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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
No. 239, Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Upcoming This week:
Thursday June 12: Bike & Build in Clarksdale
Help us host Bike & Build with Potluck Supper!
Friday June 13: Full Dewberry Moon
Join us in the Big Canoe for the Full Moon!
Saturday, June 14: Outdoors, Inc. Canoe and Kayak Race
Join us in the Big Canoe for the race!
(See below for more details) Lou.jpg
Paddling out of St. Louis below the Great Arch
(photo by Layne Logue)
Mark River Blog:
Rivergator Chronicles
St. Louis to Caruthersville
Healing with the Eagles miss/_JAR9143.jpg
Two mature bald eagles soaring above the Middle Mississippi
(John Ruskey)
In 1975, when I was 7 years old, my family bought a house in North County, St. Louis on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. My grandfather, already living in St. Louis, gave my parents the idea we would have more opportunities, and it pulled us from lower middle class to upper. St. Louis being a very conservative town, resisted minorities moving to their pristine neighborhoods of north county, and showed resistance in ways of intimidation and systematic tactics. My brother Earl used my grandfather’s address to attend Riverview Gardens High School which was a powerhouse in sports in the 70’s through the 90’s. This made the decision a no brainer.
I remember discussing diversity with my mother, Iveara Peoples, during her very short time in this world. My mother was born in Bolivar, TN. She was an All-State track star who fell in love with a up and coming baseball player. She was very diverse woman, who survived the assassination of Martin Luther King to still love her state and her beloved, Elvis. Along with Rod Stewart and the Beatles. She always told me, “Once they get to know you, they will love you.” Still lives with me today.
Camp at the top end of Mosenthein Island
(John Ruskey)
My childhood started as being the only minority in my third grade class, having to wrestle and fight with my fellow students for being smarter, faster, and different. Eventually gaining acceptance for my athletic ability, rather than character and handling societies indifferences by complying with the masses for security and opportunity purposes. During those times, the powers that be were The Pipefitters, one of the most powerful unions who owned the majority of the floodplain of the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers to Cementland. Owning coveted property along the Chain of Rocks bluffs with tax benefits feeding a beaming athletic program ironically named after a natural national icon, the Mississippi River. As students we dealt with the pressures of separatism by driving to the levee and listening to music to hide our friendships to keep the peace. We would go on float trips to the rivers of central Missouri, the Ozarks, and the Meramac, sometimes hearing racial dialect yelled from the bluffs, but ignoring them as if numb to the situation. Back then it was forbidden to venture southward past the St. Louis Port for there was a chance you would not come back. I went on to excel at Riverview Gardens High School losing my mother at 11 years of age, but surviving the grief to go on to college and the rest is history. miss/_JAR8249.jpg
The river curls along the Pawnee Bluffs above Grand Tower, IL
(John Ruskey)
As we drove from Clarksdale, Mississippi, en route to St. Louis all these old thoughts and experiences flow and wander through my head and heart as I wish for forgiveness and closure. This beautiful iconic river that I love and honor, brought back a combination of love and discomfort, as we drive along the floodplain towards the confluence where I develop my skills practicing football on its rich soil and becoming the athlete I am today. When I was young, 7 months out off the year, this land was flooded, swampy, mosquito infested floodplain that produced trophy mammals during deer season as well as prized waterfowl and fish. Now incorporated as a State Conservation Area to share the love of our river with the masses. There use to be a golf course along this stretch also, only to be swallowed up by the 1993 flood and never replaced.The making of this park was highly protested after the 1993 flood by locals not wanting to give up their sacred hunting and fishing spots to humanity. Thankfully a proposed mega-casino project was recently killed by locals. miss/Put-In.jpg
The Rivergators put in on the Missouri River at Columbia Bottoms Boat Ramp
We arrive at the boat ramp with high spirits meeting friends and well wishers. There are fishermen, kayakers, and nature lovers enjoying the day. I immediately notice the diversity in the people and it made me smile inside. We launch the Grasshopper and head towards the Confluence. The Grasshopper glides effortlessly through the water causing fishermen to stare as we head towards Duck Island. On the top end sits an eagle’s nest with a whole family intact. It made me reflect back to my childhood when we never saw eagles due to their deaths caused by DDT in the 1970's. It was welcoming site to start the day. We experienced a small rain shower as we headed towards the Chain of Rocks, but the Mississippi River is up so riding " the chain" won't be an issue today. We choose Mosenthein Island for our first camp looking at the neighborhood where my grandfather bought a house in the 1920's. I spent my evening staring across the channel thanking the Creator for this perspective, a perspective I used to wish for when I was young and had no resources to get to the island. We used to think that we would catch more fish if we could cross the channel like the rich kids, but who knows. It must be good fishing as a eagles nest sits high in the trees.
