Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No 443
Mark River Returns:
St. Louis to Caruthersville
Wednesday, Nov 29, 2017
Note: Technical Difficulties:
Sorry for the delay in sending out this dispatch… I have been experiencing technical issues with computers and email service for the past 2 weeks… And it seems to be getting worse… This is so maddening! I would do without all this technology, but that would probably spell the end of Quapaw Canoe Company. The river connects us all, but the internet connects us to our clientele. And what about the Lower Mississippi River Foundation? All of our youth activity is hands on in canoes, kayaks and paddleboards, none of which require electrical wizardry. That said, all of our grant-writing and 95% of our fundraising is done via computer. And the Rivergator.org -- one million words describing the Lower Mississippi River -- It is an online resource that I hope to publish hard copy someday. But as of now it only exists in the ether. So our very existence is tied to the digital world. This is my business and my passion. But neither Apple nor AT&T seem very concerned about the difficulties, and have left things at very ragged, raw ends. I have been a loyal subscriber to both for decades. This experience makes me want to throw my computers out the window and drown my phone — and return to the good ol’ days.
As result of the above, I am leaving off of my own writing (which is now lost in computer never-never-land) and instead publishing writing from someone you have not heard from in a long time — Mark River!
Stewardship on the Lower Mississippi River
We are very excited about 2018! We are already paddling into the beauty of our next objective -- youth stewardship on the big river ...and we want your help. We have big plans for getting more kids in canoes in 2018, including a Summer Camp in June and more partnerships with schools and youth organizations.
This would be a good time to jump aboard! The Rivergator is completed. We are now opening our canoes to Mississippi Valley youth. Help us in our 2018 mission to "Leave No Kids on Shore" (LiNKS) by making a committment to the Lower Mississippi River Foundation via PayPal! ...or skip the 3% middleman and send your check directly to the Lower Mississippi River Foundation, 291 Sunflower Avenue, Clarksdale, MS, 38614. We are a 501(c)3 in good standing. Tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Be sure to earmark it for LiNKS = Leave No Kids on Shore! Paddles Up -- and thank you.
Mark River Peoples:
Rivergators Along the Way-Part 1
St. Louis to Caruthersville
The Rivergator.org project started 6 years is finally coming into completion. Through many expeditions and countless perils along the way, the one thing that the Mississippi River consistently provided were scores of incredible people. From the well-wishers at Columbia Bottoms, the start of the journey, to Port Eads, the last establishment on the South Pass.
After an evening on the back channel of Mosenthein Island, we head downstream for downtown St. Louis anticipating a wonderful gathering for World Water Day. We had encouraged all participants to bring a sample of water from their local waterways to share. The day was very special to me. The mayor of East St. Louis, my birthplace, spoke inspiring words about the Mississippi River and how it sustains our surrounding communities. I felt validated that someone from my same social economic background was in a position to be a advocate of our great waterway.
Paddling through the St. Louis Port is never an easy chore, but we seemed to glide through this industrial mecca quite smoothly. This section, which is sacred to me, between the Jefferson Barracks Cemetery and the Meramac River, always overwhelms me with emotion. It's where my Mother is buried, and like I've said before, throughout my life I've associated hawks with her, and what do you know, a hawk takes flight from the trees, trailing our canoe. These events continue to happen to me along this river, healing my everlasting, lifelong grief.
We make a stop to resupply at Hoppy's Marina. One of the only marinas I've witnessed on the main channel of the river. Once a bustling operation for 80 years, has been stymied by the placement of a wing-dike that has silted in his docks. He's in a never-ending fight for his livelihood, just like the Mississippi River.
The day is rainy and cold as we paddle into Tower Rock. The campsite is bare. Only a few migrant workers in RVs are scattered throughout the grounds. This place is exactly what we needed. There's a pavilion with electricity that we could power up and wait out the storms and high winds. The groundskeeper/owner gives us free range of the place, even the hot showers. A hot shower after weeks on an expedition is priceless.
"Welcome to New Madrid!" as a fisherman approaches us aggressively in a bass boat. "My name is Tom Whitehead!, what do you'll need?" Before I could respond, " You'll want to camp tonight? I'll buy you'll dinner and breakfast!" He continued, pointing at me,"If you need my truck, it's the white one with the trailer, just disconnect the trailer, the keys are underneath the floor mat, driver's side." Imagine a black kid from East St. Louis being offered a vehicle by a white man from rural Missouri on sight. I had never felt more American! I head into town for ice and water, but the ice dealer only took cash. He gave me water and ice, and said, "Bring it next time you come through!"
