Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No 439
Layne's Log: Bohemia Beach to South Pass Island
Capt Layne Logue reporting from South Pass Island, -13 down the South Pass and hook a left, Dispatch from the end of the Mississippi River, sent around high noon on Monday, November 13, 2017, photos by John Ruskey.
What is the big smile all about? Why is Mark River taking a break from the day's paddle? Why are the trees growing shorter along the river bank behind him? Y'all keep reading below for the continuation of the Rivergator to the Gulf... from Layne's Log.
PS: You can follow the expedition by tracking us here: https://share.garmin.com/rivergator
Rivergator crew reaches South Pass Island in two voyageur canoes: 29' Grasshopper and 24' Cricket -- l-r from rear: Lena Von Machui, Boyce Upholt, Mark River, l-r front row: Julia Holmes, Chris Battaglia, Jamie Lynn Miller, Michael Orr, Robert Landreneau, and Layne Logue. Not pictured: Chris Staudinger and John Ruskey.
Capt Layne Logue has been keeping a daily journal of the progress of the expedition on the Rivergator Facebook Page, which he calls the "Layne's Log:"
Intro: What is the Rivergator Celebratory Expedition?
This Trip is the Rivergator.org Celebratory Trip for the completion of the non-profit free paddlers guide mile by mile on the Mississippi River from St Louis to the Gulf of Mexico (including the Atchafalaya River). That’s over 1,350 miles surveyed and paddled 3 times over 6 years. John Ruskey & the Mighty Quapaws have paddled all of these sections 3 times (at low, medium and high water). So, in all they have paddled close to 4,500 miles to create 1 million words of Rivergator.org. This trip is part II: Bonnet Carre Spillway (north of New Orleans, mile 127) to the Gulf of Mexico (mile -12)
Layne’s Log: Will's Point to Bohemia Beach
Day 5 — Nov 5, 2017
24 miles paddled today, 83 miles total paddled & 103 miles left
Big ships, Big waves, Gators, Eagles and Osprey Hawks.
Fresh cooked apples and oat meal is breakfast. After we finish eating, a 6-7 foot gator drifts by us. And John still dives in the river for his morning swim.
Lots of ships and tug boats kicking off 4-5 foot waves today. They’re easy to ride as they have a large space between the next wave. It’s the short spaced waves that give us problems (yachts and bass boats)... but we see NOBODY out here fishing or playing. It’s all commercial boats & ships.
We pass by several coal companies loading barges. The coal dust is not contained as they drop it into the barges and it gets out there in the river (see picture).
Finally see a bunch of eagles (4) and it was a welcome sight indeed.
We had lunch at Mile 59.3 LDB Break in rock ... sandbar and protection from waves. But watch out for steel cable... it was sticking up and could be a problem.
We land at Bohemia Beach (Lower Mississippi River mile 44.5)... and it’s a fantastic area. Osprey hawks are flying 100’ above us and they are awesome looking.
Wolf E is bringing us dinner and we’re just hanging out watching the sun set on this beautiful day.
Edit: the Norwegian Pearl and the Carnival Dream Just came by. They are huge... and just like a tsunami... the water leaves the shore and then comes crashing in later. Amazing.
Layne’s Log: Bohemia Beach to Jackson Point
Day 6 — Nov 6, 2017
22 miles paddled today, 105 miles total paddled & 55 miles left.
Beautiful sun rise, Port Sulphur resupply, Birds, Cows and amazing sunset.
Start the day off with a beautiful sunrise. Mark “River” Peoples is cooking fresh cut apples in the Dutch oven at 6:00am in the campfire. Getting them nice and cooked before he adds the oatmeal and water. It’s breakfast. Honey is really popular over this and we’ve just about run out of the large bottle.
John Ruskey & Julia Holmes (just like every morning) are painting the river on paper.
We break down our tents and pack every thing up and place them by the canoes. We don’t load till we get the big (heavy canoes in the water. Grasshopper weighs 450 lbs and Cricket weighs 300 lbs) and we get everyone to help drag over the grass and wet sand to the river.
Before we drag the canoes to the water... John says “who wants to race?” In the 1 ft water back to camp.. about 50 yards.” Myself and a bunch of us say yes. I am proud to say and I am the First Place winner of the annual Quapaw RiverGator Race 2017. I’d like to thank my parents for the genetics to run fast.