The morning comes quick, as we weathered a storm throughout the night, and I'm excited knowing we will past by Jefferson Barracks Cemetery where my mother is buried. We take the back channel and witness a lone coyote swimming as if returning from a long evening. I see the Gateway Arch in the distant with a new bridge that was being constructed in 2012 while we circumnavigated St. Louis. Many of my childhood fishing spots are now industrial zones and private, but I still have love for this town. We clear the Port of St. Louis and head towards the Meramac River. I feel discomfort and start to stress with my childhood experiences hovering over my shoulders, when we spot a great site for lunch, which happened to be Jefferson Barracks. I'm at peace enjoying lunch with my mother and friends. I could feel a sign of relief as I'm able to smile and celebrate her life through my path. The healing continues.
Paddling into the Mouth of the Meramec River
(John Ruskey)
An immature bald eagle crosses the bluffs as we see the Meramac River in the distance. A john boat approaches and I think, "I hope this goes well." A lone fishermen, curious about our journey, introduces himself and gives us a history lesson about this stretch of river. At the end of the discussion, he offers us an already filleted catfish. I beam with hope and throw out the stereotypes of my childhood. This river continues to blow my mind. It seemed as if we where being escorted by the eagles the whole way and I feel like I'm on a vision quest for healing my soul. Our captain guided us logistically through storms sometimes stopping in the distant to watch them develop and dissipate before our eyes. It was the first time I could see water falling from the sky as if the Creator was dumping a bucket of water. miss/_JAR9842.jpg
The Ohio flows in at Cairo, Illinois, to form the Lower Mississippi River
As the trip continued, we met generous people along the way. We met a couple of river lovers close to Cairo who offered us refreshments and showed us their favorite camp site. In Hickman, KY we met a friendly news reporter, and an entrepreneur whose business has been active in town for 90 plus years. The city of New Madrid embraced four river rats wandering around town searching for supplies. Finally, the town of Caruthersville who let us escape a vicious storm by offering us a dry place (Mike’s Pizza Place) to prepare for our journey home. miss/Caruthersville2.jpg
Approaching Caruthersville through severe thunderstorms
(John Ruskey)
We experienced beautiful sunrises and storms. Sunsets that lasted thirty to forty minutes. Families of eagles around every bend to the point were we stopped counting them. We heard drums from the bluffs of the Trail of Tears National Park. We mourned dead sturgeon as we camped on the gravel bar across from Lee Towhead. We enjoyed many back channels, thriving with wildlife and wood ducks. This expedition changes my feeling for the better of the complex history involving my plight and was needed in order for me to continue my stewardship to this river. Just like the meanders of the river, life is full of change and challenges. You must embrace the challenges of the present, heal the wounds of the past, and prepare to face the future with open arms. Like the return of the eagles along the Mississippi River. I'm back.
-Mark River
Paddling into the bluffs below Herculaneum
(photo by Layne Logue)
Full Dewberry Moon
Friday June 13, 2014, 3pm to midnight
Chickasaw Bluffs Mid-Summer -- Full Dewberry Moon
17 miles on the Mississippi River
from Shelby Forest to Mud Island
Meet Place: Mud Island River Park
Meet Time: 3:00pm
End Time: 11pm/12midnight (depends on towboat traffic, wind & etc)
Quapaw Provides: canoe, paddles, lifejackets and all necessary river gear, first aid kits, VHF Marine Radio, running lights, and all necessary emergency gear. Plates & Utensils. Camp tables. Camp Chairs. Iced Cooler.
Bring with You: shoes you don’t mind getting wet & muddy. Long sleeve shirt & long pants. Mosquito repellant. Water Bottles. Headlamp or Flashlight. Cell Phone in Ziplock. Potluck Supper. Bring a dish to share.
Is it okay to Swim? Yes. Bring towel and swimsuit. Leave a change of clothes in your vehicle.
Voyageur Canoes: 10 maximum each. No previous experience necessary. Everyone paddles together. First come first served.
To reserve your seat: contact John Ruskey 662-902-7841 or email
Full Dewberry Moon
Friday June 13, 2014
Description: Park at Mud Island. Catch shuttle and board a beautiful hand-crafted voyageur style canoe at Meeman Shelby Forest. Paddle into the rich undulating colors of sunset as the river swirls between islands and floodplain forests at Brandywine Island, Hickman Bar and Robin Crusoe Island. Make a supper landing, build a fire, and enjoy the rising of the Full Heat Moon over the Mississippi River. Sunset 8:15pm. Moonrise 8:49 pm. The moon will be 99.9% full. Set off again in the canoe paddling now by the mysterious undulating light of the Full Heat Moon on the face of the largest river in North America! The sandbars are as bright as snowfields in the full moon and the river glistens like shiny steel. Paddle downstream past the mouth of the Loosahatchie River, the Wolf River, and then down along Mud Island with the stunning backdrop of the Pyramid with the rising Full Dewberry Moon behind! Float underneath the colossal elegance of the M Bridge and then swirl into the Memphis Harbor at the foot of Beale Street with the best view of downtown you’ll ever enjoy!
