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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

No 263, Monday, Nov 3, 2014

I Would Rather Be A Buffalo


I’d Rather Be A Buffalo:

Thursday Nov 6th, performing artist Ben Weaver will bicycle into town with a banjo on his knee -- uh, er, I mean, on his back -- and a stack of lps from his newest recording “I Would Rather Be a Buffalo.” We’ll load up the big canoe and go celebrate with a bonfire and the Full Frosty Beaver Moon from a wild island in the middle of the Mississippi River! In his company is author and musician Jonathan Miles.


Friday Nov 7th Greg Spooner, Jordan Johnassen, and the guys from OAR NW are rowing our way from Seattle via Lake Itasca, Minnesota and will arrive in Helena in time for a Full Moon performance by Ben Weaver. On Friday they will be visiting the schools and bringing virtual river-time to the school children of Eastern Arkansas/Northwestern Mississippi. See below for more details. On their schedule for Friday Nov 7th: the DeWitt Middle School, and a day on the river with 5th and 6th graders from the Presbyterian Day School of Clarksdale.

Keep reading below for more info... But first an interlude from our friend the Frosty-Nosed Beaver:

We Quapaws: We Like Beavers

(by Driftwood Johnnie)

We Quapaws: we like beavers

And we’re like beavers

We like them because they create wetlands

and make more places for us to paddle

We’re like beavers because we go wherever we find flowing water

If there’s no flowing water

we keep going until we find some

we Quapaws:

we like


Special Bulletin from Montana:

(Our friend Beaver makes the front page of the New York Times)

From the Science Section: Reversing Course on Beavers

By Jim Robbins, OCT. 27, 2014

BUTTE, Mont. — Once routinely trapped and shot as varmints, their dams obliterated by dynamite and bulldozers, beavers are getting new respect these days. Across the West, they are being welcomed into the landscape as a defense against the withering effects of a warmer and drier climate.

Beaver dams, it turns out, have beneficial effects that can’t easily be replicated in other ways. They raise the water table alongside a stream, aiding the growth of trees and plants that stabilize the banks and prevent erosion. They improve fish and wildlife habitat and promote new, rich soil.

And perhaps most important in the West, beaver dams do what all dams do: hold back water that would otherwise drain away.

“People realize that if we don’t have a way to store water that’s not so expensive, we’re going to be up a creek, a dry creek,” said Jeff Burrell, a scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Bozeman, Mont. “We’ve lost a lot with beavers not on the landscape.”

For thousands of years, beavers, which numbered in the tens of millions in North America, were an integral part of the hydrological system. “The valleys were filled with dams, as many as one every hundred yards,” Mr. Burrell said. “They were pretty much continuous wetlands.”

Beavers are in high demand across the driest parts of the United States for their innate abilities to keep water from draining away. David Corcoran and Jeffery DelViscio

But the population plummeted, largely because of fur trapping, and by 1930 there were no more than 100,000 beavers, almost entirely in Canada. Lately the numbers have rebounded to an estimated six million.

Now, even as hydroelectric and reservoir dams are coming under fire for their wholesale changes to the natural environment, an appreciation for the benefits of beaver dams — even artificial ones — is on the rise.

Experts have long known of the potential for beaver dams to restore damaged landscapes, but in recent years the demand has grown so rapidly that government agencies are sponsoring a series of West Coast workshops and publishing a manual on how to attract beavers.

“We can spend a lot of money doing this work, or we can use beavers for almost nothing,” Mr. Burrell said.

Beavers are ecosystem engineers. As a family moves into new territory, the rodents drop a large tree across a stream to begin a new dam, which creates a pond for their lodge. They cover it with sticks, mud and stones, usually working at night. As the water level rises behind the dam, it submerges the entrance to their lodge and protects the beavers from predators.

This pooling of water leads to a cascade of ecological changes. The pond nourishes young willows, aspens and other trees — prime beaver food — and provides a haven for fish that like slow-flowing water. The growth of grass and shrubs alongside the pond improves habitat for songbirds, deer and elk.

Moreover, because dams raise underground water levels, they increase water supplies and substantially lower the cost of pumping groundwater for farming.

And they help protect fish imperiled by rising water temperatures in rivers. The deep pools formed by beaver dams, with cooler water at the bottom, are “outstanding rearing habitat for juvenile coho salmon,” said Michael M. Pollock, a fish biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle, who has studied the ecological effects of beaver dams for 20 years.

Restoration is not usually as simple as bringing beavers in; if left unchecked, they can do serious damage. Here in Butte, for example, beavers constantly dammed a creek where it ran through a culvert under a pedestrian walkway, flooding nearby homes and a park.

Enter the “beaver deceiver.” Beavers have evolved to respond to the sound of running water by trying to stop it, because their survival depends on a full pond. (A Yellowstone National Park biologist reported that when he briefly kept a beaver in his basement with plans to reintroduce it to a local stream, it kept frantically clawing at its cage to reach the sound of a flushing toilet.) So local officials installed the deceiver, a large wooden frame covered with stout metal mesh that blocks beavers’ access to the culvert but allows water to keep flowing. Even if they try to dam up the box, the water will still flow, and eventually they give up and move on.

