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Flowing Forever Flowing

Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No 348

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

First United Methodist Youth Group

Thanks to your kindness and generosity, on May 9th we met our goal! Plus some!

Life is Suatained through Helping Hands (Newly Hatched Dragonfly)

$28,988 raised in 2 months from 103 donors. WOW!!! This is reassurin... hopeful… and humbling. Congratulations to all of us! This recovery involves hundreds of people, including volunteers, donors, and supporters. May the spirit of the river flow through all of us. Thanks to the support of our friends, family and many river rats around the world we have reached goal — plus extra. Whatever we don’t use we will turn over to our neighbors who need assistance recovering from this catastrophe. See below for full accounting and details.

One of my good friends recently suggested that the river is upset with me about something. I am spending my quiet moments mediating on what this might mean. She is right, I believe. But what? Rivers are the earth’s most endangered habitats. Am I attending to the needs of those around me, all creatures great and small? Am I living a balanced life? Am I doing everything I can be doing to help protect our river -- and share the life rejuvenation only the river can foster? As we rebuild I am praying that my actions will be pleasing to the river, and the flowing that flows through it all. This flood has been a deep shake up of everything we do and everything we are. It has caused to us look deep inside ourselves and examine what is most important to us, and what needs letting go. We are now rebuilding on old foundations that might have needed updating. Maybe this is our mid-life crisis?

Environmental Adventure School

Upcoming River Events:

Sunday, May 15 — Dr. Christopher Morris:

Water, Water, Everywhere: A Wet History of the Delta

7:00 pm University of Mississippi Bryant Hall 209

(See below for details)

Sat June 4 — Island Paddle Fest on June 4 in Columbus, MS

Registration is available at

Sat June 18 — 35th Annual Outdoors Inc Canoe & Kayak Race, Memphis, TN

Biggest Canoe & Kayak Race in SE United States! 2.3 mile river race along Mud Island, under the M Bridge, and into downtown Memphis via the Wolf River Harbor.

For registration go to

First United Methodist Youth Group

Fundraiser Completed!
(Reconstruction Continues)

Thanks to the hundreds of people who donated to our recovery/reconstruction we are very, very happy to report that we totaled almost twenty-nine thousand dollars by midnight Monday, May 9th!

Final Tally: Yesterday we pulled out all the tally sheets, both online and off-line (by check), and found that we have raised $28,988! Whew!!! Paddles Up and Mighty Quapaws Whoo-oop to all of us! May the spirit of the river flow through your faith in us, and generosity. Your support means all the more to us coming from you — our friends, family, fellow paddlers, and greater circle of river-rats.

To Recap: our headquarters were destroyed by a historic 17 inch rainfall (March 8-10) and subsequent flooding of the Sunflower River. These were the highest-ever recorded waters in downtown Clarksdale, thought to be a 100-1000 year flood. The uncertainty results from the fact that no one in the past 200 years in has experienced waters this high along this part of the Sunflower River. 250 homes and 50 business, offices, and other properties were flooded like us, and almost a 1,000 in the Delta. Clarksdale received the brunt of the flooding. We had to cut a hole in our ceiling to save our most valued tools and equipment necessary to survive as a guiding & outfitting business. Like 90% of the other victims we did not have flood insurance. As a business, we are not eligible for FEMA assistance. We turned to our family and friends for help.

It's been a long journey, but we'll get there, like the turtle, one step at a time!

The Recovery: Fortunately no one has been hurt and no lives were lost. But we were faced with a very expensive recovery. We are rebuilding our central office, library, kitchen, outfitting, storage, meeting room, and bathroom. We lost our fridge, freezer, oven, all of our desks and work tables, our sofas, etc, etc. See below, many donations came in the form of replacement appliances and equipment (not counted in cash total)!

Fundraiser Accounting: This was a 2 month fundraiser that started a week after the historic March 2016 Sunflower River Flood. 103 donors made cash contributions. The Generosity site generated $9,008 and $19,980 came in by check. My sister Jennifer who teaches art at Coahoma High School delivered the first check; and my parents handed me the second (for a total of $6,000). We received two checks for $5,000 and several written out for $1,000, and many for $500, $250, $100, $50, $25, and many other amounts. Meanwhile dozens of donations were made on the Generosity site. The online fundraiser climaxed on April 23rd/24th with a 24-hour marathon paddle adventure on the Surrey River Wey led by Andy McClean, Chris Barnes, Tamsin Shakespeare, Terri Witherden, and our friends across the waters in the British Isles. We received contributions from Sweden, Austria, Australia, Japan, England, Ireland, Germany, France, and Canada, and coast-to-coast from many locales all over the Unites States. This is the beauty of a wide circle of friends who believe in the power of the river, and our operation as the protective worker bees. We are the honeybees, the river is our Queen. The honey is found flowing in the wild places of the Lower Mississippi, the healthy habitat it creates, the economy it sustains, and the life-changing experiences it inspires.

Our hats are off and paddles are up in the air in recognition our friends, family and many river rats around the world who helped us reach our goal — plus extra. Whatever we don’t use we will turn over to our neighbors who need assistance recovering from this catastrophe.

Reconstruction Loan: early on I took out a $10,000 loan so that we could immediately jump into action, and not have to await outside income. This is my personal contribution to the recovery, and is not counted in the total.

Volunteers: We have to recognize the many volunteers who helped us out of our muddy mess: including Greg Barefoot, Lanna Von Machui, Clarksdale Habitat for Humanity, 15 students from a Pennsylvania High School with Lanna, the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee Board, Justin Riney (Riney Earth), Isaiah Allen (Quapaw Memphis), Jennifer Ruskey, Dr. Patti Johnson (Delta Chiropractic), Rachel Bouer (Spring Initiative), Layne Logue, (Quapaw Vicksburg) John Gary, Colton Cockrum (Memphis River Warriors), Coleman Cockrum (Colton’s 5 y/o son), Ellis Coleman, Debra Smith (Delta Cultural Center), Phillip “Possum” Cauthen, Matt Sutton (Spring Initiative), Lautaro Mantilla, Yazoo Pass Cafe, Levon’s Ristorante, Oxbow Restaurant, New Roxy Theater, Charles & Fredean Langford, and Billy & Madge Howell. If I forgot someone please send me an email for an update! Thanks.

Equipment Donations: David Miller (Author of the Complete Paddler) donated a fridge. Billy Wilkerson donated a gas stove, and Allen Johnson a dishwasher. Layne Logue donated an industrial fan. Shonda Warner donated a Thonet maple table and 8 Thonet maple chairs. My sister Abby sent a set of 8 oak chairs from Olympia, WA.

Equipment Loan: John Gary loaned us his power washers which were very helpful in cleaning the mud out the cave and removing the mold growing on its walls. Thanks JG!

Our Mission Continues: Without assistance we would not have been able to bounce back and provide high-quality river time for the hundreds of youth we have guided and trained already this spring on the river, including United First Methodist Youth, GRIOT arts youth program, Environmental Adventure School, Ole Miss, MSU, and upcoming trips on our calendar with Spring Initiative, Carpenter Arts Youth Program, Marquette University High School, Latrobe University, and Camp R.O.C.K.

Missed the deadline, but still want to make a Donation? If you still want to help out, you can participate in our recovery by check: you can send a check to us by mail, and it will be counted into the total.

Quapaw Canoe Company

291 Sunflower Avenue

Clarksdale, MS 38614

Please contact me or Zoe Sundra for more info, or if you have any questions.

We are rebuilding kitchen with salvaged sinks and slabs we milled from fallen red oak

Reconstruction Update: We are finished cleaning out the Cave, and are rebuilding all our areas for guiding & outfitting, kitchen, library, and offices 30 feet above cave level, at street height (Sunflower Avenue). The storage areas are about completed. Now we are concentrating on the food prep area. For the next month we will be re-building a kitchen space at street level where we can arrange and prep food for our river expeditions. This area will replace the kitchen we lost in the Cave.

The food prep area with salvaged sinks and slabs we milled from fallen red oak

Flood Rebuild: We’ve got everything cleaned out of the cave, and are now re-wiring, re-plumbing, and re-building everything (upstairs, street level). Our beloved Cave will probably be reborn as a youth training center. It seems to be perfectly situated for this purpose. The evolution continues... The food prep area is looking great. We salvaged two stainless steel sinks and built counters surrounding it using some 2” red oak slabs we cut a long time ago with an chain saw mill we sometimes use on dugout canoe projects. The log used for this was a giant red oak that was growing behind the old Clarksdale Catholic Church on East Second.

New shelves for storing Guiding & Outfitting Equipment

Lessons Learned: We have learned many lessons from this flood. We will never move headquarters back to the cave. We are rebuilding our offices, library, outfitting & storage 30 feet up above the old location. What will happen with the Cave? At this point we are not sure what its future will be. It might become a youth training center, or Sunflower River rental center, or maybe an interpretive center for Mississippi River fossils and driftwood. We’re not completely decided on that. At this point, we still have our hands full organizing gear and rebuilding offices, storage, kitchen, library, and etc. The one thing we do know, the river rose higher than it ever has before, and it would be foolish to rebuild at the same low level we were at. These kinds of storm systems seem to run in cycles. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another rise of the Sunflower River. This time we will be prepared.

