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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 358

Full Thumbed Strum in Open Tuning

Thursday Aug 25, 2016

Clarksdale, MS -- Helena, AR

Recycled Mississippi Reaches Gulf!

Upcoming Events:

Tonight: Blackwater Trio at CCHEC Cutrer Mansion 100th Anniversary!

This Weekend: Mississippi River Nature Festival this weekend at Tara Wildlife

This Weekend: Race for the Rivers on the Missouri River in downtown St. Charles, MO


Ready for a life-changing adventure? Sat Sept 24 - Sun Oct 2, 2016. Dave & Emily’s 8-day expedition down the Lower Mississippi River has a few open seats in the big canoes! Explore the wild recesses of your heart while journeying down some of the most beautiful wild sections of the big river in voyageur canoes hand-crafted and guided by Quapaw Canoe Company.

Go to:

- or -

for more information and sign-up!

In this issue:

- Strange new ivy migrating down the Mississippi River?

- Quapaw Canoe Company featured in the Financial Times

- IOCO — Recycle Mississippi Raft!

- Audubon: 314 bird species struggling to find new habitat

- Exploring Mindset

- The Settling Rate, an essay by Thomas Steinwinder

- Voyageur Canoe available!

- CCHEC Cutrer Mansion’s 100th

- Mississippi River Nature Festival at Tara Wildlife

- Race for the Rivers in St. Charles, MO

Coahoma Community Higher Education Center:

Cutrer Mansion 100th Anniversary!

Blackwater Trio will be performing on the Cutrer grand lawn on Thursday, August 25. Grounds open at 5:30 p.m.- concert begins at 6:00 p.m. This will be the kickoff event for the Cutrer mansion's 100 year anniversary celebration.

Advanced tickets are $10.00/person or $12.00/person at the door which includes a 100 year anniversary souvenir wine glass. Tickets will be available in Clarksdale at the Cutrer Mansion, Yazoo Pass, Oak & Ivy, Delta Keepsakes and Cat Head. Lawn chairs, small coolers, picnic baskets are welcome. For more information, contact Jen Waller at 662-645-3555. See attached flyer.

Invasive Japanese Hops?

Ivy migrating down the Mississippi River?

Thanks to responses from our friends up North (Melanie, Mary) the ivy pictured in the Dispatch several weeks ago has been tentatively identified as an invasive called Japanese Hops. See below. Does that confirm anyone else’s observations?

Description: the ivy was found on the bigger of the Fawn Islands, which are located above Buck Island (Prairie Point Towhead) in the Mississippi River right bank descending about 3 miles below the mouth of the St. Francis River. Some friends from the St. Louis area say they have seen this ivy (or something that looks like it) growing rampant in the bottomlands of the Lower Missouri River, and told me they know it as Invasive Japanese Hops.

The leaves have a scratchy feel to them, and a serrated edge, like stinging nettle. They don't sting, but they feel scratchy as you walk through them. The vines have a scratchy feel also. The leaves are around 4-5" across, I think.

What about the Millipedes from previous Dispatch? Anyone identify those?

Recycled Mississippi made it down the Mississippi River to the Gulf!

Recycled Mississippi made it down the Mississippi! Congrats and our paddles are up to you guys! What will happen with their raft? Keep reading below:

Future of IOCO the Recycle Mississippi Raft!

In case you haven’t heard the news, let me introduce you to the giant raft parked at Quapaw Canoe Company in downtown Clarksdale!

This is IOCO raft. She is 14' x 21' and weighs 1400 pounds. She is composed of all recycled plastic bottles and other recycled materials!

The IOCO raft just completed a 2,000 mile journey down the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, overseen by 6 guys from all around the world. Their message is the power of recycling and protecting our rivers. IOCO raft is made of 798 recycled bottles! Go to for the full story.

IOCO raft will be with us at Quapaw Canoe Company for the rest of the year, and longer, available for education and cleanups to anyone within the drainage of the Mississippi River (which includes all of middle America between the Rockies and the Appalachians!). IOCO is now available to educators, conservationists, adventurers, to help you in your cleanup, program or expedition! Or come visit us. We will give a tour for any youth group interested in learning more about IOCO and Recycled Mississippi. Presentation includes stories about the international teamwork involved, the design & construction of raft, the adventure down the Mississippi, protecting our rivers, the danger of plastics in our waterways, and the power of recycling. Please contact me, Mark River or Lena if anyone would like to learn more!

IOCO was featured on the front page of the Wed, Aug 24th edition of the Clarksdale Press Register!