Meanwhile, big, prized cottonwoods and other trees are being wrapped in wire or covered with paint that contains sand to prevent beavers from gnawing them.

In some other places, humans are building beaver dams minus the beavers. On Norwegian Creek, a tiny thread of a stream that flows through the rolling grassy hills on a cattle ranch near Harrison, Mont., volunteers came together recently to build a series of small structures from willow branches to slow the flow of water that had been eroding the banks to a depth of 10 feet or more. In just a year the stream bed has risen three feet, Mr. Burrell said, and in a couple more years it could be entirely restored at virtually no cost.

New dams, even natural ones, can have unintended consequences. Julian D. Olden, an ecologist at the University of Washington, has studied new beaver ponds in Arizona and found that they were perfect for invasive fish such as carp, catfish and bass to displace native species.

“There’s a lot of unknowns before we can say what the return of beavers means for these arid ecosystems,” he said. “The assumption is it’s going to be good in all situations,” he added. “But the jury is still out, and it’s going to take a couple of decades.”

We always knew this to be true about our furry friends!

and this article in last week’s NYT confirms it:

Thursday November 6th

Full Frosty Beaver Moon

with poet and recording artist Ben Weaver

and author/musician Jonathan Miles

on their “I Would Rather be a Buffalo” Tour

Meet: 2pm Quapaw Canoe Company

Helena Outpost

“It’s the last place in town going towards the harbor...

...on the side of the levee”

at 107 Perry Street in downtown Helena Arkansas

Return: ‘round midnight

$125 each fundraiser for the Mighty Quapaw Apprenticeship Program/Helena Canoe Club

Potluck. BYOB. Dress for the weather and bring a dish to share!

Full Frosty Beaver Moon on the Mississippi River with poet and recording artist Ben Weaver, and author Jonathan Miles, enroute down the length of the river on his "I would Rather be a Buffalo" Bike tour.

From Ben Weaver:

“On Oct 20th my dear friend and author Jonathan Miles and I will head out on our bicycles for New Orleans. Maybe we will hit some snow. Maybe not. Either way the birds will be with us, perhaps a little in front, or a little behind, depending. It’s a flyway. The Mississippi. I am thankful to be sharing it...

“...We will perform at farms, help clean up some bike paths raising awareness for bikes in rural communities, help kids restore a prairie, meet up with John Ruskey the for a frosty full moon in Clarksdale at Quapaw Canoe Company, and many more unknowns that will reveal themselves along the way…”

OAR Northwest

Adventure: Mississippi River

If you are a teacher interested in our OAR Northwest's Adventure: Mississippi River program all you need to get started is at:

Find out more about who we are at

Check the latest at

If this is about a school visit or logistical question relating to Adventure: Mississippi River please text at 253-678-5863 or my teammate Greg Spooner at 206-795-4184 and we will try and get to you as soon as possible.

Upcoming Rivergator Expeditions You can join! Base Mapdropbox.jpg

Nov 15-25

St. Louis to Caruthersville

307 miles on the Mississippi River from the Missouri River Confluence, past the Ohio River Confluence, all the way down the Missouri Bootheel to Caruthersville.

Celebrating the Middle/Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Dec 6-16

Vicksburg to Baton Rouge

207 miles on the Mississippi River from Vicksburg, down the Loess Bluffs past Natchez, St. Francisville and ending in Baton Rouge.

Celebrating the Lower Mississippi River Water Trail


March 2015: Atchafalaya River Expedition

From Three Rivers WMA to the Gulf of Mexico

via Simmesport, Krotz Springs, Flat Lake and Morgan City with side trips down mysterious side channels and bayous, and fantastic birding, amphibians, and exploration along the way!

April 2015: Rivergator Expedition:

Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico

including Plaquemines, New Orleans and Venice (bring your haz mat suits and respirator)

October/November 2015:

Rivergator Completion Celebration Expedition:

St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico

1180 miles on the Middle and Lower Mississippi River! Start: Missouri River Confluence. End: salty waters of the Carribean.

Administrative Assistant Update: Last week we ran an announcement about a new position being created at Quapaw Canoe Company, an Administrative Assistant (with Mud Between their Toes). This might be the perfect opening for some river-infected soul... but it's the less glamorous side of the guiding & oufitting business... While the guides are out on the water, someone has to be at base answering the phone, fielding questions, talking to kids, and keeping the creditors happy. Of course it involves a healthy dose of the outdoors... and a great group of guys and gals to be associated with... real river rats like Lil' Jer and Cricket and Ojay and Woody and Dinky and Junebug and Ladybug and Grasshopper and River and Brax and Popeye and DeShaunte and Lil' Mike and Dare and Driftwood and Dingo and Mel and Smooth Brother E and many other characters and beautiful mud-seasoned voyageur canoes! Please see below for expanded details. Please share with your friends and family. Please feel free to re-run on your network. Thank you and many blessings from us Mighty Quapaws!