Just past Tiptonville Ferry, we come around the bend and notice a massive dust storm on Island 13. The day was coming to an end and we were looking for camp for the evening. As we enter Little Cypress Bend we noticed that it wasn't a dust storm on the sandbar, but high powered ATV's carving swiftly through the gigantic sandbar. My mood immediately saddened; all I could think of was the many species of turtle eggs decimated and the Least Tern nest demolished. My concern shifts to our evening camp. Desperate to find a place not reachable by land. Forced by revetment and with the sunsetting quickly, we find a small piece of sand, pull the boat up, set up tents, and start dinner. Within minutes, ATV's are emerging from the forest, greeting us with open arms, inquiring about our journey. I quickly get over my agitation, for the moment, and greet our new friends.
We start early the next day, to beat the storms with high winds expected by midday. Only a few bends from Caruthersville, our next resupply, we launch at the crack of dawn. Our decision paid off, as we maneuver between channel buoys and towboats, and arrive in Caruthersville right before the storm hits. It makes a captain proud when his instincts pays off for the whole crew. If we would have not made it, we would be stuck with no food in the middle of a storm for a few days. We secure our boat, and everyone heads to the pavilion to hang wet gear, and recharge electronics. The crew disappears into the downtown setting, as river rats drive up and down the loop to take a look at our canoe. A local river rat, Taco, stops to hold conversation. He let me know that he had just left court, which he frequents at least once a year, and filled me in on all the town gossip, along with some fishing and hunting tips. Mr. Nelson, who looks like Willie Nelson, is a local generational farmer who grows crops on both sides of the levee. He schooled me on "natural farming". We also discussed nutrient pollution. He and his family had been following us via GPS since we started in St.Louis. The crowd swells and disperses throughout the day, as we start prepping for our evening launch for a campsite. A vehicle slowly pulls up. A lady gets out of the car, walks up, and hands me a tray of desserts with a note that read, "Good luck, we love you! The Wesleyan Church." I emotionally think to myself, "only on the River! only on the River!"
These encounters and conversations along the way let me know there's hope when it comes to the protection and preservation of the Mississippi River. It's loved and revered by many Americans. We must let our voices be heard and not let the profiteers in power today ruin our precious sources of fresh water.
Freshwater is more important than profits! Become a River Citizen and protect freshwater!
Sundown Sat Dec 16: Quapaw Canoe Company Christmas Party - Winter Solstice Bonfire - Rivergator Celebration - photos, videos, paintings, artwork, music - and more!
Sat Dec 16th: 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).
What is the Rivergator.org?
Rivergator.org is one million words describing the Lower Mississippi River for canoeists, kayakers, paddler boarders — and any other outdoor enthusiasts.
Rivergator.org is an online paddler’s guide to the Mighty Mississippi River. This is the first-ever guide to the biggest river in North America for paddlers. Rivergator is free of charge, we created it as a public service to help diversify and democratize the river. Six years in the making… one million words with thousands of photos, maps and videos. (It’s not perfect, but it’s the best resource out there — for recreation on the Lower Miss). We are overseen by a non-profit called the Lower Mississippi River Foundation.
The Rivergator.org is changing the perception of the big river as an industrial canal and superhighway for towboats. There is definitely industry, and it’s definitely the most important route for getting grain out of the heartland and oil back up to the refineries.
But it’s also the longest stretch of free-flowing river in the continental US (1154 miles), and is in fact mostly “wild" (according to wildmiles.org). It’s big and deep and powerful. Very dangerous. Full of myths and stories. Full of the raw wild exuberance of any free-flowing river. We seek to identify and enjoy the wild places. It’s one of the least traveled, least understood, and yet most magnificent wild places left in the country. In recent years 600+ people annually climb Everest. And more than 700 thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. Meanwhile, every year maybe 100 people paddle the length of the Mississippi River (as documented by John Sullivan, the Mississippi River Paddlers Group).
The Rivergator.org intends to help more paddlers enjoy the Mississippi River -- with the ultimate goal of insuring long-term health of the river, its creatures and its citizens.