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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 356

Thursday, Aug 11, 2016

Clarksdale, MS - Helena, AR

Creation in Motion

American Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) walking up Highway 1 near Yazoo Pass. We assisted this 30-40 pound turtle off the gravel right of way and back into the wetlands adjacent. At Quapaw Canoe Company, "we brake for turtles!"

RIP Kayaker Dalton Bast 1987 - 2016

5-pointed ivy that we've never before seen (or noticed) on the Lower Miss -- can anyone identify this ivy for us? What is its range?

In this issue:

- Kayaker drowning — tragedy in the St. Louis Harbor

- This Weekend: Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival in Clarksdale!

- Dugout Canoe Carving Workshop Saturday 9-5 at Quapaw Canoe Company

- Lots of cool events going on at the Delta Blues Museum

- Special thanks to the Mississippi Arts Commission!

- Mayflies hatching at mouth of St. Francis River

- New ivy migrating down the Mississippi River?

- Golden Orb Weaver found far north of normal habitat

…and other interesting Fluctuations in the Biota of the Lower Miss

Telltale zig-zag marking in the middle of her web -- From Fawn Island RBD 669 -- The most northerly specimens of Golden Silk Orb Weaver (Nephila) I’ve ever seen!

2016 Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival

Starts Today! Thursday, Aug 11th until Sunday, August 14th, downtown Clarksdale

3 Indoor Acoustic Stages and Main Stage on Saturday — Headliners Super Chikan (Friday) and Lonnie Pitchford (Saturday)!

“The Purist Blues Fest in America” Rises Again with incredible Lineup!

(See below for full schedule)

Exploring Trotter's Runout -- a wild landscape of mud and vegetation

Live Canoe Carving Demonstration

Saturday, August 13th at Quapaw Canoe Company

Live Canoe Carving Demonstration and workshop 9-5 Saturday street level at Quapaw Canoe Company, made possible by the Mississippi Arts Commission in conjunction with Spring Initiative, GRIOT Arts, Juke Joint and the Sunflower River Blues Association. Log donated by the Yazoo Mississippi Delta Levee Board. If you have ever wondered how to carve a dugout canoe, this is your opportunity to see how it is done. And the best way to learn it is to do! We provide gloves, safety glasses and tools. Expert carvers overseeing project. Learn to sharpen razor sharp tools. Must sign waiver form. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by parent.

The crew of 5 kids jumps overboard in the plankton-rich waters of Trotter's Runout

Canoe Rentals on the Sunflower River

All Weekend: canoeing, kayaking and paddle-boarding on the Sunflower River. Rentals available, canoes & paddleboards $25/person, kayaks $35/person. Go to Quapaw Canoe Company Interpretive Center at 289 Sunflower Avenue (3rd & Sunflower).

Clinging to willow leaves and branches -- a recent hatch of Mayflies (Ephemeroptera) at the mouth of the St. Francis River

Amazing Plant and Animal Sightings Last Week

A recent hatch of Mayflies (Ephemeroptera) at the mouth of the St. Francis River lands on the nose of the Carolina Parakeet 29' voyageur canoe

One thing about life on the Mississippi — it’s forever changing. Of course, everything is always in flux everywhere, in all biotas, all across this grand universe we inhabit. The only difference is in the rate of change. The stars we once thought to be unflinching points of light, and the source of the basic permanent forms, are now known to be all slipping and sliding through the heavens, and periodically collapse into black holes, and other times explode into supernovas. Change is slow in the desert but faster in fluid environments like the ocean and the big river. The Lower Mississippi is a very special creative cauldron seemingly always in motion, always expressing itself in new ways with vigorous colors, patterns, aromas, sounds, and plant & animal life. This floodplain is well worth exploring. Life is continually flowing by, and that’s what makes it so exciting for us. Every day changes can be noted; sometimes profound changes -- like mass migrations of insects and birds. Other times it’s more subtle. Seeds spread by the last flood sprout and a new plant emerges quietly in the depth of the dark floodplain forests. Or a highwater moves a sand dune, the water patterns change, and slight changes in the riverbank and islands downstream respond like a series of stacked dominoes.

Hiding behind the leaves: the most northerly specimen of Golden Silk Orb Weaver (Nephila) we've ever seen. Documented on Fawn Island, which is located right bank descending near LMR mile 669

Last week alone we experienced some magnificent displays of creation (and destruction) in motion: 1) an American Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) walking up Highway 1 near Yazoo Pass; 2) thousands of fat one-inch long white Millipedes (I’ve never before seen) were crawling all over the ground in the forests at the base of Crowley’s Ridge, 3) a recent hatch of Mayflies at the mouth of the St. Francis River, 4) some new 5-pointed ivy that I’ve never before seen on the Lower Miss, and 5) The most northerly specimens of Golden Silk Orb Weaver (Nephila) I’ve ever seen. The Orb Weaver’s normal habitat is several hundred miles south; commonly found on the islands and in the woods below Vicksburg. 6) On the destructive side there was an abundance of dead Bighead Carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) and Silver Carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) floating down the St. Francis River, into the Mississippi. Thousands of dead carp were sighted mixing into the main channel of the Mississippi, and then seen swirling around the eddies downstream, and in the Helena Harbor. The cause for this mass die-out is unknown, but presumably occurred somewhere up the St. Francis. This issue of the LMRD is illustrated with photos of these remarkable sightings. Feel free to share and repost, but please credit photographer John Ruskey.

