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Lower Mississippi

River Dispatch

Vol 10 No 3, Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Today we offer “Eagle’s Nest to Clarksdale” another self-guided tour of the Sunflower River for canoeists, kayakers or stand-up paddleboarders, thanks to trail-making by Meg Cooper and the Lower Delta Partnership. See below for the latest Mark River Blog “Get to Know your River!” and a quick update from the Quapaw Canoe Company Legal Defense Fund. Thanks to the incredible outpouring of your support and your generosity we are now over halfway towards our goal!

Spirit on high, come down, come down...

“Spirit on high, come down, come down

And Rest Thy hand upon this town

And let Thy Love flow full and free

Through human vessels just like me.”

(From a plaque welcoming everyone into Clarksdale along the banks of the Sunflower River at the West end of the 2nd Street Bridge with a small statue in memorial of Louise Moss Montgomery, the Poet Laureate of Mississippi 1973-1978.)

Report from the Quapaw Canoe Company Legal Defense Fund:

Fundraising Report as of this Morning (March 5th):

$7,850 raised at

$5,605 received in checks

= $13,455 total donations to legal fund

We’re now 54% towards our $25K goal

We have 50 days left in this 60-day campaign

(ends April 23, 2014)

You can help us survive this unfair tax fight at:

Or send a check made out to:

Quapaw Canoe Company

291 Sunflower Avenue

Clarksdale, Mississippi, 38614 - Version 3.jpg

Mark River Blog

Get to Know your River!

The shiny sunflower morning beamed through the Hostel window planting a smile on my face waking me in good spirits. The day after Valentine's when all took the time to express their love for family, friends, and life - we put our attention to our River, the Sunflower River, the first thing I see when I wake and thank the Creator for another day.

Today is the same as others - one glass of water, medicine ball resistance, training, push-ups, and a glance out the window at the River. In a few hours, we would be sponsoring a clean-up on the Sunflower River, with fellow friends that love our treasure that runs through downtown and ends in Vicksburg by means of the Yazoo River which eventually confluences with the Mississippi River.

We start a fire to keep the chill to a minimum and drink hot ginger tea as the crowd trickles in slowly. I start to get excited as a diverse crowd of volunteers, mostly in red, start to nibble on food brought by all and exchange names and stories around the fire. We have friends of all generations represented so I know today would be special. We have friends from Coahoma Community College, St. Elizabeth Catholic School, The Press Register, Habitat for Humanity, the Clarksdale Public Library, and the Mayor Bill Luckett. Plus the whole crew of Quapaw Canoe Company apprentices, leaders and guides.

We gather around for a group picture and make a strategy of attack for the clean-up. We decide to attack the duty by land and water, plus shuttling a special upstream team approaching from the North. We slide the elementary students in the canoe toboggan style. They celebrate with whoops and screams as they entered the water to start the clean-up. I'm part of the upstream team, so we pile into the the van and head for Lee and Friars Point Road.

We launch our canoes and meander through the channel grabbing trash such as tires, plastics, televisions, car seats, and anything else needed to be removed. The beautiful cypress forest hovers over me and brings a smile to my face. The trees roots barely clear the surface holding firm to the landscape anchoring the channel. Turtles peek their noses up letting me know that spring is near. A freshly-carved beaver stick floats next to our boat, as we hear a warning smash in the distance. Deer tracks cover the banks along with raccoon. A lonely otter dives in desperation as we surprised it while eating a meal. Wood ducks and mallards take flight as we come around a bend. Large squirrels with puffy tails leap with faith barely dangling to a branch.

With our boats loaded, we start to get close to town. The day was a success and our stewardship has paid off as the moral and rewarding feelings move throughout the crew. The apprentices greets the boats and help unload the heap. One apprentice signals our boat to the side of a cypress tree. Without hesitation my bow man stands as if he was in an airplane and the boat flips sending me into the cold, frigid waters of the Sunflower River. My peers laughed at me and with me as my baptism is the symbol and exclamation point of the day.