We’re off to paddle down to Port Sulphur to resupply at their grocery store. It’s a primitive boat ramp... and we can’t drag the canoes on the rocks... so we add logs on the ramp and run them up on them (because the big ships waves will crash the canoes into the rocks. This is a constant thing whenever we park the canoes overnight or for lunch. Big waves are abundant here).
We leave the boat ramp and River,Lena, Wolf E go to grocery store and the rest of us go to the gas station to top off the water jugs. The gas station is 200 yards from the boat ramp over the levee. And we carry the 5 empty water judges to fill up(they are 5 gallon jugs).
The nice lady that let us fill up the water at the fast station is named Joy. And they can cook some incredible good there. The poboys were great and we got everyone one poboy and we had lunch on the river in our canoes... just drifting and eating and smiling.
A very nice man named Red, who has a camp in Happy Jack used his truck to take our water jugs and pickup the grocery runners. That really helped us…
As we’re about to leave, we see a yellow canoe come to us. It’s John Barney and Dan O’Brien paddling from St Louis to mile zero at the Head of Passes (the technical end of the river)....but most Paddlers go down the south pass 12 more miles to see the Gulf of Mexico. It looks like a river that splits into three sections at mile zero. That’s why some people call it Birds Foot.
It’s not hot today....I think it was a high of 80. But when we stop in the middle of the river to break for water and rest. We get most people jumping in the river to cool down. It’s definitely cold at first... but feels so so good after 30 seconds.
We see many new birds now along the river. Seagulls are flying around and out in the river. We see seagulls all flock to a spot in the middle of the river and start diving in the water. No doubt catching fish where a school has collected.
A magnificent Frigate Bird flies around us. We call it the ‘Batman” bird. You’ll get it when you see the picture.
Cows are now present in the woods and on the shore of the river. And we land at a point in the river that has 15 cows and bulls grazing in the grass. Our canoes scare them off. We get there at 5pm and have only an hour to set our tents up... etc for the night.
John and WolfE are cooking John’s famous Raft Potatoes. It’s got cheese, onions, garlic and fresh eggs. It is SO amazing to eat after a hard day paddling.
Robert bought us each a single beer (room in the cooler is all food and not much room. But we get all TETRIS and figure out a way to stuff 12 Budweisers at resupply.
They are quite tasty with the raft potatoes.
The sunset is just breathless and as it gets dark... the stars are out in force. We’re definitely sleeping under a 5 billion Star hotel tonight.
Layne’s Log: Jackson Point to Pass L’Outre WMA Campground
Day 7 — Nov 7, 2017
25 miles paddled today, 130 miles total paddled & 31 miles left.
Angry cows, possible campsite 1 = no, possible 2 = no ... let’s paddle 7 more miles and be on the water in the dark = yes (well worth it).
Alright... here we go to this amazing day on the river.
The campsite as mentioned prior was full of grazing cows & bulls. When we showed up to set camp... they ran off. Little known to them... we were staying the night. They didn’t like that. We camped out in their sleeping area... because of the soft grass. After dark, they started hollering at us. Then later while we were all in our tents... they would stomp on the ground... making a large sound ... and making some people nervous that they might run through our camp.
Breakfast was potatoes and bacon. Mmm mmm good. We had a heavy dew last night and we place our tent rain tarps all over the area. It looks like a hurricane hit an outdoor store.
Right before we leave at Bolivar Point at mile 22.... our two long distance Paddlers John & Dan see us camped and paddle over to say hey. They were just paddling to mile zero.
We shove off at 9:45am and start down the river. Chris breaks out his drone and launched it from the canoe.... and filmed us paddling. As he is trying to land it in his hand.. in 6-7 mph wind.. it’s getting hard for him to catch it...and it moves around in him. It finally gets close for someone to catch it... and it tags Boyce’s fingers.... doesn’t cut him and doesn’t go in the river.
Its 80 degrees today and we stop in the middle of the river for several swim breaks. The cold water feels great.
There is some big ship traffic here and there. But when we reach Venice (on the river).... there is constant traffic going by us. We have 4 big ships pass and a shrimp boat pass us at once.
There were waves going everywhere. But Grasshopper (our canoe name) handles it like a pro.
I haven’t stated it... but as you might have figured out from the pictures ... I’ve been the Captain of Grasshopper from the start. It’s been an amazing paddle for me. Reading the river and traffic ... and keeping us efficient and straight in direction to optimize the speed. It’s so awesome! ... and that’s understated by 100x. Mark “River” Peoples is Captain #1 .... but he chose to be in the Bow of the canoe... and he’s letting me gain experience from paddling here. We had 7 total people in the boat and 1,000 lbs of gear. And... I just paddled through New Orleans and past Venice in one of the busiest ports in the world. It makes my hair stand up thinking how cool that was.
