Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
Vol 8 No 5 - June 1, 2012
We are happy to announce that after many, many, many years of exploration, documentation, photography, painting and writing, (3 decades actually), the first installment of the River Gator Paddler’s Guide to the Lower Mississippi River is now live!
Go visit now at www.rivergator.org
...And let us know what you think! We want your comments and reactions!
Please note, this is a creative work in progress. I completed the home page painting while on a recent 4-day river trip down the Muddy Waters section of the Water Trail (Quapaw to Hurricane). The whole website is a work of art really, I think. Special recognition to the web design wizardry of John Moore and staff at 305spin in Sedalia, Missouri. Websites are fun that way, kind of like making a collage, collecting many scraps of this and that and arranging them in an artful fashion on the page. Later you can move and rearrange items, or update as conditions change. In essence fluid like the floodplain itself.
The River Gator will be enlightening for anyone wanting to learn about the nature of the river and how all of its many elements all flow together, and most importantly how to enjoy (and survive) in its wild environment!
The integrity of the Paddler’s Guide is due to a panel of river experts who reviewed the material along the way as it was being composed and arranged, including outdoor author Ernest Herndon (Canoeing Mississippi, Canoeing Louisiana), biologists Paul Hartfield (USFW), Cliff Ochs (Ole Miss), naturalist/painter Robin Whitfield (Grenada), historian Kevin Smith (Helena), canoe builder Bubba Battle (Tunica), Outdoor Ed. leader Todd Davis (Delta State U), naturalist Foster Dickard (Miss Water Trails), wildlife consultant Tommy Shropshire (Terry), naturalist James Cummins, environmentalist Hart Henson and kayaker Jason Gorski (Greenwood). This project was coordinated through Ron Nassar and the Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee. The River Gator website is made possible with a grant from the Walton Family Foundation, which believes in “conservationomics” -- lasting solutions that make sense for the economy and the environment.
If you haven’t yet visited, go now to www.rivergator.org and scroll through the dozens of pages and hundreds of photos in the “River Log” section.
The River Log is the meat & potatoes of the website, detailing mile-by-mile the intricacies of the river from its powerful main channel full of dangerous towboats to the gentle subtle flow in the back channels and all of the wildlife surprises that await the adventurous paddler there.
I received this email yesterday (May 31st)
“Went to the River Gator site a day early – couldn’t wait – well laid out – brought back some memories. In the late 70’s, a friend, his wife, and I had a friend drive us to the mouth of the St Francis, and we put in in a flat bottom boat like the one pictured and floated down to Helena where we still had family. We had some paddles, life jackets and beer, and made it down just fine – despite being passed by barges and such. I remember arriving at dusk, just about when my friend’s dad was about to call search and rescue.
“Your trips sound much more sane and it scares me to read about what precautions we didn’t take. I had another friend who worked on soybean barges on the River that told about the dangers of walking on slippery rotten soybeans on deck and watching trees get sucked into whirlpools and get spit out downstream – at least that didn’t happen to us.
“Appreciate all your good river lore – The Mississippi still holds a fascination to me after all these years, and I enjoy reading about others who appreciate its unique beauty.
What Color is the Mississippi River?
The page on “What Color is the Mississippi River?” generated some interesting responses:
“Nice. Water color is actually measured and expressed in two ways – apparent and true. Apparent is the color you see. This is most often driven by suspended sediments (brown for dirt or green for plants) or dissolved carbon (tea color or blackwater, but sometimes metals too like iron or manganese). This is why people refer to the color of the MS as muddy.
“But, when I think of color, I think of true color – and I wonder what the true color of the MS is? You don’t see apparent color measured all that often in scientific circles because it varies so much depending on flow and what is suspended in the water and changes so much when you simply filter the water. True color is the color due to dissolved materials only and is performed, as you’d imagine, on filtered samples that may also be centrifuged to remove colloids. Filtered water is put in a spectrophotometer and the color measured relative to a Platinum-Cobalt standard. Clear waters is <10 PCU, dark water is 500 PCU or more.
