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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 282

Monday, March 30, 2015

Grasshopper’s Jumping Journal:

Atchafalaya River Expedition

Recently the Grasshopper Cypress Strip Canoe guided 8 voyageurs down the Atchafalaya River of Louisiana in an exploratory expedition for this years' update to the Rivergator: Paddler’s Guide to the Lower Mississippi ( Grasshopper Canoe is 30 feet long and hand crafted from Louisiana bald cypress -- from the Atchafalaya River basin. So this was a homecoming of sorts for her. We met Dean Wilson, the Atchafalaya Basin-Keeper, and he thought that the Grasshopper is constructed from “sinker cypress,” meaning trees buried in previous floods that have more recently been unearthed and made available for present day use. Grasshopper kept a journal during the expedition, which she wanted to share with everyone to get a fresh view of the river, from water level. All in all she wants everyone to know what a beautiful river the Atchafalaya is, even though it is being abused in places. She thinks more long distance paddlers coming down the entire length of the Mississippi would enjoy the alternative route to the Gulf of Mexico created by the Atchafalaya, America’s largest river swamp, also known as “the river of trees.”

Keep reading below for Grashopper’s Jumping Journal, as well as our schedule for Juke Joint Festival, Bluz Cruz, an upcoming Outfitter's Workshop, and a Men’s Retreat.

Day 1: Monsters and Pink Horses

After a night of peaceful rest listening to the beavers splashing their tails, I was a little worried this morning because I woke up grounded on the Shreve’s Bar to a river shrouded in fog. I could hear the monstrous sounds of the towboats but I could only see the tops of their heads poking up through the fog. John told me not to worry, the sun would soon burn off the fog. Sure enough after breakfast the fog lifted and we were on our way. We took off and shot across the channel, even though I was going to miss plying the Mississippi I was excited about exploring the depths of the Atchafalaya. I exited the Big River, I was a little disappointed to find myself in a channel. I passed a work tow piled high with rusty cables. To further my dismay, there was something that I hadn’t seen before on my beloved Lower Mississippi. I asked John if we were going to ram it and he said we were going to lock through. As we approached, this monster starting yelling at us and a truck was flying down the levee yelling at us too. A wild man jumped out waving his arms and motioning for us to come to the bank. John greeted this wild man and explained our mission to explore the Atchafalaya. The monster’s master turned out to be friendly and was interested in seeing me up close. He marveled at my beauty and said he had never seen anything like it before. I’m not sure where he has been, but I have four other brothers and sisters that have been this way before. We had to wait for the work tow I had passed earlier to enter the lock. The monster yelled at us three times and we went all the way to the front of the lock. I think they thought we would need a head start, but I’m a little faster than my size lets on. The big gates shut behind me and the water started dropping. This water elevator dropped us 20 feet and the doors opened. I thought finally here we go, but no! Seven more miles of channel travel. As far as channels go, this one wasn’t too bad because it was an old river channel. We hit the Atchafalya, but my crew was hungry so we stopped for lunch. As we landed, Mark River seemed to know the gentleman who had a pink horse with him. This gentleman was trying to catch my friend the fish and seemed sad. Mark River told me that he had lost his fishing buddy last year and was quite lonely. Mark also told me that the pink horse was called a four wheeler. I guess that makes sense, I ain’t never seen round legs before. We rounded some bends and discovered a straightaway about ten miles long. I was ready to get to camp and the crew put the hammer down. We rounded the bend and located a beautiful spot for the evening. Dave said look that tree looks like a porcupine. What a ideal spot, I even had a paddleway to park and wasn’t relegated to being dragged up on land. John had a great idea for dinner for the crew, stuffed poblano peppers. I think he was right because the crew slept through the night peacefully while I maintained the watch at Porcupine Point.

Simmesport Gage 30.0R

Day 2: Grasshopper meets the Melvillians

The Atchafalaya ain’t half bad. Even though I miss my belly being scrubbed by the sandbars of the Mississippi. My paddleway has risen and my friend the water has been singing to me all night. As day breaks, my buddies the birds are starting their melodic sounds letting me know that spring is soon. A friend from the Mississippi heard that I was missing home and came for a visit. Spot the gar nuzzled up to my belly and took care of one of my itchy spots. Spot was so caught up in conversation and scratching, he swam in water that was too shallow and became stuck. Gail found Spot, caught him with her bare hands, and helped him to some deeper water. Spot seems to like the Atchafalaya too because he decided to swim with the water into the floodplain.