After we pass Venice... we’re eyeing down 7 miles to our possible campsite #1 at Cubit’s Gap (mile 4). It is cool... but almost. Jungle there and would be Crazy carrying up all that gear.
Possible Campsite #2 looks better... but it’s muddy .... and I tell John Ruskey about a campsite 7 more miles down and it has picnic tables and cut grass.
So we all vote on paddling to that... even though we know it’s going to put us in the dark at this campsite.
After Cubit’s Gap.... is Pilottown... so we stop just past it on a sandbar to have dinner/snack.
And shove off as fast as we can when done. The sun is getting low and we’re definitely going to be paddling in the dark on the South Pass.
We make it to mile zero and take pictures and give a big “who wooT”. And now Chis launches his drone from our canoe. He say everyone cover their eyes and it takes off like a rocket upwards. So, we start paddle at zero and down the South Pass. After 8 minutes... before his battery gets low... it’s time to land it in Chris’s hand. Not an easy task in a moving /drifting canoe. But Chris nails it and we’re all safe.
The sun is setting now while paddling down the South Pass. We have to paddle 3.4 miles to the camping spot on the left.
The sunset is best one we’ve seen so far. The golden orange streaks lights up the sky.... and although the mosquitoes will be all around us.... it was worth every drop of blood lost to them. Then... bam... mosquitoes were all over the canoe.... we’re trying to paddle and swat them off us. They are aggressive and big. We paddle hard looking for the campsite. Then it shows us and we dive into the area.
It was just as good as I remember it. But no five-fives yet.... everyone is grabbing bags.... putting on long pants and shoes and big spray... because we are getting terrorized by these mosquitoes. John says “setup tents then a pow-wow” and we’re off running.
The campsite is so perfect on many levels.... it’s close to the Gulf island (only 9 miles to paddle tomorrow), fresh cut grass, picnic tables to eat and lay out tent /clothing to dry, and we tied up the canoes to the boat dock.
Since we just had the snack dinner ... and we would lose too much blood loss to the mosquitoes if we tried to cook anything. We decide we’re going to have oranges for dinner/fruit goodnight snack.
Today was an awesome day filled with smiles, laughter beautiful scenery….
Layne’s Log: Pass A’ Loutre WMA Campground to South Pass Island
Day 8 — Nov 8, 2017
10 miles paddled today, 140 miles total paddled
As I sit in my tent at 4:06am.... the roar of the mosquitoes is powerful loud HMMMMM HMMMM. Shining my headlamp at my rain tarp is a terrifying sight with hundreds of them under there all just awaiting for me to open my tent door. I’ll give you a little camping secret of mine with a story. In the south, we pronounce the nut... pecan as “PUH-CON... if I hear someone say PEE-CAN... sometimes I correct them and say “ no... we pronounce it PUH-CON.... a PEE-CAN is what you put under your bed at night”. Well... Layne has a PEE-CAN Gatorade bottle in his tent....and I never have to step outside at night.... which is awesome!
Night sounds: we have moved from the typical sounds I know... coyotes, hogs, raccoons, bobcats, owls, egrets, herons, deer... to unknown ones. Mostly birds. These bird sounds are cool and different as they call out through the night. They make some strange noises. I feel like I’m in a different country.
I’ve been sleeping better and better each night. As the trip progresses, I’m more efficient in my daily duties. I now have almost no sand in my tent (well manageable.
Everything in my tent has a place and I can pack up 50% faster from when I started.
Same is true for our whole team. Everyone fills a gap needed to keep this smoothly running.
Some of our duties: setting up the “Grey Box” kitchen by adding the four legs. Grey (metal box) has all the cooking spices and chips. Setting up the four roll out tables. Gathering firewood at our every campsite and placing in two piles (night and morning. Morning gets a tarp over it to protect the from the heavy dew). Washing dishes in the sand, dipping in the bleach water and placing on tables to sun/wind dry and then packing them in grey container.
Smelly Paddlers? We’re not too bad. We have been able to wash with soap in the river a few times. We hang out our wet clothes when we have a chance. It’s always nice when it’s “New Underwear Day! And new pants and shirt. I think I’m going to push my current set to day three and then it gets put in the garbage bag. I give it a soapy wash in a zip lock bag on day two... but it’s river water... so, it’s never “home fresh”.
