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Lower Mississippi

River Dispatch

Vol 9 No 11c, Wednesday Nov 13, 2013

Annie Arrives!

Recently a couple of my favorite people in the world, the Oarsome Orr brothers, drove into Clarksdale with a very special delivery. She has long sleek lines with seating for 10. She is black and yellow with oak gunwhales and cypress decks. She is oar-powered but her beam is highlighted with a sixteen foot tall main mast. She will join us this week as we paddle from Memphis from Helena on the Rivergator Lower Mississippi River Water Trail. Her name is Annie, and she is a 32 foot long York Boat, and she is a proud veteran of the Mississippi River (2009 Brett Rogers Old Man River Project).

Paul and Michael Orr are the Lower Mississippi Riverkeepers. Our friendship is now further strengthened by a unique arrangement: Annie will be on loan for 2014 to help us Mighty Quapaws connect even more people to the Mighty Mississippi River. If you'd like to help the Lower Mississippi Riverkeepers in their mission to protect the people and the health of the river from infarctions of industry and other river polluters, request Annie next time you book an adventure with us! 10% of all trips booked in Annie will be donated to LEAN/LMRK. - Version 2.jpg

From left: Paul Orr, Ellis Coleman, John Ruskey, Mark Peoples, Chris Staudinger, Braxton Barden, Michael Orr

The Riverkeepers are more often than not found on the water doing the dirty work: monitoring and investigating pollution incidents and targeting polluters -- ultimately for compliance with the Clean Water Act and to reduce pollution in the River. This is a hazardous mission, but Paul and Michael approach their work with grace and dignity. They are true river angels. Their work is often unseen. But the results are celebrated by the river herself.

The Story of Annie, the 32 foot York boat:

In 2009 filmmaker, adventurer and friend of LEAN/LMRK, Brett Rogers set out to travel the length of the Mississippi River and make a documentary. He and close friend Kyle "Cliff" Quinn built a 32' wooden York Boat in the style of the early Canadian fur trappers. Darlene and Jeff Anderson made the construction of the boat possible with a donation in honor of Annie, a young girl who lost a courageous battle with cancer.

Annie traveled south to begin her journey down the Mississippi River. Brett and Cliff led a team of 5 adventurers for a 110 day, 2400 mile journey through the heart of North America in Annie the York Boat.

LEAN / LMRK was proud to play a supporting role in Brett and Annie's Old Man River expedition. Upon completion of the epic journey, Annie was donated to LEAN's Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper(LMRK) program to continue to inspire and connect people to our precious waterways and fragile environment.

While in residence in Louisiana, Annie shared her story and made appearances at the local Madisonville Wooden Boat Show. She also continues to safely bring people out on the water and help reconnect them with the incredible natural environment we have here in Louisiana.

See LMRK's Flickr gallery of Annie here.

See Brett's gallery of pictures from the Old man River Project here.

Wolf E’s Rivergator Report:

Chickasaw Bluffs

“I’ve been on a lot of trips on the river. But this has been the best by far.”

When people in the South say someone “showed out” the night before, there was probably dancing involved. More than likely they danced hard.

This is exactly what the Mississippi River did for us last week. She strutted her stuff, got a little messy, and at the end, she landed on her feet and made it all look elegant. She showed out so hard, with her giant catfish, lawless islands, brutal wind, and water covered in early morning steam, that Tom Charlier, a veteran environmental journalist in Memphis, told John Ruskey, “I’ve been on a lot of trips on the river. But this has been the best by far.”

It was the first of three trips on the big river to celebrate the newly opened sections of the Lower Mississippi River Water Trail. Ruskey has been writing the guide, which he calls The Rivergator, for the last two years. In a 34-foot cypress strip canoe, Ruskey, along with his crew, a couple of journalists, a profligate, and a priest, paddled 81 miles of the northernmost part of the trail, which stretches from Caruthersville, Missouri to Mud Island in Memphis. The week-long trip started out big, with a commercial fisherman holding up a catfish the size of a shark. Then there was cold wind and raindrops in the stew. And then there were bluffs.

Ruskey calls this stretch of river “The Chickasaw Bluffs” for the three cliffs of red loess mud that begin rising out of the water fifty miles upriver of Memphis. He describes the bluffs in The Rivergator:

“For an unsuspecting paddler it’s something like driving across the Great Plains and seeing for the first time the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains rising heavenward. For a floodplain resident who has never witnessed the bluffs in their raw state you might experience vertigo. You will be filled with a strange feeling of not knowing where the heck you are, so foreign is the landscape. The bluffs keep growing and growing until you reach their base where they fill most of the southern sky in a roiling collision of colorful earth-tones, mostly yellows, oranges and reds... Adding to the thrill of this exotic atmosphere is a thick kudzu jungle that covers much of the cliffside wherever it has been able to gain a perch, but also where it has consumed whole trees, filled shallow valleys, and created a green kingdom that could have come right out of the Tolkein’s Middle Earth.”