About Recycled Mississippi:

Recycled Mississippi is a group of humble guys with a big mission. It is like the Olympics on a raft, a floating United Nations: New Zealand, USA, Bali, Hong Kong, England and Switzerland. Dan Collum, the mastermind, is a Kiwi. Film-maker Gary Bencheghib of Bali is making a documentary about the expedition. Live Knoeri and Hannes Stauffer are the Swiss engineers who designed and maintained the incredible raft. Mariner Sebastian Engelhart is an Englishman born in Hong Kong. Zander represents America and is from New York. Good guys on a good mission: recycling, protecting rivers, the dangers of micro-plastics, and having lots of fun! I really appreciated their humorous and humble approach to their expedition; very ambitious but done with grace and humility.

Go to for the complete story, and some very entertaining and educational “vlogs” = video blogs.

Micro-Plastics in the Mississippi River

Recycled Mississippi has been taking samples to measure micro-plastics in the Mississippi River. Crewman Gary Bencheghib describes it for us:

“Yesterday we had a very productive day with Mark Benfield and his two Post-docs from LSU to analyze some of our micro-plastic testings. From one of our samples from North of St. Louis - they were able to count a total of 17 micro-plastics that can barely be seen from a naked eye. From their research, they estimate there to be tens of trillions of micro plastics that flow daily out of the Mississippi. Insane.......

“Apparently, the micro plastics can be absorbed in the air. When some of the post docs did some testings in a clean room, they found some floating around the air - and were surprised at how small they become, they are essentially the size of tiny sediments that float around. After a swim could stay in your hair, clothes or even your beard.

“The water plant we visited up in Keokuk did all kind of filtering, so pretty sure they do a decent job to get it out of the system before we drink it. Would be interesting though to do autopsies of fish at different spots along the river to analyze how much plastics they are consuming, to see how it could directly impact us from fishing and eating them. The guys at LSU were saying plastics when consumed in food just gets flushed down through our digestive system, but could be dangerous if it were to enter our bloodstream. The more there is, the more dangerous it could be.”

For more about Micro-Plastics in the Mississippi River go to

Birchbark Voyageur Canoe

The Canadian Canoe Museum has a giant birchbark voyageur canoe that needs a good home! This would be perfect for a museum, a discovery center or interpretive center related to canoes, rivers, or the history of the Mississippi Valley. Contact curator Jeremy Ward if interested.

I Am Coyote: Readings for the Wild:

The Settling Rate by Thomas Steinwinder

In his book Rivergator, John Ruskey describes the “Wild Miles” on the Mississippi River. “These are the places where the landscape is filled with giant islands bounded by endless muddy banks and sandbars, where the river is overseen by big skies and where the sun sets uninterrupted by buildings or wires and where the big river predominates with wild creative beauty.” As a Mississippian and fellow water lover, this account resonates deeply, like the drone notes in the delta blues. However, it is the very next sentence that strikes the chord, a full thumbed strum in open tuning. “Each high water results in shifting sand dunes and remade sandbars.” This sentence moves beyond describing the Mississippi; it begins to hint at the process, the foundational forces that drive every interaction we have with rivers.

The rate at which a particle settles is dependent upon a grand battle between gravity, drag, and suspension. Gravity accelerates the particle toward the center of the Earth at 32 feet per second squared – about the same acceleration as a Formula One racecar from 0 to 60 miles per hour. However, the moment the particle begins to move downward, a drag force is applied in the opposite direction. The density of the particle, size, shape, and viscosity of the surrounding water all affect magnitude of drag, slowing the particle like a base jumper tossing a parachute. Now enters a third combatant, suspension velocity: the speed of flow that overcomes gravity and keeps the sediment suspended. One pulling down, one pushing up, and one moving laterally.

These three engage in a contest that shapes the most beautiful of the Earth’s fluvial features: boulder strewn mountain streams, cobbled braids of the highlands, the white sandy deposits on the inside arc of a meander, the two-toned progression of sandbars, the beached banks, the coffee-colored fertile flood plains, and ultimately the marsh where river, bayou, and sea are indistinguishable.

Roughly 500 million tons of sediment are carried down the Lower Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico each year. This is enough to add 300 feet of coastline to Louisiana. The mountains of Montana and the farms of Mississippi alike all migrate down river in an epic journey to a final state of rest. The entire continent is flattening as the high points erode and low points fill in. Rivers are the mechanism for this grand balancing.

Standing beside the great rivers, we cannot avoid or deny the connection. We know the epic journey well: the deep pull toward quiescence, the internal revolt against calm, and how the velocity of our surroundings keeps us in suspension. We look out to the mid channel and see the drift wood racing downstream, undirected and uncontrolled. We have an uncomfortable empathy for the debris. It reminds us of our own chaos. We move our gaze to the shallows and appreciate the relative calm, the increased clarity. Our shoulders begin to drop, clenched jaw relaxes, breathing slows, and that one string is finally brought into tune with the rest – resonance. We begin to fall out of suspension and gravity overcomes our aimless attempts at drag. We look down at our own feet, at the billion grains of sand that surround us on the bank and realize that finally, we too have now settled.