I’m still smiling from yesterday’s paddle. Our campsites were looking “not optimum”... and when I remembered there was a spot on South Pass that I thought would be perfect (as found by our good paddling friend Dom Librion while he and I were riding in Capt’n Bubby Reno’s shrimp boat rigging 25 feet in the air after our paddle with Dale Sanders Guinness record of oldest (80 yrs old) to paddle to the Gulf (another great story).... and that we caught a perfect sunset, still waters and a beautiful campsite.
The sign at our campsite is Pass A’ Loutre WMA.
I’ll for sure send them a “thank you”email with pictures for this site. This place will also help out the long distance Paddlers going to the Gulf of Mexico. It is a PERFECT in between the Gulf & Venice for Paddlers worries about “how do I get back to Venice?”. It has a nice dock to tie up your boat which is off the South Pass on an unknown Pass name right now, fresh cut grass, 3 picnic tables, a big grill and the area is 100 feet by 300 feet ... plus it has a cell phone signal!
As I’ve been writing early morning... John Ruskey has already set up the campfire and coffee is ready. I would guess he gets up every morning 3:30am.
It’s almost 5:00am (my alarm time, but I’m up early today because of the excitement of making the Gulf today. The RiverGator.org ending Point!). I use this hour from 5-6am to organize my tent, and pack up the stuff inside here.
We find some firewood and this makes River happy. So, he’ll be able to make a hot breakfast meal. Oatmeal & cooked cinnamon apples and sliced bananas on the side.
As we’re wrapping up breakfast, River spots three river otters feeding on the unknown Pass by the boat dock. They’re diving the hyacinth and coming up eating fish. They’re not bothered by us at all as we get closer to take pictures and watch them. I’ll post a movie of them later here. It was so cool watching for about 5 minutes and then being only 100 feet from us.
From our campsite, we only need to paddle 7 miles to Port Eads Lighthouse. And then 1.5 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.
In addition to the wildlife changing... the landscape has changed too. No more willows trees.. it’s all 6-8 foot tall canes. Not sure if the exact name... but it looks like Johnson grass. I’ll search it when I get home ... there is no cell phone service now halfway down the South Pass.
As we’re paddling down the South Pass, we meet Jeff Larsen (from Shreveport). He built a beautiful freighter canoe and added a Yamaha 25 hp motor on it. He has been from St Anthony Falls, Minnesota to the Gulf. 1,800 miles. He heard about us and after he touched the gulf waters... turned around to go to Venice and saw us. We’re talking and he asks if we want a cold beer. We all said yes! So, he emptied his cooler for us and we all got one beer. We talked about the river and both our experiences. He asked if we needed ice or water. We said thank but we’re all good. Then he said I’ve got some watermelon moonshine. Here take this quart. So, we did. Thank you Jeff! You can see his trip and beautiful canoe here: Lostcaddo.com
Since WolfE was leaving us at Port Eads Lighthouse... and it was only 2 miles away. WolfE decided to catch a ride back with Jeff to Venice in his boat in the big bean bag chair. We said our goodbyes and paddled to the Port Eads Lighthouse (built in the 1800’s).
We meet John Ingle, the manager of the Port Eads Lighthouse (High Adventure Company http://www.porteads.com/ fishing/duck hunting excursions). They built this site 3 years ago (next to the Lighthouse which was built in 1881) that houses guests that go on their fishing/duck hunting excursions. They have a restaurant as well. $15 burger and fries. Etc... see menu picture. They’ve got a sweet setup there. We bought a case of Budweiser from him ($50). Jeff tells us it’s probably better to camp on the left side islands. The right side Island was hit pretty good by the last hurricanes & storms.
As we get to the Gulf, there is a long sweeping rock jetty to the right... but a gap at the beginning next to a Island. So, we cut through and touch the Gulf of Mexico! We have officially ended the Celebratory RiverGator.org trip to reach saltwater. Grasshopper (canoe) has touched saltwater for the third time.
The wind is light and so there aren’t crashing waves on the south side of the islands ... so, we go Island shopping out in the Gulf. There are big flocks of gulls, pelicans and assorted birds all over here. We know that a light storm with heavy 15-25 mph North winds are coming late night and tomorrow and so we are looking for a camping spot sheltered on the South side. We find a nice 1/2 mile beach and setup camp. The island is half sand and half Roseau cane (a wetland grass considered vital to the health of Louisiana's coast).