Come out and get to know your river, whether it be the Sunflower River, a beautiful waterway that flows through our hearts and downtown, or your own local river.

Mark River

Mark River is a big river guide and youth leader for Quapaw Canoe Company, and is also the Southern Coordinator for the 1Mississippi Program. See and become a river citizen!

Courtesy of the

Lower Delta Partnership:

Mississippi Water Trails Project

Sunflower River -- Eagle's Nest to Clarksdale

Ten mile paddle out of the fertile fields of Coahoma County into the busy little city of Clarksdale which is thriving with music, food and arts. The Sunflower follows an old channel of the Mississippi River here as it winds in between farms, neighborhoods, wetlands, and abandoned sharecropper shacks. Muddy Waters‘ boyhood cabin is located on one of the tributaries, the Little Sunflower. He lived there with his grandmother for 25 years before leaving for Chicago. Some people say his grandmother called him “Muddy” because he liked playing and fishing in the Little Sunflower. The Sunflower flows behind the old Mennonite Church and the Beth Israel Jewish Cemetery and one of its tributaries runs behind St. Elizabeth Catholic Church. At one time Clarksdale boasted the largest Jewish population per capita in the State of Mississippi. The Sunflower was the site of local baptisms. The Rev C.L. Franklin was baptized in the Sunflower.

The view from the river includes everything from old bridge pilings and abandoned farm buildings to remarkable wildlife sightings such as owls and river otter. Plentiful birds throughout, especially raptors and waders, but also songbirds during their migration. Quiet paddlers will sneak up on beaver and deer, wild turkeys and red fox. The Sunflower has become a meandering wildlife refuge as the forests have been cut and farm fields enlarged. Animals find safety and seclusion over the muddy banks and paddlers get the best sightings. The Sunflower meanders down an old channel of the Mississippi here, flowing ten miles over what takes five miles to drive.

2 Routes:

#1) 1-4 mile round trip from downtown Clarksdale (1-3 hours)

#2) 10 mile daytrip Eagle’s Nest Bridge to downtown Clarksdale (4-6 hours)

For best viewing go to custom Google Map:


River Levels:

You can paddle the Sunflower from downtown Clarksdale upstream 3-4 miles any time of year at any water level as result of lowhead dam below the city which always holds water. Be cautious when putting in at Eagle’s Nest at times of low flow. If you get to the put-in at the bridge and there is little flow and the water hard to see, don’t use this route. You will have to make numerous portages over logs and other obstructions! Put in downtown and make the round-trip route instead.

On the other hand if there is plenty of flow and you can see a wide river with plenty of depth for paddling, go for it! You might encounter one or two downed trees, but otherwise the channel should be good flowing throughout and free of obstructions.

You can predict good paddling using the Clarksdale Gage from You will have good flow 9 and above on the Clarksdale Gage. At 12 there will be lots of water and less paddling will be needed. At 15 the river is bank full in most places. At 20 all of the woods and most of the bankside lands will be underwater. Exercise caution at higher water levels. Watch for snags and strainers. Some maneuvering will be necessary amongst the cypress tree trunks and man-made hazards, especially around the Friars Point Road Bridge.

Clarksdale Gage from

Don’t Forget to Pack:

Life jacket, extra paddle, water bottle, snacks, bug spray, sun screen, wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses,1st Aid kit, emergency gear, cell phone (in zip lock bag), rubber barn boots, sponges and bailers, extra rope, extra food and water, fire starter, camera and rain gear. Dress for the weather and pack everything into drybags, plastic tubs or garbage sacks.

Paddler’s Route #1:

Round Trip from downtown Clarksdale

1-4 mile round trip from downtown Clarksdale (1-3 hours). Put in from public parking area in downtown Clarksdale down the concrete ramp next to Quapaw Canoe Company (3rd & Sunflower Ave). Paddle upstream around Soldier’s Field, past Duck Walk, and as far as you feel like going. The Little Sunflower comes in two miles upstream, and there are beautiful forests full of wildlife in this area. When you turn around you will have the flow of the river (if any) helping you back downstream!

