About Us | Photo Gallery | Publicity | Pricing | FAQ | Employment Opportunities | Quapaw Dispatch

Testimonials


Jackson Academy: Reflections from the Mighty Missi, October 2014

Jackson Academy: Reflections from the Mighty Mississippi Sarah Ryburn Mealer, Middle School Counselor The first fifth grade overnight trip on the Mississippi River was an exciting, character-shaping adventure for 21 fifth graders and seven chaperones. Perfect weather contributed to a wonderul outing that helped students escape their comfort zones and build confidence in unfamiliar surroundings. Participants canoed, swam, explored sandbars and gravelbars, took nature hikes, and camped out on a sandbar on Buck Island. The fifth graders created some great memories. It was Quapaw Canoe Company’s first overnight trip with students from a Mississippi school. I put my foot on the gunwale, stood to full height, and jumped out of my canoe into the Mississippi River. Several times during the previous night, the sound of tugboats pushing barges through that very shipping lane had woken me, but there I was, swimming the mighty Mississippi. As I broke the surface, four fifth grade girls called out a warning. They were coming in, too; maybe right on top of me! This year at JA has started with much talk of character: how to build and shape it, how to take children away from the comfortable and familiar to help them discover unique capacities for strength, confidence, and resilience in the face of the strange and unfamiliar. I’ve had the privilege to travel on many trips that comprise a significant arm of JA’s character education program, but I’ve never been on a trip quite like this. Canoeing the Mississippi River? With fifth graders? It started at Helena, Arkansas, at the Quapaw Canoe Company, where owner and chief guide John Ruskey talked to us about our route. We’d paddle three miles of the tributary St. Francis then meet the Mississippi. The plan was to overnight on a sandbar at Buck Island. He talked about star charts and river levels and the wildlife we’d likely encounter, and I could feel the excitement building all around me. We stopped for lunch at the juncture of the two rivers. By that time, we’d experienced close encounters with some of Ruskey’s wildlife. Asian Carp had jumped into two of our boats, creating hilarious chaos; without missing a beat, our fifth graders pursued wildlife into its habitat, seeking out toads and turtle shells, dragon flies and fish skeletons, as we wandered along the bank. Those who plan outdoor education often speak of “capstone trips” and “community building.” We long for these experiences for our students. We know their potential for character and development, the inexpressible chemistry by which such experiences weave themselves into the fabric of self. The equation is elusive and impossible to recreate in a classroom, however progressive or rigorous. We know their potential for character and development, the inexpressible chemistry by which such experiences weave themselves into the fabric of self. There is a capstone, and it shifted into place on a sandbar along the Mississippi River, under a blanket of stars, as John Ruskey captivated twenty–one fifth graders with talk of the first explorers to the region and the number of houses a beaver will build in its lifetime. It found traction with half a dozen of those fifth grade girls who discovered that they can love Mississippi mud as much as a cell phone or an iPad. Community happened on the river as four canoes of JA students called out a Quapaw “whoop” of greeting to each other across the water. I traveled to the canoe company with several students and another teacher, and our car played a familiar game along the road: I Spy. I spy, with my little eye, a mighty adventure. It was strange, and it was wonderful, and I can’t wait to go again!

^Top

Kelly Boutwell & Friend, July 2012

Family, I had a most pleasurable day on the river. We rose at 4am, met our guides at 5am and we were on the water by 6am. The weather was spectacular--couldn't have been better and not likely to ever happen like that again. It was cool for most of the morning. We explored several huge sandbars. The sandy beaches were almost white speckled with rocks and shells and coal. The flood last year revealed many things. We came across several ancient tree stumps that were expansive and dramatically weathered and haven't been exposed in a real long time. We passed by towering sandbars whose walls looked more like something from Utah or the Grand Canyon. We all had lunch under willow trees on a great sandbar and fell into a nice twenty minute nap afterwards. All five of us asleep in silence under the trees. When we woke, we finally felt the tinge of the sun coming down. It was warm for the rest of the day which was no problem because we stopped often for quick dips in the river. The river temperature was perfect.........cold enough to cool us down after paddling in the sun and warm enough that I could have stayed in the water a long time. I saw one spider. no other bugs to report. lots of animal tracks - deer, turtles, birds, geese, coyote, coons.....