October 15, 2014

For Immediate Release:

Help Wanted: Administrative Assistant (with muddy feet!)

Description: Quapaw Canoe Company (QCC) seeks a part-time administrative assistant for its Clarksdale, Mississippi, location. Tasks include answering phone, keeping office, public presentation, booking river trips, accounting, help with expedition logistics, and other tasks typical to a river-guiding company. This position is a combination of secretary, interpreter and travel agent.

Requirements: Must be friendly and people-oriented. Must be good with kids as well as adults. Must have good communication skills, and be able to speak comfortably with individuals as well as groups. Must be a capable writer and typist. Must be computer savvy (both Microsoft and Apple systems). Knowledge of Quickbooks a plus. Ability with Social Media a plus. Must be willing to tackle challenges and learn new skills. We will train as needed. Must be a good team member, but also must able to work independently. Must be passionate about the outdoors and the American wilderness ethic. Must be physically capable of outdoor tasks (such as canoeing and kayaking) and moving heavy equipment in preparation and/or cleanup of expeditions. Must have own personal vehicle and current driver’s license. Must be honest, earnest and hard-working. We are all worker bees in this company; the river is the queen.

Other Helpful Skills (but not requirements): Experience in nature tourism. Wilderness First Aid, or other medical training. Creative writing. Youth Outdoor Programming and Leadership. Natural Sciences. Adobe software. Grant-writing.

About Us: Quapaw Canoe Company is a mission-driven small business based in Clarksdale, Miss, with river outposts in Helena, Ark and Natchez, Miss. We are dedicated to exploring and sharing the beauty and wildness of the Lower Mississippi River and its muddy tributaries in human powered vessels. We are dedicated to passing on the love of the river to the next generation.

Details: Accepting applications through Thanksgiving 2014. Start Date: Feb 1, 2015 (flexible). Pay commensurate with experience, skills and work history, but will initiate with 2-week trial run at $10/hr. Will help relocate if needed. No benefits at present. Part-time position might grow into full-time with the right person. Will compensate any job-related mileage according to state formula.

To Apply: Please send 1) current resume, 2) an essay describing your interest, 3) three references, and 4) personal letter to: John Ruskey, Quapaw Canoe Company, 291 Sunflower Avenue, Clarksdale, MS 38614, or by email to Feel free to write at length. Feel free to send any other supporting materials to help us understand who you are and where your passion for the river comes from.

Tasks: Quapaw Canoe Company is a small, mission-driven, dynamic business with many types of service including guiding & outfitting, outdoor education, and canoe construction. Applicant must be willing to tackle challenges and learn new skills. We will train as needed. All QCC employees share in all aspects of the work to be done.

Tasks for the administrative position include:

Office Tasks:

  • Meeting and greeting of visitors and clients.

- Arranging educational workshops and presentations.

- Maintaining calendar and keeping schedule of events up to date.

  • Taking notes at meetings. Preparing minutes, memos, reports, and other organizational tasks.

- Internet tasks such as online research and upkeep of social media.

- Accounting details such as maintenance of records, spreadsheets, input of data, billings, payments, taxes and etc.

  • Light cleaning around office and canoe/kayak outfitting base

- Taking payments for expeditions

- Managing the signing of waivers for expeditions

- Answering phone calls and emails and booking trips for expeditions.

- Food purchases for expeditions

- Other responsibilities as the need arises

Additional tasks for the administrative position might include:

Program Tasks:

- Possibly some photography, videography and other forms of documentation

- Possibly working with youth in after-school programs and outdoor training

Guiding & Outfitting Tasks:

- Cleaning of canoes & kayaks. Cleaning tents and sleeping bags and other camping equipment in between expeditions.

- Moving canoes, tents, water bottles, and other equipment in preparation for guided expeditions. Must be able to lift up to 50 pounds.

- Shuttling, driving, and other transportation needs

- rentals of canoes and kayaks and stand up paddleboards (for the Sunflower River)

- Some outfitting and rentals of canoes, kayaks, SUPs, and related gear for the Mississippi River

- Possibly some canoe & kayak maintenance as needed, also paddles, pfds and tents

- Possibly some guiding in canoes or kayaks. Must be physically fit. Must be able to engage in continuous aerobic exercise for several hours at a time.

- Possibly some cooking on expeditions

Note: And possibly other responsibilities as the need arises. All duties are undertaken in the overall QCC mission of bringing good attention to the Lower Mississippi River. Employee responsibilities often overlap.

To Apply: Please send 1) current resume, 2) an essay describing your interest, 3) Three references (or letters of reference) and 4) personal letter to: John Ruskey, Quapaw Canoe Company, 291 Sunflower Avenue, Clarksdale, MS 38614, or by email to Feel free to write at length. Feel free to send any other supporting materials to help us understand who you are and where your passion for the river comes from.

Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

brought to you courtesy of the:

Lower Mississippi River Foundation

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