Quapaw Canoe Company

Maps, rentals, guiding and shuttles available. Canoes, kayaks and SUPs. Call 662-627-4070 or visit for more information.

Paddler’s Route #2:

Eagle's Nest to Clarksdale

10 mile daytrip on the Sunflower River Paddling Trail. Best suited for shorter canoes, kayaks or SUPs. Some portages over fallen trees may be necessary on upper stretch. Put in at Eagle's Nest to Farrell road Bridge and paddle downstream past Swan Lake Creek, Shuffordsville, under the Friars Point Road Bridge and on around past the mouth of the Little Sunflower and past the County Jail and City Hall into downtown Clarksdale. Intimate look into the neighborhoods of Coahoma County and some of the highlights (and scars) of Clarksdale.

Put-in: Eagle’s Nest Road

34.268025, 90.565313

Primitive put-in on the southeast side of the Farrell-Eagle's Nest Road Bridge. Park your vehicle on side of road or shuttle. Private parking and landing. Okay for daytrip. If needed rent canoe or kayak and arrange shuttle through Quapaw Canoe Company in Clarksdale. Note: Bar-B-Que and beer found at nearby Kenoys (4125 Friars Point Road, 662-624-9030).

Mile 2.3 Mouth of Swan Lake Bayou

Channelized Bayou drains Swan Lake, Jonestown and areas along Highway 61. Normally low flow but can add in large volume of muddy water after rainfalls. The Sunflower gets noticeably bigger and deeper here, with more cypress trees, and less grasses and river weeds. Good place to pull off for picnic. Small bluff at confluence makes for good view of river channel and surrounding lands.

Mile 3.1 Mackie Lake Bayou

At Mile 3.1 Mackie Lake Bayou enters river RBD from the west. Little flow but good place to see beavers or river otter.

Mile 3.6 Big Woody Bend

Classic Floodplain hardwood forests full of wild turkey and squirrels. Good place to stretch legs and make a picnic. Respect private property. Beware walking in woods during hunting season.

Mile 4.3 Water Treatment Town of Lyon

At Mile 4.3 a small pipe and ditch announces the nearby Lyon Water Treatment outfall. This is an area known locally as Shuffordsville.

Mile 6.7 Friars Point Road

Beware snags, strainers and blocked passage. Possible Portage. At Mile 6.7 the Sunflower River runs underneath the Friars Point Road Bridge which is sometimes blocked by driftwood. Pier Bridge catches piles of wood. The next bridge down (single span -- Lee Drive) is always open.

Mile 8.2 Little Sunflower River

The Little Sunflower River comes in at Mile 8.2. Following an old channel of the Mississippi the Little Sunflower reaches north and west towards Stovall (past Muddy Waters boyhood cabin) and eventually reaches the fields south of Friars Point near Old River. Prior to levees this was an old distributary of the Mississippi. There is a house located on the west bank at the confluence, but you can follow the Little Sunflower upstream when the water allows. Muddy Waters‘ boyhood cabin is located several miles up the Little Sunflower. He lived there with his grandmother for 25 years before leaving for Chicago. Some people say his grandmother called him “Muddy” because he liked playing and fishing in the Little Sunflower.

Mile 8.97 Duckwalk

Clarksdale native Mary Jo McIntosh and her husband built the Duckwalk on this bend of the Sunflower River across the street from their house. Ducks used to flock here for daily feedings of crumbs, but the tradition has passed on along with the McIntosh’s. Still a lovely bend of the river now inhabited by a small cluster of houses. Paddlers can stop near a small elegant concrete stairway built by the McIntosh’s, no longer maintained, for picnic and place to stretch. Numerous sewer pipes cross the river and parallel the river from here into downtown, and then on down to the Lower Treatment pant which is on the Sunflower rRver 2 miles of downtown. As with many other cities of similar size, Clarksdale’s stormwater/sewer drainage pipes are hopelessly mixed up and overflow with every rainstorm. The unfortunate Sunflower River receives the brunt of these overflow events. One of the greatest challenges facing small cities is solving this problem, but its solution will be important to the future health and happiness of its citizenry.

Mile 9.6 Soldier's Field

The Sunflower Makes a wide loop around Soldier's Field at mile 9.6 where you can get out for a picnic or to stretch your legs. Opposite is the infamous Coahoma County Jail.

Mile 9.8 Downtown Clarksdale

Downstream the river goes under the 1st Street Bridge and City Hall into downtown Clarksdale. There is a water treatment facility bank left above the bridge and a USGS water gage below. The Second Street Bridge is the oldest surviving downtown bridge, and the also best looking one. Classic concrete I-beam bridge built in 1936 featuring column style guard rail and period lamp-posts. Welcoming everyone to Clarksdale at the West end of the 2nd Street Bridge stands a small statue in memorial of Louise Moss Montgomery, the Poet Laureate of Mississippi 1973-1978. A plaque bears her words: “Spirit on high, come down, come down/And Rest Thy hand upon this town/And let Thy Love flow full and free/Through human vessels just like me.”

Mile 10 Sunflower Landing Take Out

34.201743, 90.576522

Primitive take-out in downtown Clarksdale at Mile 10 just past the 2nd Street Bridge. Public Parking. The Sunflower Landing is found down the concrete ramp next to Quapaw Canoe Company at 3rd & Sunflower. Rentals, guiding and shuttles available. Call 662-627-4070 or visit for more information.

For more information:

These trails were coordinated by Meg Cooper and the Lower Delta Partnership. Photos and text by John Ruskey. Go to for all water trails (including the Yalobusha and the Pearl) with photos and maps!

Mississippi’s Lower Delta Partnership

713 Walnut Street, Rolling Fork, MS 39159

Phone: (662) 873-6261

Quapaw Canoe Company

Tax Fight Update

For Immediate Release: SB2972 and HB1604

Two bills in favor of nature tourism are now alive in the Mississippi Legislature: SB2972 and HB1604. Mississippi voters, please ask your Senators and Reps to vote “Yea!” for these bills and petition the Governor to sign them into law. March 18th deadline. See below for links to petition. Outside of Mississippi? You can still sign petition. Be sure to comment on your reason for doing so and your connection to us or the river. Thanks! We’re aiming for 3,000 signers (Petition found at:

SB2972 and HB1604 would add language to the tax code describing our river guiding services as tax exempt, in accordance with Federal Law. These are not retroactive. We'll still have to appeal the DOR for what's already been assessed $41K and pay accumulating lawyer's & accountant's fees of $25K. But it will pave the way for our future survival and success, and anyone else pursuing this type of business. And that's the most important thing.

Friday Feb 28, 2014

Dear Friends of Quapaw Canoe Company:

We’ve made a positve legislative breakthrough this week. If passed into law we (and any businesses like ours) will be exempt from taxes on river guiding and outfitting services in the future (but of course still liable for any sales or rentals). SB2972 passed the Senate. Another bill HB 1604 passed the House. They have to cross rotunda to opposite chambers, and get voted upon, probably next week. If the vote goes well, it goes to Mississippi Gov Bryant. Last step: Governor signs into law. These are both considered revenue bills. The Revenue deadline is March 18th.

This is good news for the future of nature tourism along the Lower Mississippi River. Please contact any Mississippi Senators and Representatives you know, especially in the Finance (Senate) and Ways & Means (House) Committees, to support and vote for HB1604 and SB2972. These are not retroactive. They will not rectify our 2009-2012 situation with the DOR, nor take care of any legal/accountant fees. But it will pave the path for future fair treatment on the river for us and any others involved in this type of nature tourism.