The sky was bright blue, clear, but scattered with clouds. The landscape was picturesque. Beautiful.

The water was big and wild. I saw many different current patterns, most often simultaneously moving in different directions. We would float with the current on one side and the other side, sometimes 20 yards away, the current would flow in the opposite direction. We rode the waves behind a tow. Saw a few boils. Saw a huge swell where one part of the water was a few feet higher than the water next to it almost like stair steps in the river.

John brought two of his apprentices along. They were both young, curious and excited to be on the river. They were responsible for securing the boat, unloading supplies and generally making it real easy for us to enjoy our time. John is a real river man who proved to be a wealth of knowledge about the wildlife and the river. He led the canoe with a gentle hand, never raised his voice, never gave me or Lauren any instruction. Somehow we just knew what to do. We all listened when he spoke.

I brought back an interesting piece of petrified mud. John found what he thinks is the jaw of a bison--he said thousands of years old.

We saw around seven tows. Really huge and going fast. One of them was three freights wide by seven in length.

We took out around 2pm on a channel that curved around one of the islands, Island 63. Two carps took us quite by surprise and jumped up and flew across our boat. They were about two feet long and really thick.

3pm we were heading back. By 7:30, I was showered and in bed.

Tired, but real damn happy about my day.

Kelly

^Top

Linda Brewer, November 2008

Paddling on the Mississippi River with John Ruskey is a reward to myself , twice a year. A group of Jackson area nurses convene in Clarksdale twice a year for a awesome float on the Mississippi River with John. Last fall, we explored THE river from Vicksburg to Natchez. Paddling the river, exploring those wonderful islands, eating those out-standing John Ruskey meals, re-connecting with what really matters in this world. I have been blessed with some wonderful travel opportunities in my life and paddling with John ranks as the best. The river/islands are so beautiful, I am amazed each trip that it is not a National Park. Thank you John for providing us the perfect way to explore our awesome Mississippi River.

^Top

Don Zykan, October 2008

Mike and John, I can't express enough to you guys for the great and wonderful trip we completed on Sunday. I know, we were lucky with the weather and all, but I have to say, you both, along with Dinky and Woody, made it a most memorable adventure. It turned out exactly as I expected and I am confident, those that attended have been discussing and passing on the stories all day, and will continue.

In our effort to help raise the awareness of the River and it's great resource, this event certainly went a long way. I have had discussions with several since the trip, and each told me how apprehensive they were and how intimidated they were by the River, until they set sail. All said, it only took minutes to begin feeling comfortable and were overcome by the sensation and awareness of what I have been telling them. They were amazed and some even overwhelmed at just how nice and beautiful this amazing natural resource really is.

You have lots of new converts now spreading the word. Mission accomplished.

Thanks again, and to a person, each one of my float mates, commented to me, just how impressed they were with both Dinky and Woody, fine young men.

Keep up the good work and Thanks for the experience.

^Top

Scott Brady, May 2008

Hi John & the Mighty Quapaws,

Thank you for such an awesome trip down the Mississippi. I have a new love and respect for the river, not to mention a new perspective! I can’t wait to get Jesse in a canoe. At his request, I took him “sea kayaking” on the bay at Grayton Beach in FL last year and amazingly he paddled in the front and I never had to show him how to do it. He was such a natural. I think he’ll really enjoy the Mississippi. Although I may take him on the Black Creek for his first canoe trip. I learned something about the river, it only appears to be a tame, lazy river. It’s so not. It’s really not what it looks like on the surface…a theme I’ve been using for my classes this week about the current of the breath…seems benign, but really is amazingly strong and powerful!

Thank you again. All light and sri,

Scott Brady
Butterfly Yoga
Jackson, Mississippi

^Top

Kenneth Williams, Kayaking Father of Waters, May 2008

I remember last winter sitting straight up in bed, sheets clinging, clammy, in the frigid dark of the duck camp, in a massive panic attack brought on by an impending boat ride across the Mississippi River, in search of greenheads. That ride was to be in a heavy, all-weld, 2-motor, virtually indestructible john boat.