John untied me and I was ready to go the same way Spot had gone, but John wanted to stay on the main channel so we could meet Adam in Melville. My crew and I ventured downriver covered with fog. My big buddy, the Sun, came out and bid farewell to the fog. My crew enjoyed the fog, but were even happier to see the healthy families of Bald Eagles. One of the Eagles told me to pass thanks to the people I was carrying for eliminating DDT. He hoped that humans find ways to be better neighbors with nature.

As we approach Melville, there is a huge willow tree floating in the river. I knew John would like to look at it, so I slid on over to allow him to jump out. John jumped up on the log and started his shopping. He found some garlic pepper, plastic bags, and some medicine. I asked John if his items were usable, but he said everything was empty. He said some people think the river is a garbage disposal and that is part of the reason my work is important. Water’s health and condition are important and I am honored to be a part of raising the level of awareness. Later downriver Brax jumped on top of a buoy and rode it like a mechanical bull. This looked scary to me and I hid my eyes, but Brax looked like he was having fun.

Melville is a small town and we weren’t quite sure if the things we saw were trash chutes or boat ramps. We found the ramp and the crew broke out lunch while we waited for Adam. During lunch, some Melvillians come out to look at me. They thought we were crazy for paddling down the river. I offered to give them a ride, but they were too scared. Maybe next time. Adam arrived and I said my farewell to Rory and Boyce until we meet again. I can’t wait to see the pictures Rory took and the story Boyce writes about my friend the Water.

We launch from Melville and John tells me that we need to find a campsite. He said the forecast called for rain and he would like to keep the crew as dry as possible. I keep my eyes open and spot a field. Beautiful green grass that looks like a golf course. The crew decided we should look for a more natural setting. We rounded the bend and found a beautiful forest. This spot was great! I was parked in the paddleway again and spent the night hanging out with Spot.

Simmesport Gage: 31.0

Day 3: Day’s Journey in a Blanket of Fog

Just as the water is warming, so I am to the Atchafalaya. I found myself berthed again in the river tied among the willows. In the early hours of the morning, John displays his fire magic. I marvel at the many uses of trees even after they have died, they continue to provide for man. As the fire is lit, a brother barred owl joins to watch the spectacle. He calls out “Who Who Who” and I say it is just us the Quapaws and we will be on our way soon. He is perched high in the tree above Braxton’s tent. Mark River heard our conversation and thought Braxton had been using his magic owl call, but Braxton was sound asleep. Just between you and me, I think Braxton might be a bear or maybe he uses a chainsaw to cut firewood during the night.

After breaking camp and leaving the owls to talk amongst themselves, we begin our day’s journey in a blanket of fog. As we round the first bend, I hear a sound and think maybe Braxton has fallen asleep again. John tells me to be careful because there is a commercial fisherman headed up river. John tells Braxton to strike the Dutch oven lid. Braxton strikes the lid two times to indicate we intend to pass on the starboard side. I am so excited by the sound because it reminds me of the book written by my good friend Mark Twain about his experiences on the Mississippi River.

Today my crew and I are moving down river quite quickly. We have an important lunch date with Dean Wilson, the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper. John uses his airwave talking machine to coordinate the meeting point. Dean motors up with his family and we tie up alongside. Dean is a wealth of knowledge about this water paradise. He talks about how smart the coyotes are and adapt to their cousin the domestic dog whom they do not get along with. The crew quickly breaks out a lunch of meats, cheeses, vegetables, and fruit. I am happy my crew is reenergizing with healthy fuel because we have to beat feet to meet the Orr’s under the bridge for a crew swap and resupply. We say our farewells and head downstream.

