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Big Island Circumnavigation

Rivergator: Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Slide Show by Quapaw Canoe Company

& the Lower Mississippi River Foundation

for the Bluff City Canoe Club, Wed July 3, 2013

6pm Main Library, Memphis Tennessee

“Driftwood Johnnie” John Ruskey

Mark “River” Peoples

Chris “Wolfie” Staudinger

Program Description:

In February of 2013 Mark, Chris and John completed the first circumnavigation of Big Island by canoe since the Quapaw people departed the area on the Trail of Tears. Learning adventure for the KIPP Schools of Helena, Arkansas and St. Ann's Catholic of Normandy (St. Louis). Education leader "Big Muddy" Mike Clark. Two KIPP Delta Collegiate High School students were part of the team. We will be showing spectacular photos from the expedition spiced with verbal descriptions of this historic circumnavigation and its connection to the Lower Mississippi River Water Trail.

Memphis Flyer:

This story was recently featured in the Memphis Flyer, for a preview of photos go to: And has been re-printed in the Little Rock Arkansas Times:

Bluff City Canoe Club

The BCCC is a recreational organization consisting of over 180 members representing a tri-state area in and around Memphis, Tennessee, that love to paddle the rivers, streams and lakes of the Mid South. The BCCC was organized March 5, 1967 with the purpose being to develop, through membership, an interest in and an appreciation of the Mid South Area as related to the use of its natural and wild waterways for outdoor recreation and activities such as canoeing, camping and float fishing, and to cooperate with other organizations which are working toward the conservation and preservation of wilderness areas and streams.

Meet Place:

We normally meet each month, except December, at The Main Library on Poplar Avenue in Memphis the first Wednesday of the month at 6 PM. Guests are welcome. Please check our Forum for any temporary changes to the meeting location, date or time. On occasion, we do meet at the Licterman Nature Center or other locations.


Trips are offered approximately every other weekend from January through December. They range from family outings on Class I rivers to trips for expert kayakers and canoeists. The club regularly paddles regional rivers; however members have traveled nationally for extended paddling trips. Experienced leaders, who are not only familiar with the rivers, organize outings, plan shuttles, campgrounds and provide lists of canoe rentals.

For more information:

You do not have to be a member to go on one of our trips. Visit one of our meetings, review our website and forum, and check out our trips. We have people from East Tennessee to Colorado who go with us. Please check with the Trip Coordinator to verify that the trip date has not been changed and to be sure that you have the skills and equipment for that trip.

John Ruskey

Colorado native “Driftwood Johnnie” John Ruskey was the first curator of the Delta Blues Museum (1991-1998). He is Co-founder and Director of the Delta Blues Education Fund (founded in 1992). He is leader of the Mighty Quapaws Apprenticeship Program (Founded in 1999) and Executive Director of the Lower Mississippi River Foundation (Founded 2010) which oversees the Mighty Quapaws, the Rivergator Lower Mississippi River Water Trail and Friends of the Sunflower River (2003-2010). His passion for nature finds expression in music, painting, writing and canoe building. He has paddled and written about many of the major rivers of North America, including the Mississippi, the Colorado, the Rio Grande, the Arkansas, the Platte, the Columbia, the Missouri, and the Atchafalaya. His first Mississippi River adventure was a 5-month raft trip that ended in disaster. In the Fall of 2002 he paddled the length of the Big Muddy (Missouri) from Three Forks Montana to St. Louis, Missouri, in a custom built dugout canoe. He carved 2 dugout canoes for the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial 2004-2006. He paddled the Mississippi during the Great Flood of 2011 documenting this spectacular highwater from Memphis to Vicksburg. His guiding philosophy comes from Thoreau’s statement: “in wildness is the preservation of the world,” words that are becoming increasingly important as global overpopulation and global thirst for fresh water and energy sources are threatening the forests & islands of the Lower Mississippi Valley.

Mark Peoples

St. Louis born Mark “River” Peoples is a river guide and youth leader with the Quapaw Canoe Company. Mark grew up hunting and fishing along the river with his father. After attending Missouri Central State University, and becoming defensive back with the New York Giants, Mark left a career in professional football for the river. Mark is a writer for the Lower Mississippi River Dispatch and shares his intimate & nature-filled musings about river life on Big Island ( He is the 1 Mississippi Southern Region intern ( and also serves on the board of the Lower Mississippi River Foundation. When not on the water, Mark mentors Delta youth and educates them on the importance of the protection and preservation of our national treasure for generations to come. Mark works hard on changing the perception of our great River and its tributaries. Through river trips, cleanups, and workshops, Mark’s goal is overall systemic health of the Mississippi River.

Chris Staudinger

“Wolfie” Chris Staudinger was born 46 arpents from the Mississippi River in New Orleans. His fascination with that land was piqued in his final year at Boston College with an honors thesis titled, “Mudded: The people and foundations of Southeastern Louisiana.” He left the North to continue his education on the River that started it all. Wolfie is a talented writer, cook and all-around artist and is the editor and graphic designer for Big Island ( He is a river guide and canoe builder for the Quapaw Canoe Company and a staff member with the Lower Mississippi River Foundation. He hopes to one day move back to the wetlands at the end of the world to nourish a community of artists, fishers, philosophers and river rats.

Quapaw Canoe Company

Quapaw Canoe Company provides guided canoeing & kayaking & SUPing on the Middle and Lower Mississippi River, from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico. We are based in Clarksdale, Mississippi, with an outpost base in Helena, Arkansas. We go wherever the free-flowing water goes. Our clients come from all over the world to see the Mighty Mississippi River. We call it "America's Forgotten Wilderness" because the river channels are so big & open, the islands are wild, and there are extensive unbroken forests throughout. There is abundant wildlife. It is one of the last remaining habitats for Black Bear in the center of the country. The Mississippi is the most important flyway in North America. There are hundreds of fish & amphibians. It is our strongest & most vital inland fishery. It truly feels like a wilderness. It's big and open. Your imagination is intrigued by the scale of the landscape, similar to what you might feel in the Rocky Mountains or the wilds of Alaska. At night, the stars are visible much brighter than anywhere else in the Middle of America. Our mission is to share this beauty and help protect it from encroachments of industry and agriculture.

For more information:

For more information about Quapaw Canoe Company please visit or For the Rivergator go to For more photos, videos and stories from the river please visit BIG ISLAND at

Thank you and “May the River be with You!”