Close Window 2.JPG
Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
No 240, Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Tax Update - Assessment Abated

Y’all, I am very, very happy to report that the Mississippi Department of Revenue has decided to honor Federal Maritime Law -- and has abated our 3-year old tax assessment! What a wave of relief for us! Three years ago we were unfairly charged $42,150.08 (with penalties and interest) for our guiding services on the Lower Mississippi. As you know, we scored a success in April 2014 in the legislature with SB2972, which adds river guiding businesses to the tax code. But it was not retroactive. We still had to appeal to the tax people. Earlier this year my legal defense team had put together a 1,000 page+ package of itemized spreadsheets, letters of support, facts, figures, copies of our operations manual and the Rivergator: Paddler’s Guide to the Lower Mississippi, our map-posters, photos and videos, and an exhaustive defense including a very-thorough legal review, and detailed US Army Corps maps with lines and arrows and comment bubbles demonstrating the nature of our business on the biggest river in North America -- which of course also happens to be considered “navigable” and has been since this law was enacted in 1884 (the year after Mark Twain published Life on the Mississippi).

On Full Moon Friday June 13th I received a letter from the Dept of Revenue informing us that this has been amended: all charges in this erroneous assessment will be zeroed out. Zilch. Nada. Gonzo. Maritime Law was cited. The river-rat will survive! And you helped us bring the ship around. All of you who signed our petition, and sent a donation to help support our defense, you have made the difference and helped turn this around. I had given up hope until you came to our aid. Together we've made lemonade out of the lemons. We've made a remarkable positive out of a negative, and turned the bad into good. Needless to say I am happy about all of this. Even though it cost us tens of thousands of dollars to defend, that’s okay. That’s the price of education, and progress. Some people are telling me that according to my bottom line it is a “hollow victory.” But honestly, I've never paid too much attention to the bottom line. My Mighty Quapaw guides and I have got to survive, for sure, and pay bills. But the most important thing to me is making the world a better place. And in the long, long run this fight has led to a permanent solution for us and anyone else who gets into the business of river guiding and nature tourism on rivers. And that’s good news for the river. And we’re all about the river!


Coyote Howls: Now available: a new collection of great nature reading for us outdoor-loving river-rats, desert rats, mountain-rats, canyon-rats, ocean-rats, surf-rats and rug-rats! Jay Schoenberger recently published a collection of wilderness writings, I AM COYOTE to help fill the literary needs of all nature lovers from all walks of life and all geographies. The Mississippi River gets good coverage with stories from Mark Twain and Driftwood Johnnie.

I AM COYOTE was created for paddlers, backpackers, mountaineers, and lovers of the outdoors. The collection contains some of the most powerful wilderness writings from Emerson, Muir, Twain, Shackleton, Kerouac, Dillard -- and includes a long excerpt from the Rivergator.

The book goes beyond writings that place the reader in the position of what Wendell Berry calls a “viewer of views.” I AM COYOTE focuses principally on the relationship between individuals and the wilderness they inhabit.

This compact cobalt blue book with a tough waterproof cover and high quality pages will fit easily into your drybag, your bike bag, your artist’s satchel or your climber’s rucksack. Sure its going to get smudged with rock climber’s chalk and biker’s grease. Its going to be stained with coffee spills and driftwood fire charcoal. But time and time again it will remind you of your place in the universe, and how to bring the ever-pulsing power of the wilderness back into your everyday life through inspirational readings.

Jay is donating a portion of book proceeds to the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Jay was an important advocate in our tax fight -- and also donated several dozen books to support our educational activities of the Lower Mississippi River Foundation.

You can learn more and purchase a copy here:

Endorsements for I AM COYOTE

“Put this book in your rucksack and head for the mountains. Read it tired at the end of a long day, by the light of a campfire. Forget what our culture insists: feeling small is actually feeling good.”

-- Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature

"I AM COYOTE is a reader replete with revelations that arise when human beings encounter what human thought cannot create: wilderness. It is only when we get away from the human-made world that we discover what it truly means to have become a human being."

-- Paul Hawken, author of Natural Capitalism

I AM COYOTE on Facebook

Outdoors lovers! Check out I AM COYOTE: Readings for the Wild (, created by Jay Schoenberger with a foreword by Bill McKibben. The collection contains some of the most powerful wilderness writings from Emerson, Muir, Twain, Shackleton, Kerouac, Dillard and many more. You can pick up a copy here:

I AM COYOTE on Twitter

Outdoor lovers, mountaineers! Check out, wilderness writings from #Muir, #Kerouac, etc. #nature #hiking

Bike & Build Thank You Letter:

Quapaw Canoe Company hosted 33 bicyclers from the Bike & Build organization on Thursday, June 12th. Thanks to Delta Amusement, RUST, Yazoo Pass, Oxbow, Dreamboat Jerry, Stone Pony, and Bluesberry Cafe for helping us feed these intrepid peddlers with some good healthy food. We added pineapples, watermelons, mangoes, organic milk, yogurt, muesli and granola from Krogers of Clarksdale. The Clarksdale Press Register brought a batch of very tasty Indian Chick Peas. Murphy Beverage supplied cold spring water. The Mighty Quapaws contributed a giant bowl full of fresh dewberries that we picked off the vine from a recent Mississippi River canoe trip. These are a group of college kids who are building houses along the way and making donations to local chapters of Habitat for Humanity (like ours in Clarksdale!). Later they went to Red’s for some wild blues crooning by the legendary Robert “Bilbo” Walker and Ground Zero for Big Dave Dunavent. Thanks to Mighty Quapaw river guides Mark River and Braxton Barden for sharing floor space in the Driftwood City International Youth Hostel (under construction). Lots of the Bike and Builders came up to me as they were leaving and said that Clarksdale was their best stay so far, with the best community feeling, and the best food! They started their bike ride on May 26th in Charleston, South Carolina. 33 bicyclers are now on their way out of Mississippi, across the Big River and westward to the Pacific Ocean (Santa Cruz) with happy tummys. Bicycling, building houses and donating to Habitat for Humanity. All voluntary. What a way to spend the summer. Last year they made a contribution to Clarksdale Habitat for Humanity, and hopefully that will continue again this year. What goes around comes around.

No towboats here: "Big Muddy" Michael F. Clark leads us over the Chain of Rocks where the entire Mississippi drops over a 15 foot limestone ledge, fortunately deep underwater at this river level (18 foot St. Louis Gage). Followed by Layne Logue in his new kayak, "the Grateful Sled." You can see the ominous water line beyond the tower, and the rising curls of paddler-hungry waves beyond. Mike and Layne actually disappeared from our view when they went over the lip! Mike calls this 11 mile stretch of river "The Big Muddy Wild & Scenic River" because no commercial traffic can handle the Chain, and 70% of the riverbanks are public parks. His Big Muddy Adventures is located behind Riverfront Park, one mile from the Chain. Details for the Middle Miss to be shared free of charge in the 2014 edition of the Rivergator: St. Louis to Baton Rouge, 926 miles of the Middle/Lower Mississippi River.

Middle Miss Thank Yous:

In my rush to get this week's dispatch out before the 33rd annual Outdoors Inc. Canoe & Kayak Race (Saturday June 14th in Memphis), I neglected to thank many people who welcomed us to Columbia Bottoms and helped make our St. Louis Expedition possible.

First and foremost is Michael F. Clark "Big Muddy Mike" the Grey Sage of the Middle Mississippi and the Gatekeeper of the Chain, who guided us over the notorious Chain of Rocks, and then met us later for the last week of challenging paddling into fierce winds and oncoming storms. Contact Big Muddy Adventures in St. Louis for any river needs in that area.

Thanks to Betsey Tribble who provided shuttle and resupplied us halfway through with goodies from Trader Joe's and Wild Oats. Thanks to Mike Bernich who helped shuttle. Thanks to Scott Mandrell and Sara Duensing who let us park at Roughy Ranch.

It was great to see old friends Scott, Betsey -- and the legendary paddling duo Tony and Snoop Doggie the sausage loving beagle! And also new friends “Big Muddy” Paul, and a group of kayakers from the St. Louis Canoe & Kayak Club (with whom we coincidentally crossed paths at the confluence), but best of all was seeing my old friend from the Lewis & Clark trail (that Capt. Scott put together in 2004-2006), Willow Bill, who was visiting from the wild wooly west, and leaving more willow hearts wherever he travels. Many blessings, my friends, the river brings us all together!

Thanks to Braxton Barden and Layne Logue who shared photos and kept journals on Facebook, sharing the joys and trials of the journey. Thanks to Mark River, ever steady bowman on this expedition, who led the charge over the Chain of Rocks and into long days of 30mph headwinds and lashing rains. We were joined on the second day by Ethan Engerski, Natural Resource Specialist with the US Army Corps of Engineers, and on the last day by Tom Uhlenbrock, writer/photographer with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Thanks to the Columbia Bottoms State Conservation Area, Trails of Tears State Park, Middle Miss National Wildlife Refuge, Big Oak Tree State Park, Donaldson Point Conservation Area, Reelfoot Lake State Park, and Gayoso Bend State Conservation Area. Many thanks to the good people from Hickman, Kentucky, and the Missouri cities of New Madrid and Caruthersville, who all showed us river-rats graceful hospitality.

Special thanks to Katie Danner and Stephanie Lynch of the Missouri Division of Tourism, and Kimberly Rae of the USACE Rivers Project, for their partnership in this section of the Rivergator: Paddler’s Guide to the Lower Mississippi River. 926 miles of the Lower Mississippi River will be added to the Rivergator by year's end. Go see the construction in progress at

Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
brought to you courtesy of the:
Lower Mississippi River Foundation
For more about the Big River: