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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 300

Monday, Aug 10, 2015

Wild Miles on the Big River

80 Days on the Mississippi with the Greybeard Adventurer

It takes a raindrop falling in Lake Itasca, MN, about 90 days to flow 2300 miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Always up to the challenge, the erstwhile Dale Sanders intends to cut that off by 10 days!

By the end of the week “Greybeard” Dale Sanders will become the oldest man to paddle the Mississippi River. Eighty years in 80 days. With your help Dale will complete a $20,000 challenge for diabetes research in the name of his niece Anna.

Dale is 80 years young.

We say young because Dale has a lively spirit, agile mind, and strong body. He makes most middle age people I know look old. (Us Mighty Quapaws had to paddle hard last week to keep up with him!)

Over the years Dale (and his lovely wife Meriam) have helped many an adventurer complete his or her adventure with much needed shelter and respite. After hosting countless hundreds of paddlers as the “Memphis River Angel,” Dale decided he would celebrate his 80th with 80 days on the Mississippi.

He is completing this expedition for his niece, Anna, who has Juvenile Type 1 Diabetes. Dale chose the name Anna for his 15 foot long Wilderness We-No-Nah canoe. Dale is using the Rivergator as his paddling guide, and Quapaw Canoe Company is one of his sponsors.

Last week several of us Mighty Quapaw were able to join Dale for the 171 mile stretch between Vicksburg and St. Francisville, so he wouldn't have to paddle alone in the highwater conditions...

Dale makes it look easy as he swings his double bladed paddle from side to side like a windmill.

Even though the river follows gravity downstream to the Gulf of Mexico, it’s not all downhill for the long distance Mississippi River paddler -- especially in the extreme mid-summer conditions where you burn up in the sun all day long and then sweat in your tent all night. Overheating is a daily reality, with heat exhaustion always riding on your shoulder, and heat stroke just around the bend if you don’t take care of yourself.

Adventurers turned film-makers Austin Graham and Brad Tallent (themselves long-distance veterans of the big waters of North America) rejoined Dale in St. Franny, and now they're on their way downstream to the Gulf for the final week of the expedition!

“Cruising for a Cure” is his driving force. See the DONATE ONLINE link to give some love to a great charity!

You can follow Dale on SPOT TRACKER which shows his position every 10 minutes.…

Greybeard Adventurer latest news release:
Attention all GBA followers and fans:

Dale is nearing the end of this EPIC adventure. When he arrives in Venice, Louisiana, Anna and our family will be there to welcome him. Depending upon his health, Richard is still planning to be there with his family also.

We are roughly $3,000 short of Dale’s goal to raise $20,000. I am very proud to announce that we have another anonymous donor who has agreed to match UP TO a TOTAL of $1,500. So, if we get $1,500 in donations before he reaches the Gulf of Mexico, we would like for Anna to be able to present the final donation to him. Dale has worked tirelessly to meet his 80 day paddling goal, and wouldn’t it be awesome for sweet Anna to help finish this part of the fundraising goal?!

We will let you know if/when the match donation has been exhausted. Any donations made, starting right NOW, will be matched dollar for dollar (up to a TOTAL of $1,500). So, turn your $20 donation into $40, and donate soon!

About Anna:

This is about Anna Silvey. You may ask, “Who is Anna?”.





This is about Anna Silvey. You may ask, “Who is Anna?”. Who is this person that has

inspired her eighty year old great uncle to risk his life to raise awareness for her disease?

What is she like? What was her life like before diagnosis? How has her disease affected her daily life?

How has her disease affected those around her? Let’s start at the beginning.

Anna’s mother, Angie, is a critical care nurse who worked four days a week. The babysitter began noticing extreme thirst and frequent urinating, which she mentioned to Angie. After a couple of days of these symptoms, Angie used the babysitter’s glucose monitor to check Anna’s blood sugar level. Her initial reading was over 700.

After appointments with the pediatrician and specialists at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, it was confirmed that Anna was indeed a Type 1 Diabetic (T1D). The family was familiar with Type 2 Diabetes, which ran in the paternal side of the family, but the news was still devastating. Anna screamed every time her finger was pricked for the blood sugar testing.

