, said the Mississippi River is simply misunderstood.
In October, Cockrum and some friends spent three days on the river. They began their expedition at Clarksdale, Miss., and traveled about 50 miles south, ending near Rosedale, Miss.
Their means of transportation was a hand-carved canoe.
"A lot of people said I was crazy and I was going to die," Cockrum said. "It was pretty terrifying and awe-inspiring. All of a sudden there's this huge river with some parts over a mile wide. You feel like it's just you and the water."
Cockrum has canoed on the Buffalo and Lower Illinois rivers, but October's trip was his first time canoeing the Mississippi River, an expedition he said was on his mind for years.
"I used to go down to the Mississippi when my son was first born," he said. "I'd take him to the river on the weekends, and we'd sit on the benches and watch barges go by. There was something about that river that kept me going back to it."
As he spoke, Cockrum rubbed a small rock he found on the trip between his fingers. When he spotted the smooth, crater-like stone, Cockrum said he started wondering how it was formed. The stone now lies on his desk, accompanying three framed pictures of the Mississippi River on his shelves as reminders of the trip.
"There she is right there," he said, pointing at one of the photos. "I feel such a connection to her now, both environmentally and spiritually. To be able to go in an area where very few people have paddled or canoed, to go a full day without seeing anyone but barges — that was such an amazing feeling."
Cockrum was accompanied by his father, Dwayne Cockrum; Memphians Adam Langley, Charles Clowers and Justin Hill; University of Tennessee student Tyler Sanford; Missourian Brandon Dupler; and the group's guide, John Ruskey.
"While we all come from different walks of life," Cockrum said, "we have one thing in common — a fascination with this beautiful and wild river."
Ruskey, who has been paddling the Mississippi River for nearly 30 years, carved the 14-person canoe. He has been featured in National Geographic Adventure, Outside Magazine, the Food Network and other major media outlets.
Cockrum said whenever the paddlers asked their guide to tell stories of the river, he would reply, "The river tells its own story."
During the trip, Cockrum said Ruskey found old items like a recycling bin and a basketball that he tossed in the canoe and brought home, saying he could use them for something.
Cockrum said he and his father had not gone on any adventures together prior to this trip, so he was surprised when his father said he would come along.
"Ever since my dad returned from Vietnam, he's had this pattern and hasn't done anything real risky," Cockrum said. "But he loved the canoe trip. He came back re-energized. He goes up to complete strangers and shows them his video he took at the river."
Cockrum's wife, Casey Cockrum, said her husband has been raving about the trip, too.
"He's been talking about going for over a year and has been doing research," she said. "When he came back, he had this joy about him. I told him he needs to go every year and take our son."
Langley, a third-year law student at The U of M, said that he and Cockrum wanted to truly experience the Mississippi River.
"We wanted to get a feel for it — see what it really was," Langley said. "We've got the largest river in North America in our backyard. It's always there, but few really ever interact with it."
He said being on the Mississippi River was not what he expected.
"In Memphis, you see it. You hear the terrible stories," he said. "It's the mighty Mississippi. But being on it, its bigness is even bigger, but not nearly as terrible as one might think. At times it felt like a lazy lake — we even got out and swam at a few points."
Langley said he enjoyed getting away but still being close to home. It was like a great American adventure, he said.
Cockrum said he would recommend getting out on the Mississippi River to others, but not without the necessary precautions.
"Use a professional guide who has the equipment and expertise," he said. "And have respect for the river and its power."
for original story go to:
Great Horned Owl
Oil Painting by John Ruskey
Quapaw Canoe Company
Calendar of Events 2011
Calendar of Events: If you don't see an event or a date that matches your interests, we encourage you to book your own custom-guided adventure on the Lower Mississippi River. Give us the dates and we'll take care of the rest! Go to Quapaw calendar at www.island63.com and pick out any open dates.
A New Years Shout-Out to Quapaw friend Bro Vance Akins:
Thank you Vance for your wonderful gift to Quapaw Canoe Company -- that will help illuminate & magnify the wilds & wonders of the Mississippi River for years to come!
Winter Expedition: Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico via Plaquemines, New Orleans and Venice.
1Mississippi (St. Louis): Can the River Count on You? Dedicated to protecting the Mississippi River for the well-being of the land, water and people of America’s largest watershed. Stay tuned for more news & events!
Mississippi Water Trails: Coordination Meeting at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson
February is Sunflower River Month!
Friends of the Sunflower River. All month will be events in celebration, education and advocacy of the Sunflower River & its tributaries. Stay tuned. Will update as events are confirmed. This Year: Expedition down the strange and important Sunflower River tributary: The Hushpuckena.