We find the I-10 bridge and head to the shore. There is a big eddy that seems to want to smash my nose into the concrete, but John helps me ride the eddy to safety. We meet the Orr brothers who have been instrumental in the success of our trip. They have a bountiful array of fish, fruit, vegetables, and water. The crew loads the provisions. I am sad because my dear friend Mike Beck temporarily ends his journey today. Mike told me not to worry, as soon as he returns to Baton Rouge he will be out spending time with our good friend the Mississippi.

The journey continues downstream to locate a campsite. We find a thin sliver of sand and willows. John is cooking for the crew tonight and whips up a fabulous fare of catfish and potatoes. My crew is refueled and content, this makes me smile.

I find myself parked in another paddleway. This is fine by me because I made a lot of new friends. I haven’t seen alligator gar for a while. Don’t let the name scare you because they are a fine bunch of fellows. They can grow up to six feet long and love to hang out in the river relaxing. We rested throughout the night with the occasional chit chat and they obliged me with a belly scrub.

Krotz Springs Gage: 20.31

Day 4: Dean’s Trail: Maze of Waterways with Endless Possibilities

The story thus far: The Grasshopper 30 foot long cypress-strip voyageur canoe journeys downstream on the famed Atchafalaya, “the River of Trees” in search of adventure, wildlife, and dry campsites, with a crew of 8 documenting it all for the Rivergator: Paddler’s Guide to the Lower Mississippi River. Four days later the anticipation is building as the crew leaves the navigation channel and follows the twists and turns through the capillary bed of the Atchaf, which carries approx 1/3 of the Mississippi, and acts like its major distributary.

Good morning from the Whiskey Bay Pilot Channel. The night was quiet spent with my buddies the alligator gar who used their scales to give my belly a good scrubbing. When the sun broke over the horizon, the river was covered in a misty blanket of fog. I could hear a new sound in the distance that sounded like thunder echoing through the swamp. The crew seemed to me moving a little slower today, maybe the 32 miles we made the day before wore them out a little. After breakfast, John assembled the Voyageurs and they all huddled around a map on the sandbar. The Atchafalaya is a maze of waterways with endless possibilities. John had two routes in mind, stay on the channel or veer off and explore some backwater bayous. To my delight, the crew voted unanimously to venture into the depths of the Atchafalaya Basin.

This was the first time John and I ventured down this route. Any worries I had were alleviated because this route was recommend by Dean from the Basinkeeper. The basin is a huge floodplain that the Mississippi shares 1/3 of its water with daily. Today the Mississippi River is at flood stage in Natchez, the Atchafalaya is getting a big helping of water. This is good for us because it brings water to land to help Spring get started on a good foot and opens up exploration opportunities for us. We have spent a lot of time exploring the Atchafalaya, but one would spend a lifetime and still not know the Atchafalaya completely.

We left the pilot’s channel and entered Jakes Bayou. Our waterway narrowed from a 2,640 feet to 200 feet wide. I would imagine a car would have a similar experience exiting from the interstate directly onto a logging trail in the mountains. Immediately the Voyageurs started seeing my friends. The first sighting was a broad shouldered hawk and then a couple of alligators sunning on the bank. I said hello to them and they slid off the bank to come out to glide down the bayou with me. They told me about the old Texaco dock where the bayou starts and how the humans one day just up and left. Unfortunately they didn’t take all of the stuff they had brought with them. They also told me about a hidden lake just to the right of the bayou. I told John about this and he was delighted to hear this inside information from the locals. I was excited too, but the only waterway had a fortress style gate blocking the entrance. I told John I would be okay waiting in the bayou as long as he brought back some good pictures so I could see what the lake looked like.

The route was a maze of bayous. Jakes, Bloody, Sorrell, Indigo, and Bee. As we traversed our way through this maze some of the water was like the Omahas like it, backwards. These bayous depending on water level can flow in either direction. They are surrounded by swamps and bottomland forests. Even though there were a good many hunting camps, I was happy to see that the people that own them keep the in good shape and litter free.

During this trip, I have seen more fishing boats than I have ever seen. I learned that the swamp thunder I heard the night before was really something called an airboat. What a noisy contraption! On one of the more narrow bayous we heard a noise and Braxton said it was a lawnmower. Then out of nowhere a boat popped up, turns out some boats are powered by lawnmower engines.