She screamed every time insulin had to be administered by injection. She wanted to eat, but not at mealtimes. Members of the family would have to leave the room to cry in a private space so that Anna didn’t see or feel their fear for her life.

Thankfully, it only took six short months (which seemed like a lifetime at that time) for the insurance company and doctors to get it approved for Anna to receive an insulin pump. The pump allowed caretakers to simply dial in the number of carbohydrates consumed and the insulin would be administered in a precise, very low doses. Her little body was so sick, but soon, the circles below her sparkly eyes disappeared. Her deeply dimpled cheeks became pink again. The weight loss stopped and she slowly started growing. The insulin pump changed the life of Anna and all of those around her.

When it was time for Anna to start school, there was another entirely new fear involved. By law, the school system had to provide care for her while at school. However, it took a fightto get the funding approved for the small rural school to get a school nurse hired. Once that battle was won, there was another issue of getting the nurse, teachers, aides, and cafeteria workers trained. Many of them had never been around a diabetic. The concept of counting carbohydrates was foreign to them. They had to be trained what to do in an emergency, and who to call if they needed help with Anna in an emergency. But all of those obstacles were overcome, and Anna made it through that first year of school with flying colors.

Since that time, the school has implemented many programs that assist with educatingthe student body and staff members about T1D. One of their largest fundraisers is “Walk for a Cure”, where the money raised is donated to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Representatives with JDRF come from the Louisville home office to speak to the student body about diabetes, then the students walk a mile. Anna is the proud queen for that day, and is far from being embarrassed by her disease and the issues that she deals with daily.

In addition to the fundraiser, the school has implemented a buddy program so that Anna doesn’t have to walk to the school nurse’s office alone. There are certain times of the day that her blood sugar needs to be checked, or she needs insulin after lunch, etc. So, they assign a student worker for each quarter of the school year to be Anna’s “nurse”. From personal observations, it is clear that each student who gets to be Anna’s nurse is honored and learns as Anna has grown into a vibrant young girl, her parents knew that it was very important for Anna to be involved in the same things that other kids her age were doing. Most ten year old girls are spending the night with girlfriends and having or participating in sleepovers pretty regularly. However, sweet Anna only has two friends who have parents who are willing to learn about T1D and how to work Anna’s insulin pump. Two friends who will, occasionally, invite her over to spend the night. Just two. Since her blood sugar must be tested at least once in the middle of the night, it is a lot to ask of a friend’s family.

Anna plays travel softball, where her dad is one of the assistant coaches, and she is also a middle school cheerleader. She was the only fifth grader to make the squad of 5th-8th grade girls this school year. During the basketball and cheerleading season, a caretaker would have to stay at the school during her practice. There were two or three games a week, plus practice. It is overwhelmingly difficult to schedule her caretakers, but the family makes it through it because it is so important for Anna.

Tough little finger tips, scarred and callused from the thousands of finger pricks; insulin pump attached to her little body; continuous glucose monitor attached to her little body; backpack always loaded with emergency supplies; and a smile that shows her beautiful dimples. It all makes you realize how determined Anna is to move forward and deal with the monster that took control of her life.


Aug, 2015: New books for Lower Mississippi River Readers!

Part-Time Superheroes, Full-Time Friends Paperback, April 23, 2015, by Rod Wellington

Paperback, 288 pages

Publisher: Rod Wellington; 1 edition (April 23, 2015)

5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches

About the Author

On April 2, 2013, Rod Wellington became the first North American to kayak the Missouri-Mississippi river system from source to sea, a distance of 6100km. The solo journey took 256 days to complete. Rod’s triumphant arrival at the Gulf of Mexico marked the completion of Stage One of his Magnificent Seven Expedition, a personal quest to descend the longest river system on each continent from source to sea using only human-powered transportation (kayaking, rafting, and walking). He estimates it will take 15 years to complete the project. Rod plans to write a book about each of these seven journeys. No stranger to adventure, Rod has bicycled more than 25,000km, including continental crossings of North America and Australia. He has also logged over 13,000km of river travel, including source to sea descents of the Mississippi River (3700km) and the Murray River, Australia’s longest waterway (2500km). Rod is an accomplished public speaker and author. Part-Time Superheroes, Full-Time Friends is his first book. Find out more at