Fast-forward six months. Nothing, predictably, has changed my all-too-healthy respect for the Father of Waters. However, now I am floating under the Helena Bridge in a red splinter of a kayak, the massive Mississippi in flood. Eddies, whirlpools and undertows toss the 50-pound piece of molded plastic, me inside, wide-eyed, wondering what I am doing here. The kayak is 14 feet long and 23 inches wide, not nearly as thick as the tree trunks floating towards New Orleans, wooden icebergs obscured by swirling sand-paper colored water.

A few hard strokes and I tuck in behind my buddy, Words, in his canary yellow 15-foot kayak. Our guide, river man extraordinaire John Ruskey, paddles his large and ladened 24-foot canoe. John’s canoe-mate is the appropriately-named Moose, who wields a beautiful hand-curved wooden paddle with power and grace. Together they make the canoe slice through the water as they chase the fastest southbound currents.

Words and I, after years of child-raising and business-building, have reconnected through a mutual love of kayaking. Not always interested in hiking the easiest trail, we are eager to explore this north Delta section of the great river at fish-eye level. Ruskey, his paddle dipping methodically, is the perfect guide.

Me, I am working through my Bucket List, developed long before Morgan Freeman made a movie of the concept. Morgan, a resident of the world, resides nearby in the Mississippi Delta. I envision him standing high on the river bank, hands on hips, curious grin on his face, inspecting our small fleet. I give him a figurative ‘paddles up’ as we bob past. As to the Bucket List, this adventure ranks above “Learning to Shrill-Whistle” (not done) but south of “Running the Boston Marathon” (done). A full life demands variety.

The weather is perfect: low 80’s, cumulus white clouds ambling across an azure sky. The wind is a friend as the river heads south. Our course varies, but mostly we stick to the middle, vast stretches of rolling river on both sides of us. We vaguely follow John’s canoe, although sometimes a quarter mile behind. The water is cooperating nicely: current swift, insignificant swells. Shore scenery drifts by. First there is farmland, containing rich topsoil that, eons ago, resided in Illinois or Missouri, and then mile after mile of thick, bottle green forests of popular and willow, with an occasional cypress, towering like a Samurai Warrior over his domain. After that we glide past the grass-green, treeless levee, The Great Wall of the South, built to keep out the invading hordes of floodwater. Black Angus peacefully graze the lush grass, mere black specs from our mid-river vantage point.

We pass our first towboat. This one is pushing 18 barges upriver, slowly, diesels groaning, smoke stack fouling the sky with black fumes. The river is torn apart by the massive twin screws. First we rise, as the tow displaces millions, billions of gallons of river, then come the swells, three feet high. Minutes later the river is choppy with creamy foam waves going in all directions. Our kayaks first point west towards Little Rock, then east toward Atlanta, and finally, south towards Vicksburg. Strangely, the direction changes are not as frightening as I would have anticipated. Perhaps because we saw it coming, knew the cause, knew it was of short duration. The river soon settles and we paddle on peacefully, covering miles quickly.

Two hours on the water and my legs and back are stiff. The Lewis and Clark lookalikes in the canoe give no quarter to the fleet little kayaks. We dig hard just to keep abreast. Taking a quick photo costs three minutes of hard paddling to catch up.

Suddenly the river is violently turbulent, and there is wind strong in my face. Oakley’s are unable to block out the reflecting sun, as our course has turned west into a 15-knot wind. It is a different river. Words disappears in three-foot troughs of water, then he’s back on top for a moment before disappearing again. Waves break over the bow of my narrow boat, and then it pops back up, like a red and white fishing cork after a bream bite. My confidence level is much higher now, and I find the ride exciting and invigorating, like an old cowboy conquering his unbroken steed; the pony continues to buck, but the cowboy knows who is in control.