The river angels must be watching over us. Thanks to all of you for your prayers, petitions, and acts of kindness and generosity. Thank you all for believing in us, sharing your feelings about the river and our services, and for standing beside us in this fight!

You can Track the Bills:

Please Sign the Online Petition:

Mississippi Business Journal Blog Update:

Mississippi Business Journal Story:

Lower Mississippi River generates $152 billion, 585,000 jobs

Outpouring of Comments, Stories, and Passion for the River:

Quapaw Canoe Company Legal Defense Fund:

You can help us survive this unfair tax fight at:

Or send a check made out to:

Quapaw Canoe Company

291 Sunflower Avenue

Clarksdale, Mississippi, 38614

$25,000 goal to help with legal and accounting fees

Fundraising Report as of this Morning (March 5th):

$7,475 raised at

$5,605 received in checks

= $13,080 total donations to legal fund

We’re now 52% towards our $25K goal

We have 50 days left in this 60-day campaign

(ends April 23, 2014)

Special Thanks: Thanks to everyone who has joined us Mighty Quapaws in the big canoe and grabbed a paddle to help in this difficult upstream journey! We're now about 52% towards our goal in the first 2 weeks! This is an amazing testament to your good spirit and faith in our work. We have been receiving checks in the mail. I will deposit all checks we receive to the Indiegogo platform so everyone sees where we're at. And then whatever we end with in 60 days will go completely to the cause. And with good people like yourself on our side I am certain we will make our goal.

Win-Win Situation: thanks to a very generous offer this week from one of our benefactors we're in a win-win situation. An anonymous benefactor has committed to donate whatever fee Indiegogo charges us at the end of 60 days so that we will receive 100% of the donated funds.

Our story is hitting regional networks:

Mississippi Business Journal:

Gulfwaves: Keep Quapaw Canoe Afloat:

“The Mississippi State Tax Commission is threatening one of the state’s best eco-tourism successes of recent years. The Quapaw Canoe Company of Clarksdale, which has benefitted from a federal exemption for businesses operating on U.S. navigable waters, was recently hit with a $41,000 Mississippi tax bill. Quapaw is no ordinary canoe company – its guides are African-American teenagers trained as river guides through a mentoring and work study program with the Clarksdale/Sunflower County public schools. Take action here to help the Quapaw Canoe Company stay afloat.” (Andrew Whitehurst, Gulfwaves: Gulf Restoration Network)

Mississippi River Network Policy Update:
“I want to give a shout out to John Ruskey, Mark ‘River’ Peoples, Braxtn Barden, and all the folks at Quapaw Canoe Company for their good work on a tax issue that most of us are unlikely aware even exists. This week, the Mississippi House of Representatives passed HB 1604 and the Senate passed SB 2972; it exempts nature-based tourism from state sales taxes. MRN member group Quapaw is a river-based company that provides up close and personal experiences on the Mississippi River--a leader in nature-based tourism. They have been in business for 20 years in Clarksdale, MS. For the past two years, they have been fighting the state of Mississippi Department of Revenue because Quapaw has been assessed taxes on the services they provide on the river. This violates the federal Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, which ensures no taxes are collected on businesses operating on navigable waters.

“Through perseverance, and I suspect some sleepless nights, their hard work seems to be paying off! John started a petition (click here) that has gathered more than 1,200 signatures, so I am sure that helped elevate the issue to the Mississippi legislature. Congratulations to John, Mark and all who worked hard to make this happen. This is a first victory on the issue, as there are more steps to go through before it is signed into law, but it definitely shows that one person can make a difference!" (Claudia Emken, Mississippi River Policy Manager, February 2014)

Parting Prayer:

Many blessings to all. May the Good Spirit of the River be with You. John Ruskey, Quapaw Canoe Company.

For more information about the QCC tax fight please go to:

Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

brought to you courtesy of the:

Lower Mississippi River Foundation

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