Pawpaw: In Search of America's Forgotten Fruit
Hardcover – August 22, 2015

by Andrew Moore (Author), and Michael W. Twitty (Foreword)

Hardcover 320 pages

Chelsea Green Publishing (August 22, 2015)

9.1 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches

The largest edible fruit native to the United States tastes like a cross between a banana and a mango. It grows wild in twenty-six states, gracing Eastern forests each fall with sweet-smelling, tropical-flavored abundance. Historically, it fed and sustained Native Americans and European explorers, presidents, and enslaved African Americans, inspiring folk songs, poetry, and scores of place names from Georgia to Illinois. Its trees are an organic grower’s dream, requiring no pesticides or herbicides to thrive, and containing compounds that are among the most potent anticancer agents yet discovered.

So why have so few people heard of the pawpaw, much less tasted one?

In Pawpaw, author Andrew Moore explores the past, present, and future of this unique fruit, traveling from the Ozarks to Monticello; canoeing the lower Mississippi in search of wild fruit; drinking pawpaw beer in Durham, North Carolina; tracking down lost cultivars in Appalachian hollers; and helping out during harvest season in a Maryland orchard. Along the way, he gathers pawpaw lore and knowledge not only from the plant breeders and horticulturists working to bring pawpaws into the mainstream (including Neal Peterson, known in pawpaw circles as the fruit’s own “Johnny Pawpawseed”), but also regular folks who remember eating them in the woods as kids, but haven’t had one in over fifty years.

As much as Pawpaw is a compendium of pawpaw knowledge, it also plumbs deeper questions about American foodways?how economic, biologic, and cultural forces combine, leading us to eat what we eat, and sometimes to ignore the incredible, delicious food growing all around us. If you haven’t yet eaten a pawpaw, this book won’t let you rest until you do.

The Bear Hunter: The Life and Times of Robert Eager Bobo in the Canebrakes of the Old South

Kindle Edition, 257 pages

by Jim McCafferty (Author), Mary Brock Bobo (Photographer), Jay Haas (Photographer)

Over a century ago readers of sporting journals in America and Europe relished the tales of Mississippi Delta bear hunter Robert Eager Bobo. Yet, in the years since, this most famous bear hunter of the late 1800s has been all but forgotten – until now. The Bear Hunter: The Life and Times of Robert Eager Bobo in the Canebrakes of the Old South brings to the modern reader, not only the story of Bobo’s bear hunting, but a thoroughly fascinating and entertaining picture of pioneer life in the nineteenth century Delta wilderness.

Come now with Bob Bobo and a variety of captivating characters – including the notorious outlaw Jesse James – on their quests for black bear in an environment that now exists only on the pages of history: the wild, trackless, Delta canebrake. Gallop at a breakneck pace through sloughs and swamps, where a horse’s stumble over a cypress knee could mean sudden disaster; thrill to the savage chorus of the hounds as they pursue their game; charge into the cane to knife the bear before it can decimate the pack; taste the fear when the tables turn and hunter becomes the hunted; relax by the campfire on a frosty November evening and listen to the tales of wolf and panther and gun and knife; laugh, too, at comical stories of old time Delta backwoods ways; and, perhaps, shed a tear, as the inevitable tragedies of life visit your newfound friends. The book will delight hunters, outdoors lovers, nature enthusiasts, southern history buffs, folklore fans, and anyone who just enjoys a good book.

But let us not delay! The hunters are gathered; the horses are champing at their bits; the dogs are spoiling for a fight; Bobo is sounding his horn. It is time to ride!


This thoroughly researched and superbly written account of the exploits of Robert Eager Bobo – one of the Mississippi Delta's pioneer leaders and most fabled bear hunters – is better than any cowboy story that you have ever read – and it all really happened.