We see the southern turn of the river two miles ahead, and that inspires us. At last we regain our friendly river, calm, flat, swift and heading in the right direction. The stress of navigating the turbulent water dissipates and we calmly rest, nervous tension gone, paddles resting across the bow, moving serenely with the river. John motions us to gather near the mother-ship where he sits with sausage, chips and tomato, and he tells us to hold out our paddles while he loads the dripping blades. We snack, discuss the just traversed section of wild river and leisurely drift south. The sun is dropping fast when we finally arrive at the Island of John’s choosing, perhaps it was Island 69 or was it 96? They all have numbers for names. We set up camp, 25 miles from Helena. By the time we unload, set up tents and take a short swim in a blue hole, a deep and clear pool of river water that has percolated up through the island sand, John and Moose have prepared a gourmet dinner. We feast on massive venison and buffalo patties, cooked on a driftwood fire—more meat than I’ve seen in a month. By now the moon has risen and it is full, lighting up the night like day. The slight wind comes from the north, and blows away the mosquitoes. We are grateful. John’s guitar has made the journey packed in the canoe and soon Delta blues, highlighted by strong vocals from John, and accompanied by the high pitch of my Lee Oskar harmonica, ring out across the wide river, just as it has for decades. We experience an indefinable moment: the wine, the moon, the river, the blues….the world is in harmony.

The spell continues the following morning, as we paddle mile after mile of massive river. We lunch on a sand bar in mid-river, a narrow, but swift moving channel of water bisects our tiny island. We enjoy a quick but cold swim, and then a lunch that appears to come straight from the pages of “Southern Living”: fresh sliced pears, berries, smoked salmon, dark wheat bread, three kinds of cheese. We sit in the sand and eat, hungry from exercise. Afterwards, like children, we lay on the Destin-like white sand dunes and sleep.

Too soon we arrive at Francis Landing, our final destination, and our odyssey ends.

Perhaps it was the vastness of the massive river, coupled with the insignificance we felt in our tiny vessels, that caused the journey to be so powerful, so overwhelming, so emotional. Maybe it was the correlation between our journey and the river of life that sweeps all along daily, as we attempt to avoid the eddies, whirlpools and undertows of life. Whatever the cause, the exhilaration of experiencing the Delta from the surface of this colossal river, will remain with me for as long as I draw breath.

^Top

Paul Cooley, April 2008

Me and my two kids were on a trip with John. I've posted the story on my blog http://carfreefamily.blogspot.com

I've known John for 22 years now, and I've boated with him several times. I have complete faith in him on the river. Life is always accompanied by risk. I felt my children were far safer on the Mississippi, even at flood stage, with John at the helm, than on our drive on I-40 on the way to the river. How many people die in traffic accidents each year in Memphis compared to the number of people who die on the river?

I do appreciate the concern of the citizen who called the Memphis Police to talk to me about taking the kids on the river, and the concern of the Coast Guard vessels who subsequently checked out our preparedness for the voyage. We all had a wonderful time on the trip, and it was a better spring break for my children than sitting safely at home playing video games.

^Top

Howard Stovall, May 2007

You have really opened my eyes about the river. I think the fact that I ended up throwing Frisbee and flying kites down by the river with the kids this weekend is partially due to the fact that it looms larger in my mind, having canoed it. Put me on the mailing list, and count on me to do this again!

^Top

Dan Denerstein, October 1998

John--Wanted to catch you before your "float" to New Orleans, primarily to tell you how much I enjoyed our one-day trip with you. I had no idea that the shoreline along the Mississippi was so pristine. It's rare that you can travel anyplace in this country and view it in its natural beautiful state, just the way it looked hundreds of years ago, with no intrusive reminders of modern life anywhere. That last hour of daylight, where we just floated south and literally forged a relationship with the sunset, was one of the most spiritual and serene hours of my overcrowded life. And John, you were the perfect guide, coupling your expert boatsmanship with an apparent inch-by-inch knowledge of the river, its history and folklore, that made the entire journey fascinating. It was a moving and enlightening day that I will remember in detail for a long time, although I am sure the memories will meld with those of future trips I intend to take with you, just as soon as I can get down there

^Top

Stephan & Christina, August 1998

Stephan's Response to the journey:

The day had started with an Earlybird Southern Style Breakfast, before friends set us off at the small Helena bay. Christina took place in the middle of John's huge aluminium canoe, she couldn't be more than a passenger at that day, caused by a back injury. The presence of some coolers announced a rich lunch. My seat was in the front and I got a paddle to help. John was steering, downstream should process a big part of our movement.