As the day was fading, the Voyageurs were in search of some high ground in this watery maze. They found a campsite at the bottom end of Eagle Island in Keelboat Pass. The name of these two places remind me of the Mississippi and I feel a little homesick. I am happy though because I have made so many new friends. The Atchafalaya is the New York City for wildlife.

Krotz Springs Gage: 20.92

Morgan City Gage: 4.47

Day 5: Into the Vibrant Green Heart of the Atchafalaya

Eagle eyes are required for navigating Keelboat Pass this morning. Fortunately the fog burns off early this morning. My paddleway parking today makes it a challenge to reload for the crew because they have to bring everything over my head. I am glad they didn’t drop anything on my nose. My nose has been broken once before and it sure did hurt.

As we go along, something feels strange. This feeling is new, I check the water on my nose and realize we aren’t moving at our normal pace. I ask John if the crew is tired and can’t muster the power today. He tells me that we are in a lake and there might be a 1/4 mile per hour flow. At first I am disappointed about our new found environment, but then I remember my ancestors which inspired my design. The first Voyageur canoes were built by the French to ply the Great Lakes for transporting pelts and provisions. With the thought of those that have gone before me, my attitude changes to excitement for this new challenge.

Exiting the Keelboat challenge, we return to the backwaters. I marvel at the cypress and wonder if they will eventually provide the ingredients for future canoes. We pass more cabins some on stilts and some floating. I was starting to wonder if these cabins were abandoned. As we rounded a bend, Braxton exclaimed “Look at those snakes hanging out on the porch.” I then realized that these cabins were home to snakes and that is why they are kept up in such an orderly fashion.

One of my favorite sections today was Little Bayou Long. This bayou was full of bald cypress and swamp tupelo. What a majestic place! I hope that someday I can carry a group of children through this primordial wonderland. It is my hope that future generations will set aside more floodplain to allow better homes for my friends so they won’t have to build those cabins on stilts and styrofoam.

At the end of Little Bayou Long we find ourselves in a possible Omaha situation again. John checks the map and finds a small bayou that is going our direction in both ways. We once again find the Quapaw way. This is another beautiful paddle way. As the path narrows, we find ourselves blocked in by water hyacinth. The crew is worried, but I tell them to take a break and fuel up because I am sure my nose can part this invasive plant. After a quick break, I tell the hyacinth look out cause here we come. They trembled in fear at the sight of my nose and stepped aside to provide a path.

Duck Lake should be called Sumo Cypress Lake. The cypress that lined this lake were big, round, and stout. These cypress are great platforms for the Osprey who built their nest on on the heads of these sturdy sumo. It was good that these sumo had strong legs because there was water everywhere. This presented a challenge for finding a campsite. John is prepared for a watery campsite, but he knows the crew might like to set their tents up on land. Just as the last rays of the sun are saying goodbye, Gail spots a small parcel of dry land. We paddle over to this sliver in the swamp and the crew rests for tomorrow’s adventure.

Krotz Springs Gage: 20.97

Morgan City Gage: 4.53

Day 6: Chatting with Frogs, Turtles, Beavers, Raccoons, Alligators and Nutria

This morning is like all the other mornings so far on this trip down the Atchafalaya, the river and land covered in fog. What is fog? I am glad you asked and I should have explained her earlier. I like to imagine that the clouds I see high in the sky during the day have come down during the night from their lofty position to sleep near the river, trees, me, and you. When the sun rises to wake the day, fog has rested so well amongst friends she has a hard time getting back to work in the sky. I asked Braxton what he thought and he said, “Fog happens when humidity is near 100 percent and the air temperature drops. When these conditions occur, tiny water vapor particles condense into tiny water drops making this misty layer over the land.” I like my version better, his is just kind of boring.

The campsite that Gail found was a spectacular site for the weary Voyageurs. This narrow piece of land was the only dry land to be found for miles and provided the feeling of camping atop the water. One of side of the campsite was flooded bottomland hardwood and the other old river channel.

I spent the night chatting with the frogs, beavers, raccoons, alligators, and the nutria. The nutria were brought from South America and I had to brush up on my Spanish. They are lively fellows that love to burrow in the river banks and eat plant stems. My new friends from South America have a voracious appetite. They eat so much they are slowly wreaking havoc on my beloved river. I spent the night explaining how they must conserve their resources. Just because river roots are bountiful and delicious, they must not gorge themselves. If they take care of the river, the river will take care of them.

My conversations with the locals provided melodic medicine to the Voyageurs during their night of rest. At the morning meal, I heard Mark tell John about hearing a group of hunting dogs singing throughout the night. John was a little confused because he had not heard any dogs during the night. After some reflection, the group came to the conclusion that Mark had been hearing the sounds of bull frogs during the night. Everyone had a chuckle and John aptly named this tuneful campsite “Frog Dog”.

The fog returned to the sky earlier today and we were able to see clearly. Even though I missed the surreal effect the fog created, it would have been difficult navigating the open expanses of Duck and Flat lakes. These big lakes are home to ospreys and bald eagles. Birds of prey love to eat fish and the lakes are rich with food for these skillful avians. I asked the eagle to talk to the nutria about eating too much. He has tried, but the nutria is scared of the eagle. Maybe I should ask the next beaver I see to teach the nutria.

The excitement rose as we approached Morgan City. We were on our way to pick up Wolfie. A writer from Louisiana, Wolfie helped bring me to life as a Voyageur canoe. As we approached the ramp, I saw Wolfie waving and I let out a big WHO-UTE to let him know we were near. He replied with so much enthusiasm, I knew he was excited to see us too.

My crew had lunch on the dock and watched the local fisherman come and go. John and Braxton took the time after lunch for a refreshing dip in the cool waters of the Atchafalaya. Wolfie had brought supplies for the rest of the trip and brought his famous gumbo for the evening meal.

We rounded a couple of more bends of the Atchafalaya. I was happy to be back in the big open spaces of the ever widening Atchafalaya main channel. John found an island right in the middle of the channel. I felt like we were back home on the Mississippi. John wanted to leave me in the water, but I told him I preferred to spend the night with my belly in the sand. As the crew pulled me up on land, I reminded them to look out for broken glass. The only difference between this island and islands of the Mississippi is that this island is visited by those who do not hold it in high regard. I felt sorry for this lovely little island to have to endure the pains of human litter. I asked John to help spread the word about proper use and stewardship of these wild places.

Morgan City Gage: 4.67

Day 7: End of the World as We Know It

It’s a big channel morning and the water is flowing with the continuous rising of the Mississippi river’s Spring pulse. We jump on down the channel clickety-clack. We round the bend and find our path to the gulf. The entrance to this small channel is landmarked by Shell Island. There are 22 species of mussels found in the Atchafalaya basin and their remains wash up on this lonely point. The crew takes a quick break because we are almost at the end and the prospect of finding land seems remote.

As we make our way to the gulf, we find more gated waterways. John photographs and notes the locations of these gates for Dean. I hope Dean can use the resources of the Basinkeeper to have these unnecessary obstacles removed.

We paddle on and we round a bend and it appears that we have reached the end of the Earth. There are no trees in sight and I worry we might fall off the planet. John sings part of a REM song that causes me to be alarmed. The sight and sound seems to have affected the crew too, but I realize they are excited and not fearful of going over the edge. It seems we have reached the Gulf of Mexico and not the edge of the world.

Crossing the bay, we were guided by a elevated piece of land. Belle Isle is a salt dome that rises 82 feet above sea level. Even at a lowly 82 feet, Belle seems like a mountain when compared to the land that surrounds it. As we said our farewells to the gulf, John tested the water and mingled with the mussels for one last time.

Our return trip to Morgan City was a challenge. At every turn we encountered water rushing to the be reunited with the gulf. Even though this type of paddling is slower, it provided us with ample wildlife sightings. We saw two gregarious Roseate Spoonbills, I like to call them swamp flamingos due to their brilliant color. They feed by swinging their bills from side to side as the walk through the water. These abundant sightings helped keep the crew focused on their upstream paddle.

Daylight was fading as we searched for land that seemed to elude us. John spotted some high ground and the crew raced towards it, they were hungry and tired from a hard day of paddling. I find myself once again parked in a pleasant watery paddleway.

Morgan City Gage: 4.90

Day 8: Surrounded by the Sounds of the Swamp

The Voyageurs once again found themselves surrounded by the sounds of the swamp during the night. I think most people would not be able to sleep because they would be fearful of the creatures that make these sounds. My crew has realized that the creatures have no interest in harming them and welcome their neighbors’ music with open arms and sound sleep.

The crew breaks camp with heavy hearts because they know their Atchafalaya journey is coming to an end. As they continue upstream, they spot numerous nutria and alligators. Gail spotted a raccoon high in the tree taking a nap. He was sleeping so deeply, he didn’t seem to mind the numerous photos that were taken.

The tidal marsh returned to bottomland forest signaling that the crew was making progress on their trip inland. We stopped to check out a beautiful bottomland forest decorated with fans on the floor. These fans are Saw Palmetto which have been used in the past for food and to roof primitive dwellings in coastal regions.

Exiting the natural landscape to the inter-coastal waterway was a big surprise. The crew expected this waterway to be more like a ditch, but to their surprise it was more natural looking than expected. The banks were lined with cypress and cottonwoods. We once again were sharing the water with the tows carrying materials around the world. A tow followed me for a couple of miles, he finally passed when the crew took a break to enjoy the surroundings.

With the boat ramp in sight, the crew took one last break before returning to civilization to reflect on our journey. What a magical journey of discovery. I hope the work we have done on the Atchafalaya water trail opens up this magical place to paddlers around the world to discover the wonders of this fabulous floodplain.

Morgan City Gage: 5.05

(by Mark River and Brax Barden, photos by John Ruskey)

Mark River

Brax Barden

Mysterious Green Swamp Avenger who appeared near end of expedition... Can you guess his name?

Spring Schedule

April 2015:

April 11th Juke Joint Festival

(See schedule below)

April 11th Bluz Cruz

(See schedule below)

15-30th Rivergator Expedition:

Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico

including Plaquemines, New Orleans and Venice

May 2015:

2-3 Canoe Outfitting & Guiding 101

University of Monroe - May 2-3, 2015

For details and enrollment please go to:

Fri May 22 - Mon May 25, 2015

Men on the Water: A Healing Journey

Adventure Healing Workshop on the Mississippi River

for Men, Sons, Couples led by Jim “Pathfinder” Ewing

October/November 2015:

Rivergator Completion Celebration Expedition:

St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico

1180 miles on the Middle and Lower Mississippi River!

Rivergator Expeditions you can join in 2015:

April 15-30, 2015: Baton Rouge to the Gulf of Mexico

225 miles downstream through the Industrial Corridor down the biggest inland harbor in the world, including Plaquemine, Morganza Floodway, Donaldsonville, Bonnet Carre Spillway, New Orleans, Algiers, Belle Chasse, Venice, Pilot-Town, Mile Zero, Head of Passes, Birdsfoot Delta, last camp will be a sandy beach on the Gulf of Mexico!

October/November 2015: 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 Caribbean.

-- Bluz Cruz 2015 --

Quapaw Canoe Company is offering space in our big canoes for 2015 Bluz Cruz, a 22-mile race ending up on the Yazoo River in downtown Vicksburg. One of the great races along the Lower Mississippi River! Begins at 8:00 am April 11th at Madison Parish Port, LA, and ends in Vicksburg, MS at the river front. The race fee will go to support the Service Over Self Organization. You can of course paddle your own canoe or kayak. But if you want to join 10 others in an unforgettable team experience, try the big canoe! The Big Canoe offering includes registration and everything you’ll need in the canoe for the day. For signup go to:

For more information about Bluz Cruz, please go to:

-- Juke Joint Festival 2015 --

2015 we are partnering with GRIOT ARTS,

who are our good neighbors across the street,

for this years’ Juke Joint Festival.

Several of their youth participate

in our River Arts Youth Project.

Events Include:

Canoe-Carving Demonstration & Workshop -- Griot Arts Building Open House -- Improv Theater Workshop -- Paddling on the Sunflower River -- Griot Youth Rock Band -- Sunflower River Camping -- Griot Art Gallery -- 1Mississippi: Can the River Count on You? -- GRIOT and GREENS -- Sunday Daytrip on the Mighty Mississippi!