--Honorable William F. Winter

former governor of Mississippi and past president of the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Bravo to Jim McCafferty! His skills as a wordsmith, historian and storyteller shine in his marvelous story of The Bear Hunter, Robert Eager Bobo – a real-life character whose 19th century exploits were every bit as fascinating as those of Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett. You won’t want to put it down!

--Keith Sutton, author of

Arkansas Wildlife: A History

McCafferty’s masterful portrayal of an era, now almost unimaginable, when the Mississippi Delta was forest primeval and bears were as plentiful as hogs, brings to life a host of colorful 19th century characters. The reader sees, hears, feels, smells and tastes the drama of the hunt – an essential addition to the library of both Southern folklore and outdoor writing.

--Ernest Herndon, outdoor editor,

McComb, Mississippi, Enterprise-Journal


Jim McCafferty grew up in the Mississippi Delta during the 1950s and 1960s and is the award-winning writer of hundreds of articles that have appeared in Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, and many other publications. His two children’s books, Holt and the Teddy Bear (the story of Holt Collier, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Mississippi Delta hunt that resulted in the naming of the Teddy Bear) and Holt and the Cowboys, each received Children’s Crown Collection designations. McCafferty practices environmental and education law in McComb, Mississippi. He and his wife, the former Malinda Hamilton, of Greenville, Mississippi, have five children and are communicants of St. Nicholas of Myra Byzantine Catholic Church in New Orleans, Louisiana.

August 29, 2015

10-year commemoration of Hurricane Katrina

From Mighty Quapaw graduate “Wolfie” Chris Staudinger

My dad and I are building a paper boat for the 10-year commemoration of Hurricane Katrina. It’s going to be a 16-foot, fully-functioning vessel. It will have a paper hull, formed by bonded layers of people’s written stories from the storm.

In a lot of ways, I’ve spent ten years trying to understand the flooding - much of it through writing. But despite my own reflections, some of my most intense experiences learning about the storm have come from other people’s stories.

When I came back to New Orleans after Katrina, I was sixteen. I can remember that my friend Santi told me about carrying sick patients on sheets and mattresses up the stairs to the roof of Tulane Hospital, over and over, until he got taken out of the flooding on a military truck. At that time, our chief concerns in life were how to buy beer and where we would drink it.

It wasn’t until last year that my friend Phil told me his own story of Katrina, when he was separated from his mother and roamed the evacuated streets of New Orleans by himself, trying to find a way out (also as a fifteen years old). I couldn’t believe that we’d been friends for thirteen years, but only then, in the Friendly Bar, was I learning about this backbone experience that altered him, somehow, over the last ten years into the person sitting in front of me.

As I’ve asked people about Katrina for this boat project, it’s the same thing over and over. I get the feeling that?I thought I knew this person, but then, there they are in front of me, suddenly carrying something I never knew they had. I’m amazed at what they say, the details in the moments of someone’s life in an emergency, an emergency we all happened to have at the exact same moment in our lives.

Over one million people lived through that storm. Even more felt its effects, and everyone is dragging around their own emotional debris from the storm. Beneath layers of material rebuilding and a decade of time, this stuff is still here.

What do we do with it?

The late artist David Wojnarowicz said, “Each public disclosure of a private reality becomes something of a magnet that can attract others with a similar frame of reference.” I’m hoping that this boat can act as that magnet. I know that if boats were a salvation from the storm ten years ago, they can faithfully hold our experiences 10 years later, because Hurricane Katrina and its debris are still a valuable frame of reference for people in New Orleans and others dispersed across the country. Through Katrina, we came to know each other a tiny bit better. You could feel that unity in New Orleans after the storm, despite all of the ugliness that the storm revealed about the city and despite the depression. Most of us wanted to come home because we love it, this island, even with the water, the danger, the dysfunction, the problems. There was a shared realization that we live in this place together as a community -- or maybe a shared joy in the realization that we’re here, period.