“I wonder what the true color of the MS is? Probably would be primarily low (30s to 40s) except after floods and in the fall when it likely carries more dissolved organic matter….
“I very much enjoy your posts and look forward to the guide. As for the color of the river, of course it changes with the light, but I vote for cafe au lait. I love Faulkner, but it is most assuredly not "chocolate."
“Along those lines, my grandparents, who lived in the lowlands of Issaquena County, Mississippi before the advent of gargantuan levees (or any levees, in their area, aside from four-feet-high mule-made levees in the vicinity of Eagle Lake), used to say they could tell from their front porch where the "high water" was coming from. They never called it a "flood" other than the 1927 event, because a flood was an expected disaster, and high water was part of the familiar annual fluctuation. Their house, which stood eight feet off the ground, was often an island in a temporary inland sea, but water only got inside once. Now, with all the levees and floodgates, the water would get up to the roof during major events if the house was still there. Anyway, as for differentiating the high waters, if it had a greenish cast, they knew it was coming from the Ohio basin. If it was exceptionally muddy, from the Missouri.
(Note: Alan Huffman is the author of the amazing book Sultana, amongst many others…)
RIVER GATOR FAQs
WHAT IS THE RIVER GATOR?
The River Gator website describes the 1100 mile trail of free-flowing water between St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico. It is the first river guide written for paddlers on the Lower Mississippi River and will include beautiful photos, exciting text, and very-helpful and easy-to-read google maps. Made public June 1, 2012, the River Gator will be under construction for the next year or until the entire trail is complete.
WHO IS THE RIVER GATOR WRITTEN FOR?
The River-Gator is written for canoeists, kayakers and stand-up-paddleboarders -- and anyone else plying the waters of the Lower Mississippi River in human-powered craft.
WHO IS THE RIVER GATOR WRITTEN BY?
The River-Gator was written by John Ruskey who has been paddling, photographing, and documenting the islands, landings and channels of the Lower Mississippi River since 1982. A host of river experts have been reviewing and editing content including outdoor author Ernest Herndon (Canoeing Mississippi, Canoeing Louisiana), biologists Paul Hartfield (USFW), Cliff Ochs (Ole Miss), naturalist/painter Robin Whitfield (Grenada), historian Kevin Smith (Helena), canoe builder Bubba Battle (Tunica), Outdoor Ed. leader Todd Davis (Delta State U), naturalist Foster Dickard (Miss Water Trails), wildlife consultant Tommy Shropshire (Terry), naturalist James Cummins, environmentalist Hart Henson and kayaker Jason Gorski. John Moore 305spin.com is designing & hosting website. Project coordinated through Ron Nassar, the Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee. The River Gator website is made possible with a grant from the Walton Family Foundation, which believes in “conservationomics”: lasting solutions that make sense for the economy and the environment.
I am hoping to share the secrets for safe paddling on this often mysterious and confusing waterway -- and at the same time dispel some of the myths about paddling the Big River.
IS IT SAFE?
While the Mississippi River presents many challenges for paddlers, when properly approached by knowledgable paddlers with the right equipment it can be the amongst most rewarding paddling in North America. Paddling on the Lower Mississippi River involves: 1) advanced paddling experience, 2) good preparation, 3) The Right Vessel and 4) the right equipment.
NOTE ON TITLE:
The name "River Gator" is inspired by the best seller The Navigator first published in 1801 by Zadok Kramer. Mr. Kramer is the same guy who numbered the islands and installed the nomenclature system that we we still use today.
Initially appearing as website covering 100+ miles of the 1100 mile trail (the free-flowing water between St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico), additional 100+ mile sections will be added on until the entire trail is carefully documented for paddlers with photos, text, and maps (and eventually video & sound clips). The website address is www.rivergator.org. Text, photos and maps will eventually be published hard copy as the "River Gator: the Paddler's Guide to the Middle & Lower Mississippi River."