Charlier had never seen the bluffs as an unsuspecting paddler, rocked and nudged in a canoe by the gurgles of a big river. We landed at the foot of the second bluff on the third day and explored the bizarre landscape. In a flagrant affront to water and wind and gravity, a three-story column of mud sticks up in the air and holds a tree trunk in his cleft, like it’s twirling a baton. John Gary (the good profligate) told us about a time he had camped in the area. Two men in a johnboat had given his group a young wild hog, which they skinned and slow-cooked. Then that night, he told me, “These two love birds we were with, they tried to set their tent up apart from everyone else. You know. But there isn’t too much space for that.” He pointed to the sliver of craggy ground that abuts the steep cliff. “In the middle of the night, we hear a big crashing sound. Boom. I come out of my tent and see the two of ‘em, naked, hauling their entire tent away from the bluff, scared shitless.”

The constant grind of eddies, sped up by high water, carve holes from the loamy walls of the bluffs, and in low water they calve under their own weight. The part where we stood juts boldly into the channel like a weir, and it takes a brutal left hook from a hard curve of the river. The river wants nothing more than to blaze a hole through the mud and quicken its path to Memphis. Gary looked up at the cliff, nodded, and said, “Get it while you can.”

(*Note: See upcoming Memphis Commercial Appeal story by Tom Charlier, photos by Brad Vest -- due out Sunday, Nov 17, 2013) Base Mapdropbox.jpg

Mapping the Lower

Mississippi Water Trail

A look at the River Gator project

to map America's longest riverine water trail

Canoe & Kayak Magazine Online

By Wolf E. Staudinger

When he brings people to his playground on the Mississippi River, John Ruskey, at right, likes to say, “The river is the rockstar here. We’re just her roadies.” But in most American minds, she’s a messy rockstar. She has a worn, faded, and even dangerous sort of celebrity that makes nervous parents cover the eyes of their children.

For 15 years, though, Ruskey has tried to clean that image up with a variety of strategies. Primarily, he guides fantastic voyages on the real river, with her wild forests and long, white, “Caribbean” sandbars. He also paints the river. He educates kids on the river. He sings songs about the river.

Then he began writing the river. He finds himself midway through The Rivergator: The Lower Mississippi Water Trail. And on Monday, he shoved off from Caruthersville, Missouri, for a 123-mile paddle to Memphis. It’s the first of three excursions to celebrate the addition of 286 new miles onto the water trail this year. In 2015, when the trail finally stretches from St. Louis to the Head of Passes below New Orleans, it will be the longest riverine water trail in America, and, he hopes, it will help change the way we think about North America’s greatest river.

The River Gator project to build a paddler’s guide to the Lower Mississippi Water Trail is now live at New 2013 feature include full-color maps, hundreds of new photos, and in-depth descriptions of the Middle and Lower Mississippi River, as the guide now covers 413 miles of the Lower Mississippi from the Caruthersville Harbor Mile 850 to the Mouth of Yazoo River in Vicksburg Mile 437. A handy Reference Index also offers quick access to any landing, town, island, back channel, or points of interest along the way.

As the River Gator dives into the first of its three November trips to mark the expansion of the trail, which Ruskey describes as “the longest free-flowing water trail in the continental United States, over 1155 miles from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico (including the Middle Miss from the Missouri River confluence),” the outfitter put words around the path of the mighty river as only he can in his latest Lower Mississippi River Dispatch:

“Swirling south in giant meandering loops, she dives into the verdant and fantastically fertile Mississippi Delta, mind-boggling swaths of muddy landscapes … This is the land that gave birth to the Delta Blues, and was once the cotton kingdom of the world … she carves elegant S-curves through deep woods … Her forest was once America’s Amazon, millions of acres of deep woods now removed for farmland … Coming to you from the Pawnee Hills, the Alleghenies, the Kentucky Bluegrass, down through the Missouri Bootheel and along the fantastically candy-colored Tennessee Chickasaw Bluffs, flowing past the mouth of the wild Arkansas River (more bears than humans), and into the luxuriant Louisiana Delta … Here she swells to fullness and proudly ambles along through bottomlands, batture and battlefields … connecting cities, states, public lands, festivals and all of the people and businesses found along her way.”

Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

brought to you courtesy of the:

Lower Mississippi River Foundation

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