Slowly we were sliding on a brown, as smooth as glass, muddy water. We were enjoying the silence of a river as wide as a lake. Barges were sometimes passing and producing waves, which brought fun to our little team. John knew to tell a lot of interesting stories about the river and its countries. Sandbars as large as islands asked us to stop and to explore them. We were finding untouched nature, tracks of coyotes and deer, lagoon-like ponds, shells and wood from Minnesota.

Weather was playing on our team too. Showers were available below the Mississippi surface only and light clouds were keeping off the hottest sun. A noon rest with barbecue, vegetables, fruits and juices was refreshing and gave us power for the afternoon leg. Embedded in fine white sand a nap was the most agreeable answer to the pre-sunrise-wake-up-call. I'd have loved to stay and watch the sunset and spend an island night. Now we immediately were able to recognize, why John has called his homepage "island63". In the afternoon more little adventures (to be discovered by yourself) signed our way to Quapaw, where John's incredible `56-truck and some ice cold beer were waiting for us. This day was a great enrichment of our journey. I'm definitely glad that we did it.We relaxed, we learned a lot, and it worked as a perfect appetizer for more and longer Mississippi River trips.

August 1998
Zuerich, Switzerland
Stephan & Christina


^Top

,

Jackson Academy: Reflections from the Mighty Mississippi by Sarah Ryburn Mealer, Middle School Counselor The first fifth grade overnight trip on the Mississippi River was an exciting, character-shaping adventure for 21 fifth graders and seven chaperones. Perfect weather contributed to a wonderul outing that helped students escape their comfort zones and build confidence in unfamiliar surroundings. Participants canoed, swam, explored sandbars and gravelbars, took nature hikes, and camped out on a sandbar on Buck Island. The fifth graders created some great memories. It was Quapaw Canoe Company’s first overnight trip with students from a Mississippi school. I put my foot on the gunwale, stood to full height, and jumped out of my canoe into the Mississippi River. Several times during the previous night, the sound of tugboats pushing barges through that very shipping lane had woken me, but there I was, swimming the mighty Mississippi. As I broke the surface, four fifth grade girls called out a warning. They were coming in, too; maybe right on top of me! This year at JA has started with much talk of character: how to build and shape it, how to take children away from the comfortable and familiar to help them discover unique capacities for strength, confidence, and resilience in the face of the strange and unfamiliar. I’ve had the privilege to travel on many trips that comprise a significant arm of JA’s character education program, but I’ve never been on a trip quite like this. Canoeing the Mississippi River? With fifth graders? It started at Helena, Arkansas, at the Quapaw Canoe Company, where owner and chief guide John Ruskey talked to us about our route. We’d paddle three miles of the tributary St. Francis then meet the Mississippi. The plan was to overnight on a sandbar at Buck Island. He talked about star charts and river levels and the wildlife we’d likely encounter, and I could feel the excitement building all around me. We stopped for lunch at the juncture of the two rivers. By that time, we’d experienced close encounters with some of Ruskey’s wildlife. Asian Carp had jumped into two of our boats, creating hilarious chaos; without missing a beat, our fifth graders pursued wildlife into its habitat, seeking out toads and turtle shells, dragon flies and fish skeletons, as we wandered along the bank. Those who plan outdoor education often speak of “capstone trips” and “community building.” We long for these experiences for our students. We know their potential for character and development, the inexpressible chemistry by which such experiences weave themselves into the fabric of self. The equation is elusive and impossible to recreate in a classroom, however progressive or rigorous. We know their potential for character and development, the inexpressible chemistry by which such experiences weave themselves into the fabric of self. There is a capstone, and it shifted into place on a sandbar along the Mississippi River, under a blanket of stars, as John Ruskey captivated twenty–one fifth graders with talk of the first explorers to the region and the number of houses a beaver will build in its lifetime. It found traction with half a dozen of those fifth grade girls who discovered that they can love Mississippi mud as much as a cell phone or an iPad. Community happened on the river as four canoes of JA students called out a Quapaw “whoop” of greeting to each other across the water. I traveled to the canoe company with several students and another teacher, and our car played a familiar game along the road: I Spy. I spy, with my little eye, a mighty adventure. It was strange, and it was wonderful, and I can’t wait to go again!

^Top

March
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  
April
            1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30            
 
 Open Date
 
 Mouseover for more info



 

Join Mailing List