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Expeditions - Camping Considerations (Winter)


Quapaw provides all necessary river gear & emergency equipment. Normally we prepare all food & refreshments, drinks include spring water, juices and milk. Alcoholic beverages BYOB. We will pack all necessary cookware and eating utensils, as well as camp tables and camp chairs.

Bring all personal gear and stuff into our waterproof drybags before launching (or use your own). These are backpack-style bags made of tough waterproof material - great for packing on a rainy day! It takes three complete fold to make them water-proof, be sure to lock all four buckles! If you have any questions, check with your guide.

Be prepared for rain or intense sun UV exposure! Sunlight is surprisingly intense on the river, even in the winter (you get the sun twice – once from above and once reflected from below). Sunburn is our number one complaint and has caused more than one Mississippi River paddler very painful days and sleepless nights. Be forewarned! Sunglasses, sun screen, long sleeve clothing and a wide brim hat are all good ideas, especially for anyone particularly sensitive.

We can supply tents & sleeping bags to anyone who needs them, $25ea/person/trip regardless of length. Otherwise, bring your own and pack with your gear into our dry bags.

Camping: Remote islands, sandbars, towheads, usually sandy places, sometimes its necessary to make a muddy landing. In inclement weather it might be necessary to find shelter within the forest. This is primitive camping on a river island, no services of any sort. Bring everything you need to make yourself comfortable. Bring your own toiletry. Bring a change of warm clothing, including summer months, when mornings can be cool. It's always cooler on the river.

Swimming: great cold-water swimming from ocean-size beaches and possible blue holes along the way. Blues holes are greenish or bluish pools of water carved directly into the sand & mud during high water, the low water leaves them in unexpected places. Best swimming in the Mississippi Delta! Pack swim gear and towels, wetsuits for longer swims. If you're uncertain, check with your guide for safe places to swim and not get swept away in strong currents, eddies, and the legendary Mississippi River whirlpools.

The Mississippi flows swiftly out of the northern states into our region. As such, the water can be surprisingly cold, especially in the early spring. Furthermore, our water temp is usually independent of local air temp. Imagine a river 45 degrees cold 150 feet deep flowing south at 5 knots – it takes a long time to warm up! When the water temperature falls below 60 degrees wet suits are required for all river travel – necessary because of the long swim that might be involved in case of capsize. Check with us beforehand for river temperature. Bring your own wetsuit, or we can provide, $35 per expedition.

My top ten equipment "don't forget to pack" recommendations are
  1. Foot protection you don't mind getting muddy & wet. On the water, Neoprene Booties are the very best, if the water gets in your feet stay warm. We stock NRS 7mm neoprene knee high booties for rent ($25) or purchase ($85 + tax) – these are the best we've ever worn. Rubber or plastic Barn Boots work almost as well, but your foot will get cold if the water gets in! Easily found at your local hardware store. For the sandbar, it's nice to have an old pair of dry tennis shoes to change into, or equivalent. Bring extra pair of shoes & pack into drybag to change into at camp.
  2. Head Protection for both cold & sun. Remember, you lose 90% of your body heat through your head. Best set-up: bring one hat for sun, and another to put on at night.
  3. Water Protection even if it doesn't rain, you might get wet from splashing waves, paddle drips, early morning dew, etc. Start out with polypro layers, top that with fleece or wool, and in case it gets really bad, pack a pair of top-to-bottom rain gear. This combination will provide sufficient all-weather protection, whether it's a full rain or just cold & windy. Remember, it always feels colder on the river, especially in the winter!
  4. Wetsuits required when water temperature falls below 60 degrees (generally November through April).
  5. Head lamp for after-dark reading, eating, whatever. When the mosquitoes come out after dark, the only secure place is your tent!
  6. A towel. Towels are great for all kinds of things, not just washing your face in the morning, but wiping sand out of your tent, a makeshift pillow, etc.
  7. Sun protection: Sunglasses, sun screen, long sleeve clothing and a wide that doesn't blow off in the wind. I highly recommend sun-protective clothing for children and anyone particularly sensitive. We find ours at www.nrsweb.com or www.sungrubbies.com, but most outdoors outlets carry them.
  8. A knife. Useful for everything from cutting steaks to making tent stakes!
  9. Notebook, journal, sketchbook, camera. You will want to record some of your experiences and the amazing sights & sounds of the Mississippi River. Always a surprise when you least expect it! You might have life-changing thoughts, ideas for a new business, or maybe just a sweet note to a loved-one.
  10. Star-chart: at least one per group. The best sky-watching in the mid-south! Let the campfire burn low and enjoy an ever-changing rotation of the heavens over your sandbar camp, the stars & constellations reflected with mirror-like splendor in the middle of gentle boils & eddies. Watch falling stars seemingly sizzle into the cold dark water. Have you ever seen the entire Milky Way reflected on the face of the river?
ALSO: bring several changes of clothes, and dress in layers in cool evenings. A sweater, jacket, fleece pull over & rain jacket for cool mornings/evenings. Camping close to the river is similar to camping on a Pacific Ocean beach, the day might be warm, or even hot, but it always feels cool by the water's edge, and even cooler if there is a breeze blowing over it.

Cooking & eating considerations: We provide all cookware and eating & drinking utensils, and do all of our cooking on the campfire with cast iron cookware, pans, pots & Dutch ovens. Smoked Cowboy Coffee (our specialty) poured from enamel coffee pots, we always keep hot water in a separate pot for soups & tea. We'll have on board big coolers with ice and several dry boxes for dry goods in case you have something extra you want to bring (ie: BYOB). Meals served on enamel camp plates, bowls & cups. Any personal food requirements? Let us know, otherwise we'll go with whatever looks freshest & tastiest!

Bug Protection: On a warm winter's day, the skeeters might re-awaken! Fortunately, they also go back to hibernation in the cool evenings. But, if you're sensitive, be prepared! The Mississippi Mosquito has evolved way beyond DEET and other commercial grade repellants. Some people swear by Avon "Skin-so-soft." The only thing that really works for me is long sleeve shirt and pants and shoes, My personal preference is fleece. The skeeters still haven't grown their noses long enough to get through a layer of pile fleece! If all else fails be prepared to jump in your tent after dark. Check beforehand to make sure your tent screens are complete (not a bad idea to double check stakes, poles and fly. Maybe apply seam sealer?) The persistent Mississippi Mosquito will find the hole you forgot about last year when you packed it away!

Great Birding, tracking, animal & insect sighting, fossil & rock hunting (on select gravel bars). Bring your binoculars & pocket guides. We will be paddling though some of the wildest & most remote forests in the mid-South. 60% of Americas songbirds use this flyway. Also, the richest biota in North America for many species (including White Tailed Deer). You may not see the 230 varieties of fish & amphibians, but they "see" you! The fishing is fantastic if you know what you're doing.

Any questions? Write john@island63.com or call 662-902-7841

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