Mark River in a pre-race meditation at the mouth of the Wolf River
(John Ruskey)
Outdoors, Inc. Canoe and Kayak Race
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Memphis, Tennessee
This canoe and kayak race is held on the Mississippi River in Memphis. The river is the largest in the U.S. It has strong currents and powerful eddies. The wind can also create additional problems for the canoeist. The start of the race will be at the mouth of the Wolf River. The course will take us out of the Wolf River into the Mississippi River; down under the I-40 bridge; past Mud Island Park and up into the Memphis Harbor to finish. For more information:
If you want to join us in the big canoe for this race, please contact John Ruskey by responding to this email.
Bike and Build
South Carolina to Santa Cruz Tour
in Clarksdale, Mississippi on June 12/13th!
Contact: John Ruskey 662-902-7841
Mark Peoples 662-902-1885
Braxton Barden: 706-340-2962
Quapaw Canoe Company and the Lower Mississippi River Foundation will be hosting 35-40 riders & guests from the acclaimed Bike & Build organization on Thursday-Friday June 12-13th in downtown Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Bike & Build riders will be conducting a free bike clinic with bike repairs for Clarksdale kids at 5-6pm in Clarksdale as part of their mission.
Clarksdale is on the route for the May 22 - August 11, 2014 South Carolina to Santa Cruz Bike & Build tour (SC2SC). This route will take them off the Atlantic seaboard, through Appalachia, across the Mississippi Valley, Across the Great Plains and over the Rockies to the Pacific Coast in an epic journey of over four thousand miles!
Thursday June 12th
3-5pm riders arriving in Clarksdale
5-6pm bicycle workshop at Quapaw Canoe Company 3rd & Sunflower
7-8pm Southern Potluck Supper: Please bring a potluck dish and meet the international team! Musicians, bring your instruments, and show them the soul of Clarksdale.
Friday June 13th
6am Potluck Breakfast: Please bring a breakfast dish and send the international team off on their day’s adventure with good Clarksdale cheer and southern spirit!
Bike & Build works with young adults in cross-country fundraising cycling trips. Each rider fundraises before the trip, and the proceeds from their trips are then disbursed to affordable housing organizations to underwrite projects chiefly planned and executed by young adults in this age group. Clarksdale Habitat for Humanity has been awarded several grants in the last four years by the SC2SC group and are eligible this year for more funding.
Besides coordinating meals, Quapaw Canoe Company will be providing housing in its Driftwood City International Youth Hostel (under construction) for the Bike & Build team.
Please call hosts Chris Staudinger (504) 908-0121, Mark River 662-902-1885 or John Ruskey 662-902-7841 for donating food or more information.
Bike & Build
South Carolina to Santa Cruz Tour
4265 Miles
May 22 - August 11, 2014
Starting in historical Charleston, the South Carolina to Santa Cruz (SC2SC) route will be a Bike & Build journey of epic proportions. Riders on SC2SC will log more build days than any other trip in Bike & Build’s history, funding and building an entire house in the process. From its scenic beginnings in the Lowlands of Carolina, the trip makes its way West through the heart of the South, with stops in amazing Southern cities such as Columbia, Athens, Birmingham and Little Rock. After leaving Arkansas, the route will slowly start to make its way up towards Colorado, eventually riding North alongside of the Rockies and into Colorado Springs for a Blitz Build with Pike’s Peak Habitat for Humanity. Over the course of nine days SC2SC will build an entire house on top of the foundation laid the week before by the North Carolina to San Diego route. After the Blitz the trip will continue to head Northwest with stops in Salt Lake City and Boise, eventually taking a turn to the South when it reaches Oregon. The remainder of the trip will be spent riding through the lush California valleys, eventually meeting up with the Pacific in beautiful Santa Cruz.
May 24 - Charleston, SC
May 27 - Sumter, SC
May 31 - Greenville, SC
Jun 10 - Tupelo, MS
Jun 12 - Clarksdale, MS
Jun 20 - Oklahoma City, OK
Jul 2 - Colorado Springs, CO
Jul 13 - Silt, CO
Jul 18 - Provo, UT
Jul 24 - Twin Falls, ID
Aug 7 - Davis, CA
Aug 10 - Santa Cruz, CA
What is Bike & Build?
Core Values
Young Adult Driven:
Bike & Build unlocks the potential of young adults to do incredible things. Our participants are the face of our organization, and the driving force behind all that we strive to accomplish. Through engaging young adults as active agents and ambassadors for affordable housing efforts, Bike & Build enables them to test their limits, become engaged and active citizens, and impact the housing landscape.
Vision Statement:
Bike & Build envisions future generations who are committed to a lifetime of civic engagement and who inspire individuals and communities to create fair, decent housing
for all Americans.
Mission Statement:
Through service-oriented cycling trips, Bike & Build benefits affordable housing and empowers young adults for a lifetime of service and civic engagement.
We aim to instill a sense of empowerment among all of our participants by offering them the opportunity to accomplish big things and tackle big problems.
We always aim to do what is right for our participants, our donors, and affordable housing partners. Bike & Build values integrity, transparency, and honesty among all of our constituents.
We like to have fun, and aim to build a culture and organization where we all have a good time while helping others.
The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
is brought to you courtesy of the:
Lower Mississippi River Foundation
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