Go to for photos and more blog postings from I Am Coyote.

Quapaw Canoe Company featured in the Financial Times!

An adventure with Quapaw Canoe Company was recently featured in the London based Financial Times. Andrew “AD” Miller and his family spent 8 days touring the State of Mississippi. But their day on the river was the highlight of the week! In his words: “during our eight days in Mississippi we loved our time with Alan and Woody best. Nowhere else did history feel as close as on the lonely river, as if the actors in America’s primal dramas were near enough to wave to, hazily visible across the water like de Soto’s natives.”

I liked A.D. Miller’s spin on the river — slightly different than the typical river story we see… He seems to have experienced both fear and awe, repulsion and fascination. This is fairly typical, I think. It’s a complicated river!

In Andy’s portrait, the river “is too big to be pretty.” And more “awesome than lovely, and certainly not blue"

The river isn’t beautiful, it’s "majestic and magnificent.”

I liked his word choices like the “hallucinogenic southern heat.”

The river is an "oozy brown opaque and uninviting, as thick with silt and driftwood as it is with legend.” Even though he called it "the murk," he allowed his children (ages 5 and 9) to swim in it.

The sandbars seem to get better treatment than the water: “The sand was unexpectedly pristine… the island was all ours. The banks were wild and deserted…" On the other hand "the trees on distant banks look scrubby and uninviting."

He’s also smack dab in the Twain tradition of mixing the unexpected with rural grit -- and wild expressions of nature.

Good Twain quote: “A man that drunk Mississippi water could grow corn in his stomach if he wanted to."

Go to for the whole story with photos by Rory Doyle and David Hanson.

AD Miller is the southern correspondent for the Economist, and is the author of several novels including ‘Snowdrops’ and ‘The Faithful Couple’

314 Bird Species Struggling to Find New Habitat

This update thanks to Gary Langham, Chief Scientist for the National Audubon Society:

Nesting high in forest treetops, the Cerulean Warbler is most easily detected by the male’s buzzy song. But in recent decades, as climate change and industrial and commercial development have laid waste to so much of its habitat, in many areas sightings of this tiny blue songbird have been rare. We can save the Cerulean Warbler from extinction only if we act now.

According to Audubon’s Climate Report, much of the Cerulean Warbler’s current range in the eastern United States is likely to become unsuitably wet and hot in the coming decades. This sky-colored songbird, thought by some to be the fastest-declining in North America, is just one of 314 bird species that could struggle to find new habitat in a warming world. When only nine bird species have gone extinct in continental North America in modern times, this is a breathtaking number.

As grim as the outlook seems, Audubon’s analysis has also uncovered crucial safe havens for our continent’s imperiled birds: diverse, healthy ecosystems that should largely withstand the impact of climate change. For the Cerulean Warbler, this future sanctuary stretches across Appalachia, where Audubon is already partnering with state parks and private landowners to conserve the largest remaining swaths of intact habitat. Audubon’s climate study, the most extensive of its kind, guides every phase of this work—and shows how urgently important this conservation work is.

Protecting these resilient landscapes for the birds that will rely on them won’t be easy. But we’re determined to do it. Together with dedicated bird lovers like you, we will continue to lead the conservation world with science-backed policies and advocacy that will safeguard the places birds need—now and in decades to come.

For more reading:

Go visit the National Audubon Society website:

My question: What are the nine species? (that have disappeared in modern times)? I know Carolina Parakeet, Passenger Pigeon, and Ivory Billed Woodpecker are three. What are the other six?

Catfish Dugout Canoe Update

We will continue carving throughout the year, in part thanks to a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission. We approach this project as an art form, as a hands-on community arts project. Canoe carving is like the blues, originally an art form practiced by many artisans in the community. Canoe carving has almost completely disappeared in the south. So we are continuing a lost tradition. When GRIOTS carve, they become living carriers of a lost art form. 2016/2017 plan: we will soon flip the canoe and work on bottom (2-3 months). This winter it will be brought inside for final smoothing out, detail carving, and then sanding. By the spring we should be adding on the final layers of varnish to protect this work of art made by many young hands. This 3-year project should be completed in May 2017. Come visit Catfish Canoe as she is completed 2016/2017 at Quapaw Canoe Company in downtown Clarksdale, Miss.

The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

is brought to you courtesy of

The Lower Mississippi River Foundation