Can anyone ID these? Thousands of fat one-inch long white Millipedes were crawling all over the ground in the forests at the base of Crowley’s Ridge. (I don't think I’ve never before seen).

RIP Kayaker Dalton Bast 1987 - 2016

We are dedicating this issue of the Lower Mississippi River Dispatch to kayaker Dalton Bast of Humboldt, Iowa who drowned after a collision with a barge mooring line at the end of July. Dalton’s death underscores the need for careful paddling and good decision-making along the Middle and Lower Mississippi River. As usual in river deaths, details are maddeningly short in supply. (See below for news report, Obit, and Coast Guard Report, thanks to Tony Heck). Reading between the lines it seems like Donald had pushed off early in the morning probably determined to get through the dangerous St. Louis Harbor in the quiet of the day. But maybe too early? First light does not come until 5am in mid-July, and Dalton’s capsize occurred around 4am, which means it was dark. He might have gotten confused. Distances and the spatial relationships between objects are difficult to determine in darkness, especially in a stretch of river you are not familiar with. Apparently his kayak was flipped by tow lines, and Dalton was swept underneath a line of barges downstream. Worst case scenario: this would be the worst possible place you could get flipped. Disaster usually strikes when a combination of events all stack against the unfortunate. Maybe his foot got caught in the kayak. Maybe he didn’t have a headlamp. Maybe he didn’t sleep the night before. Maybe he was dehydrated. Maybe he was shaky from hunger. Maybe he was irritated by a cloud of mosquitoes. Maybe he was distressed in some other way. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Details we’ll never know. But we do know Dalton’s Death is a reminder for the rest of us to make good decisions, and take care of everything we can prepare for within our power as paddlers when we get on the big river. Go to the Rivergator kayak safety page for a lengthy discussion of safe kayaking, as well as a line item list of the necessary skills involved if you are considering paddling the Mississippi.

HUMBOLDT - Dalton S. Bast, 29, of Humboldt, IA died on Thursday, July 21, 2016 in St. Louis, MO. Dalton was born on February 25, 1987, in Hampton, IA, son of Gregory and Janita Bast. He graduated from Humboldt High School in 2005, entering the US Navy nuclear program, serving as a machinist mate on the USS Houston submarine stationed in Guam. Later he received his associates degree from Iowa Central Community College. Dalton had an adventurous spirit, exploring several different countries, hiking and collecting artifacts. He loved his animals and was passionate about kayaking.

ST. LOUIS ( – The body of a kayaker who reportedly fell into the water after hitting towlines between two barges has been found. Dalton Bast, 29, was last seen alive around 4:05 a.m. Thursday on the Upper Mississippi River near mile marker 175, near Reidy terminals. Coast Guard watchstanders were alerted of the incident by personnel at the Gasconade Fleeting Services. He was reportedly not wearing a life jacket at the time of the incident.

His body was found Saturday near the Jefferson Barracks Bridge.


Thousands of dead Bighead Carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) and Silver Carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) were sighted floating down the St. Francis River, into the Mississippi and then seen swirling around the eddies downstream, and in the Helena Harbor.

Keeping the Beat: News from the Delta Blues Museum

Be sure to visit the Delta Blues Museum during the Sunflower Festival! The following comes from Executive Director Shelley Ritter:

John Lee Hooker Month at the Delta Blues Museum

August is John Lee Hooker Month. For John Lee Hooker Month, the Museum has special items on sale in our Gift Shop: CDs and vinyl, DVDs, and his biography, Boogie Man. The book "gives an account of an entire art form. Grounded in a time and place in American culture, the blues are universal, and in the hands of the greatest practitioners its power resides in the miracle of using despair to transcend it." It's "the authoritative biography of the musician whose career spanned over fifty years and included over one-hundred albums and five Grammy Awards. Author Charles Shaar Murray lets Hooker tell his story in his own words, from life in the Deep South to San Francisco, from the 1948 blues anthem "Boogie Chillen" to the Grammy-winning album The Healer a half-century later."