The boat will be floated somewhere in the city on August 29 of this year for the 10th anniversary of the storm. I’ll send emails about times and places.And please send me emails or call me about stories. The more stories, the more layers of paper, the stronger the boat becomes. Please consider writing something - by hand or typed. Don’t worry about grammar or making your story “good” or “dramatic.” Every experience can carry its own chapter in the book of Katrina. I realize that most people have told this story a thousand times, but writing it out is different. I think that the written word has a special power to squeeze the puss out of a situation. It grants special access to difficult places. Sometimes it makes things better, and sometimes it makes things worse. But usually, things look more clear. There are more details and more questions. In the end, there’s something to show. There’s something for the writer to hold on to, and there’s something for other people to hold on to, as well.

If you would rather talk it out, we can record your story and I’ll transcribe it. If you want it to be anonymous, it can stay anonymous. People have asked, “What about the layers that won’t be seen?” I’d like to accompany the boat with an online and printed volume of the stories as well.

I know that a lot of people don’t want to reopen the wounds of Katrina. It’s a time of loss that is hellish to revisit and almost impossible to describe. I don’t ask for participation lightly. I ask with a mutual respect and as someone who is slowly coming to realize the depth of my community’s suffering (and hope) after the storm.

The amazing thing about a boat is that it can carry an incredible amount of weight and still slide gracefully across the water.

Here are some prompts if you don’t know where to start:

? Who were you with? Where were you? What did you see?

? When did you first realize that things were not the same as other storms? ? Did the Hurricane force you to evacuate? Where did you go? How did you get there? Did you like it? Did you hate it? What did you miss about home?

? Did you meet someone who made a strong impact on you?

? When were you most scared during the storm?

? Did you lose anyone during the storm? Did any loved ones move away for good? ? Sometimes photos carry vivid memories. Do you have any photos from during or after the storm that have stuck with you? Where were you? What does it show? What was happening? ? Did a boat help you to safety?

? Do you remember any dreams or nightmares you’ve had about the hurricane? ? Did the storm present you with any unexpected opportunities?

? Are there any songs that remind you of the hurricane or that time in your life? ? What was it like when you first got back after evacuating?

? Was there a time when you felt like you couldn’t deal with it anymore? Felt like moving away?

? After the storm, were there decisions made that got you angry? Added insult to injury?

? Who was your best friend during that time?

? What was your neighborhood like in the days / months/ years after the storm?

Contact: Chris Staudinger

Upcoming Big River Events Summer/Fall 2015 -- in Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.


Missouri River Paddlers Reunion

August 1-8, 2015

Lower Missouri River/Middle Mississippi River

Columbia Missouri to the Arch (St. Louis)

(keep reading below for more details!)

Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival

August 7-8-9

Clarksdale, Mississippi

(keep reading below for more details)

Floatzilla - 2015

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Rock Island, IL

Race For Rivers

Aug 29, 2015

St. Charles Missouri

The Mighty Quapaws will be helping out with guided trips in their lovely hand-crafted voyageur canoes for the Annual Race For Rivers, Aug 29, 2015, in St. Charles Missouri.

Mississippi River Nature Festival

August 28-29-30th

Tara Wildlife

(near Eagle Lake, Vicksburg, Mississippi)

(keep reading below for more details)


River Soundings at Riverlands

Saturday Sept 12th

Riverlands Center, (near Alton, Illinois)

Greenway Network will sponsor River Soundings at the Audubon Center at Riverlands to highlight our rivers. The program will focus on water trails and the history of the Miss. and Mo. confluence.

Memphis River Warriors

McKellar Lake Clean up

Saturday, Sept 26 - 10:00am to 12:00pm

Contact Colton Cockrum


Exploring Mindset -- Mississippi River 2015

27th Sep - 4th Oct/4th - 11th October

Adventure Rejuvenation with Dave Cornthwaite and Emily Penn

99 miles on the Mighty Mississippi (Memphis to Clarksdale)

(keep reading below for more details)

Mighty Mississippi Music Festival

Oct 2-4th

Greenville, Mississippi

(keep reading below for more details)

Tennessee Williams Festival

Oct 2-3rd

Clarksdale, Mississippi

(keep reading below for more details)

King Biscuit Blues Festival 2015

October 7th - 10th

Helena Arkansas

Along the banks of the Mighty Mississippi!