GRIOT/Quapaw Canoe Company

Activities During

2015 Juke Joint Festival April 9-12

Canoe-Carving Demonstration & Workshop

Paddling on the Sunflower River

Sunflower River Camping

1Mississippi -- Can the River Count on You?


Sunday Daytrip on the Mighty Mississippi

All events will meet & take place street level 3rd & Sunflower in downtown Clarksdale all day 9 - 4pm every day Thursday April 14 – Saturday April 16, Mississippi River Daytrip 1pm - 7pm Sunday April 12th. For more information contact Quapaw Canoe Company 662-627-4070 or

Canoe-Carving Demonstration & Workshop

Quapaw Canoe Company

9 am to 4 pm Wednesday - Saturday

Location: Quapaw Canoe Company, 289 Sunflower (Third Street & Sunflower, opposite GRIOT Arts). Contact: 662-627-4070 or 902-7841. Catfish Dugout Canoe carving from 3-ton cottonwood log. Partnership with Spring Initiative and GRIOT ARTS youth programs. This project supported by the Mississippi Arts Commission. All ages welcome. We provide instruction, tools and safety equipment. Children under 12 must be accompanied by parents. Contact: Quapaw Canoe Company 662-627-4070 or

Paddling on the Sunflower River

Quapaw Canoe Company

9 am to 4 pm Wednesday - Saturday (Pick your time and stay out as long as you want)

Canoe or kayak or SUP. Paddle the beautiful (and muddy!) Sunflower River through downtown Clarksdale with the “back-door view” of Red’s Lounge, The Riverside Hotel. Possible run through a Delta Wilderness with a take-out at Hopson Plantation. Meet Location: Quapaw Canoe Company, 289 Sunflower (Third Street & Sunflower, opposite Sarah’s Kitchen). Contact: 662-627-4070 or 902-7841. See below for options & rates.

Sunflower River Camping

Quapaw Canoe Company

Wednesday - Sunday

Quapaw Canoe Company will be hosting a public campground downtown for tents campers. No trailers or RVs. No electric hookup. Porta-Johns and hot showers on location. Camp on grassy sites along the banks of the Sunflower River! Easy access to downtown Clarksdale and all the stages and juke joints. Everything within walking distance! $25/tent/night for 2 people, $10 each additional person/night. 2 night minimum. Bring your own tent and sleeping bags. Parking for 1 vehicle per tent. (You can find close by parking elsewhere). No open fires, but camp stoves, hibachis or small personal-sized BBQ okay. No smoking (city ordinance in public places). Contact: Mark “River” Peoples 662-902-1885. Quapaw Canoe Company 662-627-4070 or

1Mississippi -- Can the River Count on You?

Quapaw Canoe Company

9 am to 4 pm Wednesday - Saturday

Ongoing Exhibit and Southern campaign headquarters for the 1Mississippi River Citizen Program. Come on over and learn about how you can help protect and better the waters of America, our drinking water, swimming water & lifeblood of the nation. Become a River Citizen and join us in making the Mississippi River sparkle like the beautiful “Queen of Rivers” that she is.

GRIOT and GREENS (Saturday 11am-2pm)

Fresh greens collected and cooked by the youth involved in the GRIOT’s new Job Training Program Meraki. Contact Emily Wisseman or 217-778-0516. Vegetarian options. Donations accepted, proceeds to go to support of the GRIOT Meraki program.

Sunday April 12th, Mississippi River Artist's & Naturalists Retreat Daytrip 1-7pm (Sunday Only)

