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February is Sunflower River Month!

Sat, Feb 16th @ 2pm -- Meeting for Friends of the Sunflower River

at Quapaw Canoe Company -- 3rd & Sunflower Ave.

In downtown Clarksdale, Mississippi

Happy Sunflower River Day!

Today is the first day of February, which also means our annual month in celebration of our beloved Sunflower River. Get out and walk the banks of the river. Its fairly high, the banks are full from the last rain, but now starting to fall and leaving the tell-tale muddy bathtub ring around the edges. Its a very cold day today, but the skies are beautiful, even more beautiful in their reflections in the brown water. It will only get more beautiful towards sundown…

Note: Its also of course Black History Month. You could mix the two with a "Backdoor" tour of downtown Clarksdale: paddle behind Red's Juke Joint, underneath the Martin Luther King Street Bridge, and the new KABOOM! playground in the same-named park, past the Riverside Hotel (Bessie Smith 1937), the old location of the Rivermont Lounge, over the weir, and then on downstream to Hopson Commissary Plantation where the mechanized cotton-picker led to the "largest peace time exodus in the history of man" according Nicholas Lehman in his book The Promised Land.

The best way to enjoy this back-door Blues & Civil Rights tour is from river-view by canoe or kayak. Stand-Up Paddleboards are great fun on the Sunflower. Don’t forget the lifejacket, and save the libations for after you get off the river. No drinking & paddling. Especially not during this time of year when you might have 15 minutes maximum survival time in the water.

Remember, you will receive a 20% discount on rentals with Quapaw Canoe Company if you want to get out on the river and paddle some. And its pretty reasonable to begin with: $35/canoe/day. That’s a lot of fun for 2 people, and of course includes your paddles and life jackets.

Are you a Friend of the Sunflower River? See below if not.

And have a good month in celebration of our river.

Why is February is Sunflower River Month?

Its that time of year: If you’ve never before participated in Sunflower River Month this year you can catch up and join in the fun.

What is Sunflower River Month? Its a month-long celebration for the sad & neglected & lonely little bluesy river we call our own.

Why February? Its that time of year that things slow down enough we can take a little extra time to look over the 2nd Street Bridge and gaze at that interesting dark muddy ribbon of fluid magic flowing through downtown Clarksdale. Or maybe a noon-time walk during lunch break? The riverwalk has been closed off to vehicular traffic. Walk across the bridge, or park your car at Soldier’s Field and enjoy a peaceful stroll down the only street in the Mississippi Delta that is reserved for pedestrians only (or bicycles, skate boards, and other self-powered means).

Why Walk? Its peaceful. Its rejuvenating. Its good for you. You notice things you’ll never see from your car. At dusk you might notice waves emanating in a v-line as a Beaver noses his way upstream in search of supper. Or you might see a River Otter playfully diving & re-surfacing. You will hear Snow Geese overhead and Blackbirds in the trees. If you’re quiet & keen-eyed you might spy Mr. Red Fox darting into the shadows as his nightly hunt begins. Or maybe catch Mr. Big Horned Owl as he swoops onto the high branches of a bald cypress to stare with those killer eyes at all things that make motions below.

Why the Sunflower? Because its our river.

How about its tributaries? This Year we will be making an expedition down the strange and important Sunflower River tributary: The Hushpuckena.

Where can I find out more about the Friends?

Go to our blogsite http://friends-of-the-sunflower-river.blogspot.com/ Please contact me about adding photos, stories & details. Become a friend on the Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/groups/276100599177165/.

Isn’t the Sunflower a dirty river? Walk along or canoe down the river and decide yourself what’s dirty and what’s not. Your opinion does not count if you have only seen the river from the bridge out of your car window.

Isn’t this Black History Month? Yes. In respect to Black History Month, let me share a few details of note concerning the Sunflower River. In its journey through the Delta, the Sunflower winds through the layers of mud and history that gave the world its first great blues singer (Charlie Patton, Dockery Plantation), the first mechanized cotton picker (Hopson Plantation), its oldest African-American founded community (Mound Bayou), rural Civil Rights era leaders (Fanny Lou Hamer, Sunflower County; Aaron Henry, Clarksdale), the Teddy Bear (Delta National Forest), King of the Chicago Blues (Muddy Waters, born in Rolling Fork, lived 25 years at Stovall) and the renowned ambassador of the blues (B.B. King, Indianola). The Rev. C.L. Franklin (Aretha’s Father) is just one of many who were baptized in her muddy waters. Bessie Smith died at the G.T. Thomas Hospital which sits on her banks in Clarksdale (now the Riverside Hotel). Today you can hear live blues along the river at juke joints Red’s and Sarah’s Kitchen. Legendary woodsman, Holt Collier (1846-1936), who cornered the Teddy Bear, reported its waters to run clear & clean, and Roosevelt started each day of the hunt with a cold-water swim. One of our long-term objectives is to make the waters safe once again for fishing and swimming.

Okay, but is it safe to paddle on the Sunflower River? Ask my 5-year old daughter Emma-Lou: She says its okay, but wear a life-jacket! Recent paddlers on the Sunflower River came from Washington State and Memphis. The wildlife on the Eagle’s Nest to Clarksdale run has been spectacular!