Zakiya Hooker Sunday afternoon, August 14th

We are also hosting Zakiya Hooker, John Lee Hooker's daughter, who will be interviewed in the Museum classroom on Sunday afternoon, August 14th, at 2 pm by

Paul Wilson of WROX radio.Zakiya is a renowned singer with a lengthy international musical career on her own resume. According to Living Blues Magazine, she is "a decidedly urbane stylist whose dusky alto tones, clear enunciation, and subdued phrasing bring Peggy Lee to mind." She will talk about her father, his music and life, and her own musical history. This event is free and open to the public.

Delta Blues Museum Band

On Friday at 5 p.m., the Delta Blues Museum Band will open the festival. In honor of John Lee Hooker Month, they have learned a few of his songs that will be played.

Book Signings

During the Festival we are presenting two book signings, free and open to the public:

8/12, 1:30 pm - Judy Flowers, author of Clarksdale and Coahoma County (Images of America), will lead a Q & A in the DBM classroom.

8/ 13, 2:30 pm - Joseph A. Rosen, author of Blues Hands, signs copies of his book and answers questions in the DBM classroom. Photos from his book are on display in our gallery. We will host the opening reception on Sept 8. Many thanks to the North Mississippi Foot Clinic, Coahom County Tourism Commission, the Mississippi Arts Commission, and Friends of the Delta Blues Museum for helping us present this exhibition.

Terry "Big T" Williams House Burns Down

Breaking News: Bluesman Terry "Big T" Williams needs your help. His house was destroyed in a fire, and while he and his family are safe, they lost everything, including his musical gear. "Big T," a Clarksdale native, is a former teacher in our Arts & Education program and an amazing talent. In 2009, he was named Blues Guitar Player of the Year by the West Coast Blues Society. You can help "Big T" and his family by donating to his "Go Fund Me" page.

For more information about the Delta Blues Museum, and to sign up for Shelley's newsletter, visit their website

Exploration leads to Discovery

2016 Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival Lineup

Thursday, August 11, 2016, Grits, Greens & Barbecue

6:00pm – 6:45pm

Richard "Daddy Rich" Crisman

7:00pm – 7:45pm

Marshall Drew

8:00pm – 8:45pm

Sean "Bad" Apple

Friday, August 12, 2016 Main Stage

5:00pm – 5:45pm

Delta Blues Museum Band

6:00pm – 6:45pm

Heather Crosse: Heavy Suga & The Sweet Tones

7:00pm – 7:45pm

Joshua "Razorblade" Stewart

8:00pm – 9:00pm

James "Jimbo" Mathus

9:15pm – 10:15pm

Toni Green

10:30pm – 11:30pm

James "Super Chikan" Johnson

Saturday, August 13, 2016 Acoustic Stage #1 Under VIP Tent

10:00am – 10:45am

David Dunavent

11:00am – 11:45am

Pat Thomas

12:00pm – 12:45pm

Lil Willie Farmer

1:00pm – 1:45pm

Lucious Spiller

2:00pm – 2:45pm

Educational Program

3:00pm – 3:45pm

Leo "Bud" Welch

4:00pm – 4:45pm

Sharde Thomas: The Rising Star Fife & Drums Band

Saturday, August 13, 2016 Acoustic Stage #2 at Levon’s Bar and Grill - 232 Sunflower

1:00pm – 1:45pm

Deak Harp & Lee Williams

2:00pm – 2:45pm

Jimmy "Duck" Holmes

3:00pm – 3:45pm

Kenny Brown

4:00pm – 4:45pm

Terry "Harmonica" Bean

Saturday, August 13, 2016 Acoustic Stage #3 at Crossroads Cultural Arts Center - 332 Delta Ave

1:00pm – 1:45pm

Mississippi Marshall

2:00pm – 2:45pm

Bill "Howl-N-Madd" Perry

3:00pm – 3:45pm

Watermelon Slim

4:00pm – 4:45pm

Anthony "Big A" Sherrod

Saturday, August 13, 2016 Main Stage

5:00pm – 5:45pm

Bill Abel Band

6:00pm – 6:45pm

Christone "Kingfish" Ingram

7:00pm – 7:45pm

Terry "Big T" Williams

7:45pm – 8:00pm


8:00pm – 9:00pm

Vasti Jackson

9:15pm – 10:15pm

Sweet Angel

10:30pm – 11:30pm

Lonnie Shields

Sunday, August 14, 2016 Gospel Stage

4:00pm – 4:15pm

The Clarksdale Mass Choir

4:30pm – 4:45pm

The Singing Echoes

5:00pm – 5:15pm

Ned Johnson & The Jonestown Crusaders

5:30pm – 6:00pm

The Myles Family

6:15pm – 7:45pm

Lee Williams and The Spiritual QC's

Exploration leads to Discovery

All photos and writing by John Ruskey, director LMRF, except where otherwise noted. Feel free to download, cut and paste, share and repost -- but please credit appopriately. Thank you!

The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

is brought to you courtesy of

The Lower Mississippi River Foundation