(keep reading below for more details)

Memphis River Warriors

McKellar Lake Clean up

Saturday, Oct 24 - 10:00am to 12:00pm

Contact Colton Cockrum


Baton Rouge - New Orleans - Gulf

Mon October 19 - Wed, Nov 4, 2015

for the Rivergator: Lower Mississippi River Trail

Memphis River Warriors

McKellar Lake Clean up

Saturday, Nov 14 - 10:00am to 12:00pm

Contact Colton Cockrum

Bitter Southerner: Wild Miles on the Big River

Boyce Upholt and Rory Doyle joined us in March 2015 for an expedition that started in an un-named farm ditch beside a turn-row in southern Mississippi near Fort Adams and continued down the Atchafalaya to the Gulf of Mexico, exploring the Wax Lake Delta on the paddle back upstream to Morgan City. The Full length story with beautiful photography can be found in the most recent edition of the Bitter Southerner, Stories from the American South. For full story please go to:

David Hanson: Atchafalaya

Meanwhile talented video-photographer environmental journalist David Hanson (Modoc Films) tells the Rivergator Atchafalaya story in a seven minute documentary -- which can be seen on the Rivergator home page:

Summer Highwater

Highwater reminds us of one of our our biggest dreams for the Mississippi River, the rejuvenation of the floodplain. High water allows the river to regain all of its lost channels. This in turn allows the land to go wild, transforming the forests into flooded forests and wetlands. This helps relieve the Gulf from the annual Dead Zone, and also leads to the biggest forestation and carbon sequestration ever. The beauty of it is that the river would do most of the work simply by rising high and flooding its nearby forests, fields and sandbars. The river naturally re-seeds the landscape, nourishes the soil, and waters the seedlings. If we continue cutting off the floodplain, as is being attempted at the New Madrid St. John’s/Birdspoint Floodway, we will lose all of the benefits of high water. We will see more flooding, and bigger dead zones.

Mississippi River Nature Festival

August 28-29-30th

Tara Wildlife

(near Eagle Lake, Vicksburg, Mississippi)

Canoe Trip at the Mississippi River Nature Weekend – August 28-30th

At this year’s Mississippi River Nature Weekend, you can see the beauty of the Mississippi River on a 2-3 hour canoe excursion with Quapaw Canoe Company.

John Ruskey of Quapaw Canoe Company has been canoeing the lower Mississippi River for nearly 30 years. “It’s the most beautiful, wild, energizing, and refreshing place I’ve ever been,” says Ruskey.

John recommends the early morning canoe trip as the best time to see wildlife along the Mississippi River. From deer to coyote, wading birds, songbirds and even river otters, you won’t be disappointed with nature’s display.

You’ll be driven from Tara’s main lodge to Tara Landing along the river where the canoes will be loaded. The canoes will travel along the shoreline of the river, which is bordered by layers of forest, fields, and the remnants of older channels, and then cross over the main river channel to reach Willow Island. After a short walk on the sands of Willow Island, you’ll paddle back to Tara Landing.

Reading the Tracks in the Sand

Willow Island is a large sandbar island that has an abundance of wildlife. The sand often has animal tracks from the forest to the water’s edge. “The sand tells a story,” Ruskey says. “We can look at the footprints and learn the story of the animals that were here the night before.”

Ruskey ‘reads’ the prints and interprets the activity of the animals that were on the beach. Some tracks may show evidence of being chased by a predator, some may line up to drink the water, and once, Ruskey saw the tracks of an alligator. There will be an abundance of bird tracks in the sand; the patterns that they make are fascinating to look at.

What to Bring

Ruskey recommends that you wear clothing that is appropriate for the day’s weather: rain jacket (if needed), shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy or wet, and appropriate clothing. Be sure to apply a good quality sunscreen (spray sunscreen is not recommended). Life jackets in all sizes are available from Quapaw.