This place might be iffy for a strong south wind. Prior to the storms.. it was built up higher with sand. We’re probably 20 inches above high tide right now.
We beach the canoes, unload the gear and setup our tents and the kitchen. River andLena cook up spaghetti (SO GOOD!) and we sit around the campfire savoring the food and listening to the 1 ft waves crash on the beach.
Tomorrow has 40% chance of early rain and also 10-25 mph North wind. We’ll be watching it ... but we should be fine here on this island for another night. So, that means no packing up in the morning!! Sleep to whenever you wake up ... And lots and lots of exploring the island!
Goodnight from the Gulf of Mexico!
RiverGator out…PS: Now all that we lack is the paddle upstream 22 miles back to Venice where the RIVERGATOR intends to return to land via Venice, LA, the end of the road (LA Hwy 23). Will we be able to make this arduous return paddle 23 or maybe 24 miles back up the Mighty Mississippi River, the biggest and most powerful river in North America? Stay tuned for the next edition of the LMRD (hope to send in 2 days -- Wed, Nov 15th).
Links Connected to Rivergator Celebration & Expedition:
Note: Itinerary subject to adjustment according to wind, water levels and prevailing weather conditions. For detailed descriptions of route go to www.rivergator.org
Tues, Oct 31: Preparations.
Wed Nov 1: Advance all vehicles to Venice, park at the Cypress Cove Marina. Shuttle back to Bonnet Carret. Meet and camp at Bonnet Carret.
Thurs Nov 2: 10am depart Bonnet Carret Spillway and head downstream past Twenty-Six Mile Point, I-310 Bridge, Huey P. Long Bridge
Fri Nov 3: 9-Mile Point, Audubon Park, Algier’s Ferry, French Quarter, Algiers Point
Sat Nov 4: Algiers Point, Industrial Canal, Algier’s Lock, Poydras Bend, English Turn Bend, Caernarvon Crevasse, Twelve Mile Point (Full Moon Night)
Sun Nov 5: Shingle Point, Belle Chasse Ferry, Jesuit Bend, Will’s Point, Poverty Point, Point Celeste, Pointe A La Hache, Bohemia Beach
Mon Nov 6: Mardi Gras Pass, Port Sulfur (resupply), Happy Jack, Sixty Mile Point, Tropical Bend, Point Pleasant, Ostrica Pass, Buras Landing Boat Ramp, Fort Jackson
Tues Nov 7: Plaquemines Bend/Fort Jackson Point, Baptiste Collette Bayou, Venice,
Grand Pass Island, Cubit’s Gap
Wed Nov 8: Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Pilottown, Head of Passes, -0- Mile Zero, South Pass, Port Eads, Lower South Pass Island
Thurs Nov 9: Lower South Pass Island, last Camp on Expedition, Gulf of Mexico
Fri Nov 10: Paddle back upstream to Venice, Grand Pass Island, Cubit’s Gap, Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Pilottown, Head of Passes, -0- Mile Zero, final takeout at Cypress Cove Marina in Venice.
Sat Nov 11: Drive back through New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Natchez, Vicksburg, return to Clarksdale.
ALSO -- in Dec -- Y'all Come to our
2nd Rivergator Celebration!
Sat Dec 16: Sunflower River, downtown Clarksdale, starting at sundown: We will be sharing photos, videos, artwork, and many adventure stories around the campfire, in celebration of the Rivergator -- and also the winter Solstice. This done in conjunction with the annual Quapaw Canoe Company Christmas Party (legendary parties!). Potluck feast, BYOB. We'll provide eatware, serving utensils, and the bonfire. Bring your guitar. All are welcome to join us on the banks for the Sunflower River. Exhibition to be set up nearby in the "Cave" location, the original home base of Quapaw Canoe Company (flooded out in 2016).
~ This portion of the expedition is made possible thanks to a partnership with the Louisiana Environmental Action Network ~
America Recycles Day: Wed Nov 15th
PS: this just in from Miss Recycle Clarksdale, Marc Taylor. Thanks for organizing this Marc!
The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
is brought to you courtesy of:
Lower Mississippi River Foundation
Unsubscribe: If you decide no longer want to receive the Lower Mississippi River Dispatch, you can disembark yourself by hitting the “Click to Unsubscribe” line at the bottom of every Dispatch.