Leave No Trace Trainer Course
Now taking reservations for the Leave no Trace Trainer Course + day trip on the Mississippi River St. Francis River to Helena. Camping and Trainer Course at Quapaw Helena at the base of the levee in downtown Helena. Start: 8am Saturday, March 5th. Afternoon canoe trip to Buck Island as part of course. Camp at canoe base. Sunday March 6th 8am-3pm. For any individual interested in learning and practicing the Seven Leave No Trace Principles and teaching them to others or general outdoor enthusiasts who want to learn the skills needed to minimize their impact. Typical attendees include backpackers, paddlers, Scouts, Venturers, Scout leaders, camp counselors, guides, outdoor groups/clubs, specialty outdoor retail associates and trip leaders. Open to the public. 85 for the Leave no Trace Trainer Course, $65 for outfitting & guiding on the river + $10 shuttle fee = $160 total for the entire weekend. Includes camping at canoe base, 2 lunches, supper & breakfast. 6 minimum, 12 maximum. See below for more info.
March: Mississippi 440 -- High Water
(Dates to be announced) Running the length of the State of Mississippi 440 miles from Mud Island Memphis to Natchez Under the Hill, take out at Fort Adams. Paddle several days with us or join us for the whole length! Start out at the foot of Beale Street in the Memphis Harbor, round President's Island and into the Josie Harry Bar section, then Cat island, Tunica Riverpark Museum, Helena, mouth of the Arkansas River, the Greenville Bends, Stack island, Lake Providence, mouth of the Yazoo River, Vicksburg, mouth of the Big Black River, Grand Gulf, Natchez, Homochitto River, the journey ends at the state line on the towering bluffs at Fort Adams, just above Angola, Louisiana.
April 9th: Naturefest -- Mississippi Museum of Natural Science
Annual Festival at Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, a great day for kids & families, and anyone who wants to get to know the Natural History of the Mid-South. The Mighty Quapaws provide guided paddling trips on the Pearl River, the forgotten urban river that flows un-noticed and largely unnapreciated through downtown Jackson. Go to www.museum.mdwfp.com for more information.
April: Robin Whitfield
(Dates to be announced) Opening of Exhibition of paintings by renowned Mississippi kayaker-artist Robin Whitfield. Stay tuned for dates. Also upcoming in conjunction with Robin and her artistic talents: 2011 Artist’s Retreat.
St. Louis Circumnavigation
Part II: This year we’re going Counterclockwise: Complete Circumnavigation of greater St. Louis with Mike Clark of Big Muddy Adventures. Done in service of the students of St. Ann’s of Normandy and the rivers of Mid-America!
Juke Joint Festival
Live blues music. Watercolor workshops & live carving demonstration. Canoeing and kayaking on the Sunflower River. Introducing Stand Up Paddleboards to the Sunflower! Workshops and Rentals. Guided Adventures on the Mississippi River. Full Moon Float Sunday.
On remote Mississippi River Island in conjunction with Delta Yoga.
Bear Dance Summer Solstice
Summer Solstice Celebration with Cherokee Bear Dancers on remote Mississippi River Island, by invitation only. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Bear Dance Autumnal Equinox
Autumnal Equinox Celebration with Cherokee Bear Dancers on remote Mississippi River Island, by invitation only. Please contact email@example.com for more information.
LEAVE NO TRACE TRAINER COURSE | Helena, Arkansas
When: Saturday March 5 – Sunday March 6, 2011
Where: Quapaw Canoe Company | 411 Ohio Street in downtown Helena
Cost: $160/person, includes Mississippi River canoe trip (to Buck Island), educational materials, meals for the course, overnight camping, and a one year membership to Leave No Trace. 12 maximum. Reserve your place now! First come first served.
Who: Any individual interested in learning and practicing the Seven Leave No Trace Principles and teaching them to others or general outdoor enthusiasts who want to learn the skills needed to minimize their impact. Typical attendees include backpackers, paddlers, Scouts, Venturers, Scout leaders, camp counselors, guides, outdoor groups/clubs, specialty outdoor retail associates and trip leaders. Open to the public.
Description: This course will allow participants to learn and practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace in an outdoor setting and will prepare individuals to act as Leave No Trace-recognized Trainers from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. The training includes 16 hours of instruction and overnight camping onsite. As part of the Trainer Course curriculum, participants will also be required to lead a 10-15 minute discussion or presentation on one of the Leave No Trace principles or other impact topic. Further details and guidance will be provided upon registration.
Instructors: Agata and Jason Ketterick, Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers
Gear: Please bring gear necessary for an overnight canoe-camping trip, including tent, sleeping bag, pad, hiking shoes, backpack, water bottle, drybags, rain gear, warm clothing for daytrip in canoe, etc.
Contact: John Ruskey, Founder, Quapaw Canoe Company | (662) 902-7841 | firstname.lastname@example.org