The Final Steps in the Reconstruction will be rebuilding our offices, library, and lastly the carving shed (that almost collapsed into the river). This might require all summer to complete. We hope to complete the rebuild in six months, or by October 2016.

Flood Tour: If you are in the area, come visit the reconstruction site. We have been giving post-flood tours to anyone interested, the highlights being the high-water lines still visible on walls and windows, the rescue hole cut into the ceiling, and the new location 30 feet higher than cave level.

Quapaw 24 Big Paddle: Last month a big group of paddlers with the Quapaw 24 Big Paddle finished up their 24-hour marathon adventure in support of Quapaw Canoe Company! This took place on the River Wey in Surrey, England, Inspired by the outdoor leader Dave Cornthwaite, Chris Barnes, Andy McLean, David Ardill, Tamsin Shakespeare, Terri Witherdon, Anna Lund, and a host of others from over the Atlantic made a 24-hour marathon paddle on their River Wey in our behalf. Check out their 24 hour marathon adventure at

We’ve been blessed with sweat assistance (cleanup), equipment (kitchen appliances, tables, chairs) and cash donations. But mostly we’ve been inspired and deeply touched by the outpouring of sympathy and acts of commiseration. Your belief in our work and the spirit of the river that flows through everything is what keeps us going! We are blessed in many ways: 1) we are still alive and functioning, 2) we can continue our guiding & outfitting having saved our equipment, 3) we can continue our commitment to kids with schools like EAS, and youth programs like GRIOT, Spring Initiative and Carpenter Art Garden, and 4) we have a great building that we can rebuild within. Its almost all concrete and bricks — great substrate (deep mud) and a great foundation to build upwards from!

Twist of Fate: My wife, Sarah and I made our last payment on this building earlier this spring. After 10 years of struggling with loan repayments it became ours... and then the flood hit! I guess the river was helping us celebrate with a thorough clean-out? Thank the river god it's all concrete and brick and plenty of room to move upwards. As many of you know, our building is built like an adobe church, with massive abutments and pillars.

Humbled, Hopeful and Inspired

Humbled and Inspired: We are humbled by this experience, and by the power of the river. But we are furthermore humbled and inspired by your belief in us, and generosity in helping us recover. You are helping us get back on our feet. We hope in some way, that further on down the river of time, that our work will help others find rejuvenation in the wilderness. What goes around comes around! It is friends like you that give meaning to the work we do, in sharing the wild beauty of the biggest river this side of mother earth.

Our Commitment to the Clarksdale Community: We at Quapaw commit to make best use of any funds raised, and share any un-used funds with others affected by this disastrous flood.

Where to Volunteer and send support to Coahoma/Quitman County Residents:

Coahoma/Quitman Recovery & Relief

Coahoma/Quitman Recovery & Relief Fund

North Delta Planning & Development District 501(c)3 checks payable to: "Coahoma/Quitman Recovery & Relief" Online:

Mail to: PO Box 1488

Batesville, MS 38606

Drop Off: Any First National Bank or First Security Bank

First United Methodist Youth Group

Upcoming River Events:

Sunday, May 15 — Dr. Christopher Morris:

Water, Water, Everywhere: A Wet History of the Delta

7:00 pm University of Mississippi Bryant Hall 209

(See below for details)

Mississippi Water Security Institute Presents:

Water, Water, Everywhere: A Wet History of the Delta

Dr. Christopher Morris

Professor of History

University of Texas, Arlington

Author of: The Big Muddy: An Environmental History of the Mississippi and Its Peoples from Hernando de Soto to Hurricane Katrina, and Becoming Southern: The Evolution of a Way of Life, Warren County and Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1770-1860.

Bryant Hall 209 (UM campus)

Sunday, May 15 at 7:00 pm.

Reception afterwards

Public invited

For more information, contact:

Clifford Ochs

Clifford Ochs

Professor, Department of Biology

Director, MS Water Security Institute

University of Mississippi

University, MS 38677

office phone: 662-915-7562

FAX: 662-915-5144


Sat June 4 — Island Paddle Fest on June 4 in Columbus, MS

Registration is available at


I would like to personally invite you to register to be a kayak, canoe, or SUP racer at The Island Paddle Fest on June 4 in Columbus, MS. The first race will begin at 9 a.m. at the Riverwalk. For more information, please see the attached flyer or visit the Facebook event page. Registration is available at All proceeds will benefit Lowndes County Imagination Library, a nonprofit that mails free books each month to local preschool children.

I hope you will be able to join us at The Island Paddle Fest! Please let me know if you have any questions about the event. Have a wonderful day!

Thank you,

Ashley Gressett

Environmental Adventure School

For more photos of the Lower Miss and more reading, go to

The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

is a service of the Lower Mississippi River Foundation
Clarksdale, Mississippi ~ Helena, Arkansas