If you’d like to get a better look at the wildlife along the way, bring a pair of binoculars, your camera, or your phone (for photographs). John recommends you bring a large Ziploc bag to put your electronic equipment in if it rains.

No Experience Required

If you’ve never canoed before or if you are a canoe expert, all ages and skill levels are welcome on this excursion. The Quapaw Canoe Company captains will provide instruction and each boat will have an experienced captain (who steers) and first mate (at the bow, who sets the stroke).

The advice from John Ruskey on canoe safety is simple: “Balance and listen to your captain.” He advises that you make yourself comfortable in the canoe and find a good paddling position.

Each participant will be required to sign a waiver. Children 18 and under must have a parent or guardian available to sign the waiver on their behalf.

Space is limited. Each canoe seats about 10 people and there are two canoes per excursion. To ensure a spot on the canoes, register now by calling 601-279-4261 or register online.

The Quapaw Canoe Company

In business since 1988, the company is dedicated to human-empowered adventures on the lower Mississippi River. They hand-build their own canoes out of cypress. The company’s mission is to share the beauty of the lower Mississippi River.

Owner John Ruskey is committed to giving back to the community. He has worked with a variety of conservation groups to help protect and preserve the river and its surroundings. He has worked to map the lower Mississippi River and created a 1100-mile water trail from St. Louis through the Gulf of Mexico. The paddler’s guide and map is available online.

He also established a youth leadership program, the Might Quapaw Apprenticeship Program. Through the apprenticeship program, which is run through the Lower Mississippi River Foundation, Ruskey teaches local youth about leadership and life skills through survival training on the Mississippi River. The youth that participate in the program learn the how to turn wood into a canoe, paddle a canoe safely, build a fire, build shelter, and cook on a campfire.

To learn more about the Quapaw Canoe Company, visit their website at

Exploring Mindset -- Mississippi River 2015

Two Expeditions:

1) Sept 27th - Oct 4th

2) October 4th - 11th

Adventure Rejuvenation with Dave Cornthwaite and Emily Penn, Guided & Outfitted by John Ruskey of the Quapaw Canoe Company. For details please visit

What it's all about:

The Journey:

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in a moving retreat designed for those who are ready for a personal or work-based transition. Join us on the mighty Mississippi River, where we will travel south from Memphis by canoe, camp on sandbars, hold discussions by the campfire beneath the stars, and prepare perfectly for life's next step.


Designed to encourage a rethink of everything we do. From the social and environmental challenges we face, to happiness, efficiency, values, mass-consumption, how we spend our time, career creation, attitude, adventure and, the big one, how do we rebuild society and where should we fit in it as individuals.

Canoe & Camp

Taking on the Big Muddy is no mean feat, but we're working alongside the Mississippi Riverman, John Ruskey, and his team from Quapaw Canoe Club. And don't forget, Dave himself paddled the full river in 2011. Each night we will make camp on the riverbank, make camp and sling hammocks, then hold structured workshops and campfire chats, soaking up the tranquility of river life and the inspiration that comes with spending time with like-minded people.

Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Memphis at 4pm, meet the team and stay in a local hotel

Day 2: Head down to the river after breakfast, set off for the first day on the river

Days 3-6: Life on the river - paddling & workshops by day, camping by night

Day 7: Final day on the river, arrive into Helena, pack up kit and head to Clarksdale

Day 8: Depart Clarksdale after breakfast for a 1h30 shuttle back to Memphis


Before we start

– Setting the Scene: an introduction to the expedition and what to expect

– Why Adventure is Important: why getting out of your comfort zone leads to success

– Getting to know each other

First day on the River

– Safety Briefing, paddling instruction and packing up the canoes

– An Insight Into Our Changing World: Environmental (ocean science, degradation and conservation) and Social (consumption, energy, city living and population)


– Values: our shifting mindset

– Happiness: what is happiness to you?

– Time: our most precious asset and how we use it

– Discussion: how do we rebuild society?


– Photography & Video Shooting

– Social Media

– Money & Fundraising

– Time Management


– Iden