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Big River Wild Adventures

Learn wilderness survival at this Mississippi River outdoors school

Survival Common Sense is operated by me, Leon Pantenburg, and I am the Director of Instruction for BRWA. The Survival Common Sense website and Youtube channel have been in operation for almost 10 years. (Find out more about Survivalcommonsense.com on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.)

I am a retired Central Oregon Community College instructor and my career was spent as a newspaperman, journalist and educator. But I became a hardcore river rat after reading "Huckleberry Finn" and "Life on the Mississippi" as a kid.

In 1980, taking a break from graduate school, I canoed the Mississippi from Lake Itasca, Minnesota to Venice, Louisiana. (You can read about it here.)

During my six-month solo voyage, I met hundreds of people. Many commented something to the effect of "I wish I could do something like that."

Long after my big river voyage was over, there was always a desire to somehow combine the big river and a wilderness skills school. I wanted to teach practical, common sense skills and techniques that the average person could quickly learn. Big River Wild Adventures is the fulfillment of those dreams.

I don't claim to be a survival expert. But I have been enamored with the outdoors as long as I can remember. I have done extended wilderness backpacking and canoeing trips in very remote and potentially dangerous areas. These include solo hiking the 225-mile John Muir Trail in California, the southern loop of Yellowstone, Death Valley, California and extended hikes in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Oregon. Check out my bio.

Big River Wild Adventures is a partnership between myself and the Quapaw Canoe Company (QCC). I will provide instruction and QCC will take care of outfitting (in beautiful hand-crafted voyageur style canoes), and expert guiding on the largest river in North America. QCC has been in operation for 21 years and guided approx 30,000 people on the big river, with approx half of those being youth from schools, youth groups, church groups and etc. QCC can provide tents & sleeping bags as needed, as well as wetsuits and other necessary gear in cold weather seasons.

Here's what you'll learn:

Firemaking: The ability to make a fire can save your life. The inability can cost it.

I was a wilderness skills trainer for the Fremont District, Central Oregon, Boy Scouts of America for 17 years. As such, I was out with scouts and volunteers in all sorts of weather, environments and conditions. In 2007, I received a District Award of Merit for researching, initiating and teaching a firemaking method using traditional flint and steel.

Since Troop 18 started that program in 2001, we have taught firemaking in scout camps, camporees, schoolroom classes and at the Deschutes County (Oregon) Fair. An estimated 15,000 people have learned flint and steel firemaking from the troop. I have made thousands of fires with flint and steel. It has been many years since I used anything but primitive, low tech methods to start a campfire in the wilderness.

You'll learn flint and steel firemaking, as well as how to use other methods that assure you can start a fire under any conditions. Plus, you'll put together a firemaking kit that guarantees success.

Shelter: This portion of the course focuses on tarp shelters, since they are the lightest, most effective way to make a quick shelter. You'll learn simple knots that can be tied quickly and easily under extreme conditions, as well as how to adapt a tarp to survival conditions. We'll use whatever the river provides to make comfortable shelters.

Land navigation: Most survival situations start when someone gets lost, and we'll start with the basics. You'll learn map and compass skills to assure that you always stay found. In addition to compass skills, you'll learn methods to orient yourself in the outdoors without navigation tools.

We don't teach GPS, because the individual types and models vary so widely. Besides, ANY GPS is as reliable as its batteries.

Wilderness survival skills: Many skills needed to survive don't fit neatly into a category, so we'll discuss what you want to learn. But some of these skills will include knife selection, handling and sharpening; making a personal survival kit, and how to create your own individual survival mindset.

There will be plenty of time to practice skills, explore and absorb the peacefulness of being outside. When you get home, you can use our Youtube videos to fine tune the skills you learned. Or to get a head start, watch some of them before you get out on the river.

Here's how the Big River Wild Adventures school works:

Bookings: Through Quapaw Canoe Company. For more information contact QCC.

Cost: Equipment rental and guided tours are tailored to individual needs. Here is the basic setup.

Survival Skills training: Instruction fees are figured on a sliding scale. The standard rate for Survival Common Sense training is $250 per day. Class size is generally limited to 10-12 participants. All teaching materials on the river are included in that price, with the exception of knives.

Scout troops, non-profits and/or charitable groups may qualify for a substantial wilderness skills discounts. Contact me to discuss this further.

For More Information Contact:

Leon Pantenburg
Survival Common Sense

John Ruskey
Quapaw Canoe Company
291 Sunflower Avenue
Clarksdale, MS 38614

If you're ready for a unique eco-vacation you'll never forget, contact us. We hope to see you on the river!
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