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Expeditions - Rivers & Museums

Memphis, Tunica, Helena, Clarksdale

First-time paddlers on the Mississippi are often overwhelmed by the giant perspectives of the floodplain landscape, the long forested islands, the immense sandbars like ocean beaches, and the powerful mile-wide river that seems to “dead-end” and then disappear around the next bend. The river hides her secrets. It is difficult to understand just how deep the main channel is, how wide the floodplain, and the incredible diversity & strength of the biology. It’s deceiving. As you paddle along you don’t see anything but water & sky and long thin lines of forest in between. No visible remains of steamboats, Indian villages, plantations, frontier landings are found anywhere – all history is buried under layers of mud & sand.

Portaging canoes & kayaks past Helena’s Delta Cultural Center

Four river-related museums (1) Mud Island Park (Memphis), (2) Tunica River Park Museum, (3) Delta Cultural Center in Helena and (4) the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale all provide interpretive exhibits, maps, photos, artwork and artifacts that “signify” the river, helping paddlers better understand the unique nature & scale of the Lower Mississippi. Amazingly all three are located near good river landings approximately within a days’ paddle of each other. What a great paddling opportunity!

Delta Blues Museum & the Main Stage of the Sunflower River Blues Festival

This is a unique opportunity for a mixture of “real” & “interpretive” river experience. Applicable to anyone on the river who wants to understand the river from many different perspectives and disciplines. Perfect for couples, families, church groups, boy scout or girl scout troops, outdoor enthusiasts, paddling aficionados, adventurers, historians, geographers, birders, biologists, archeologists, paleontologists, and any other heritage or eco-tourists. This kind of experience is most certainly un-equaled anywhere else on the Lower Mississippi.

Day I
Start out this adventure with a walking tour of the entire Lower Mississippi River at Mud Island Park. See the river from bird’s eye perspective that you will be paddling for the next 3 or 4 days. Load canoes and set off downstream, overnight on one of the big islands.

Day II
Spend a few hours at the Tunica River Park Museum. Many exhibits were designed by author John Barry (Rising Tide). Continue on downstream for another beautiful camp site on another big beautiful island -- perhaps Buck Island, which was protected by the American land Conservancy in 2007 and straddles the main channel only one mile above Helena, Arkansas.

Paddle into Helena and visit the Delta Cultural Center, which sits behind the floodwall on the West side of the Harbor. If you arrive before 11:45am you will be able to sit in and listen to a live broadcasted transmission of Sonny “Sunshine” Payne’s “King Biscuit Time” Program on KFFA 1360AM. Uncle Sonny has been on the air since 1947. This makes him one of the longest continuous broadcasting DJs in the world! Be ready to be interviewed live. Reload your canoe and paddle under the Hernando DeSoto Bridge and make camp on yet another big beautiful island.

Day IV
Last day: paddle around one or two more bends of the river and meet shuttle driver Wesley Jefferson “The Mississippi Junebug” and Ellis Coleman (Super Chikan’s younger brother) for a pick up and transport to Clarksdale via Stovall Plantation (where Muddy Waters lived for 25 years before migrating to Chicago) and the “Humber” site (the largest concentration of Native Americans outside of Cahokia as researched & reported by archeologist Charles Peabody, Harvard University, 1897). Visit the Delta Blues Museum, which was established in 1979 and is the first & foremost center for the preservation & continuation of the blues. Master musicians present every afternoon 3-5pm. Exhibits connecting the mystery of the river with the mystique of the blues.

Exhibit entrance at the Tunica River Park Museum

All expeditions are outfitted with first-aid kits, rescue ropes, life preservers, cellular communication, and VHF marine radio.  Please remember itinerary is dependent on river level and prevailing weather.
When on the river, there is no time but “River Time.”
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