Write or call 662-902-7841 for reservation. Meet at 1pm at Quapaw headquarters 289 Sunflower Avenue in downtown Clarksdale gear up, and then shuttle to Montezuma Landing, which is directly above Friars Point. We’ll paddle by the beautiful warm light of mid-day to Island 61 where we’ll make swim stop and watch the sun rotate over the waters of Old Town Bend. Shortly thereafter we’ll follow the river downstream over the main channel of the Mississippi as it makes the turbulent escapade below Kangaroo Point. After supper, we’ll push off into the shimmering waters of the river, the darkness of the boils highlighted by shining whirl lines, boil lines, and low angle sun reflections. By the last light of the day we’ll paddle around Old Town Bend, and then silently slip in between Is. 62 and 63. Sometime around sunset we’ll cut into the channel below Island 63 and meet our shuttle driver Ellis Coleman “Mr. Smooth Dancer” at Quapaw Landing. Write or call ahead to make your reservation. $125/person includes guiding, outfitting and shuttle. Live music on board featuring recording artist Zoe Sundra. Bring your musical instrument. Also on board watercolor painter, Robin Whitfield and plant enthusiast/herbalist Lindsay Wilson (Sweet Gum Apothecary). Bring your sketchpad and pencils, pastels, or paints. Potluck Supper. Bring a loaf of bread, a salad, a vegetarian entree, or a rack of ribs, to share. We’ll provide plates, silverware, tables & camp chairs, as well as coffee and teas. 662-627-4070 or

Griot Arts Events: Friday April 10th:

Improv Theater Workshop For Students 7th-12th Grade 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM. Sheila Shotwell will lead a fun theater workshop for any students interested.

Contact Emily Wisseman or 217-778-0516 for more information.

Griot Arts Events: Saturday, April 11th

Griot Arts Building Open House 278 Sunflower Ave 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM Please come by and Learn more about our after school arts program and our new job training program!

Contact Emily Wisseman or 217-778-0516 for more information.

Griot Art Gallery Open 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM 274 Sunflower Ave Join us to view local artists' work. Live Music in the afternoon.

Contact Emily Wisseman or 217-778-0516 for more information.

Griot Greens - 11:00 AM- 1:00 PM - Stop by the Quapaw Canoe Co. parking lot on Sunflower Ave for a treat from The Meraki Farm and see the fruit of the labor of the Griot's new Job Training Program. Greens and Cornbread will be available during the lunch hours. Contact Emily Wisseman or 217-778-0516. Vegetarian Options. Donations accepted, proceeds go to support Griot and Meraki.

Griot Youth Rock Band will be performing in the Griot Art Gallery (274 Delta Ave) from 4:30 to 5:30. Come by to see the future musicians of Clarksdale showcase their talents.

Contact Emily Wisseman or 217-778-0516 for more information.

Description: Paddling on the Sunflower River

Intro: Beautiful paddling through downtown Clarksdale, and upstream & downstream as well. Re-discover Clarksdale from its main artery, the Sunflower River. Back-door view of riverbank blues places like Red’s Juke Joint and the historic Riverside Hotel. Get close to Mississippi Delta Wildlife such as fish, turtles, snakes, frogs, song birds, birds of prey (mainly hawks & owls) wading birds & other waterfowl, occasional deer, possum, armadillos, raccoon & beaver. Flat water. Easy paddling. Guide service available. Do your own paddling & shuttling or we can provide canoes, kayaks and shuttle service. See below.

5 paddling options on the Sunflower River (from Clarksdale):

1) Downtown Clarksdale “Back-Door Blues Shuffle & Turnaround” (1-3 miles): Start off downstream under the Railroad Bridge and paddle behind Delta Hardware (Charlie Musselwhite CD), Ground Zero Blues Club, Red’s Juke Joint, Martin Luther King Park, the Riverside Hotel (where Bessie Smith died in 1937), and make a u-turn under the Blues Highway 61. Paddle back. Flexible timing, you decide how fast you want to paddle, and how soon you want to turn around. Leave from Sunflower Landing (behind Quapaw Canoe Company).

2) Downtown Parks & Wilderness (1-3 miles): Paddle upstream behind City Hall, around Soldier’s Field and enter the rich Cypress forest hidden along the banks of the river. You will be amazed by the variety of wildlife in this thriving floodplain ecosystem. Commonly seen are egrets, great blue herons, red eared turtles, mississippi map turtle, needlenose gar, red shouldered hawk, beaver and river otter. Paddle up to the Duckwalk Park and make turnaround for a leisurely paddle back downstream. Leave from Sunflower Landing (behind Quapaw Canoe Company).

3) Clark Park to Sunflower Landing (3 miles) Leisurely 3 mile paddle into downtown Clarksdale through some