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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No. 379
Monday, January 23, 2017
just like beavers and bald eagles

R.I.P. Jimmy Vickers 1951-2017

In this issue we are celebrating the journey to the “other side of the river” for our friend and fellow river rat, Jimmy Vickers. You may not see much about Jimmy elsewhere online -- or off. I don’t know if they’ll post an obit in our local paper. Jimmy existed slightly below the surface, slightly out of sight. But for all who knew him, or even made a casual contact, he was immensely present — and his insights prescient. We decided this would be a proper place to share some Jimmy stories. He certainly loved that ol’ river… he found his peace on the river… just like we do… just like beavers and bald eagles do.

Jimmy and his buddy Jamin Bear are the only people I know to have paddled the length of the Sunflower River -- since the fall of Quiz-Quiz in the 1540s following the DeSoto Expedition (Besides “Big Muddy” Mike Clark and myself a decade ago). Jimmy also paddled the Pearl, the Yazoo, and much of the Lower Mississippi. He explored the entire length of Florida in his kayak, along one of its coasts. Probably lots of other places I don’t know about. Jimmy is one of those humble spirits who you won’t find anywhere on social media. He felt no need to brag — even though he certainly had bragging rights from many of his adventures, both on the river and off. In recent years Jimmy’s annual winter migration was down the cold muddy Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, following the last waves of America’s migratory birds. Sometimes Jimmy paddled alone. Other times he was joined by friends like Jamin Bear and Allen Johnson, and maybe others. Jimmy’s route took him to the Gulf, and then East along the Intra-Coastal Waterway to Mobile Bay, Alabama, where he wintered in his tent set up behind the propane tanks at Grand Mariner Marina. Former residences included a 16 foot jonboat (Rowboat Jimmy) and a shack off the grid, in the woods, while he was attending opthalmology school in Tennessee.

Jimmy lived the simple life Thoreau wrote about in Walden. But he did it out of love, not defiance, or rebellion. Everyone who knew him remembers him for his gentle ways, good humor, and patience. And persistent generosity.

Like all good river rats, Jimmy’s road began where everyone else's road ends: at the river’s edge. He found life over and under the riverbank. Like the beaver, the river was his home. In fact his last place of residence was his tent perched on top of a concrete abutment under the Sunflower River Bridge at Hopson. A group of friends celebrated the beginning of Jimmy’s new journey with a ceremony on top of this same bridge last weekend. His good friend Toddy sent off a portion of Jimmy’s cremated remains down the river — where surely his spirit swirls also in the chalky silica currents.

Last Tuesday, the day Jimmy died, Toddy saw two bald eagles take to wing and rise from a nearby cypress woods and felt that was Jimmy’s spirit already flowing outward. Also on Tuesday Toddy read a news story about a 600 year-old Buddha uncovered in a Chinese Reservoir. “That was Jimmy!” exclaimed Toddy. When Torey and Heath told their six year old son, who loved Jimmy, that he had passed, and since he was a Buddhist, he believed he would come back as an animal, Jared said, "yeah, he will come back as a beaver, I bet.”

Jimmy Vickers Eulogy

(Laura Barnaby)

For a so-called loner, Jimmy Vickers sure had a lot of friends! He seemed to present a mirror to each person who knew him, reflecting back a gentler, simpler, more peaceful version of ourselves. To the many “regulars” working and hanging out at Shack Up Inn — Jimmy’s home base — he was a counselor who didn’t preach, a friend who didn’t judge, the happy buddha coaxing us all to lighten up (and light up!) because “it’s good for you.” And what’s good for you was almost always what felt good — Delta Donuts, a Sonic Blast, his pipe. His regular bike rides to town, usually with a fellow rider or two, featured epic meals at any number of low-brow local eateries. It was a wonder to behold how and where he could put away so much food and never show an ounce of extra weight.

Just about every Sunday, Jimmy came to Sunday brunch at RUST, always sitting at “his” table in the corner by the bar — coffee, grapefruit juice, the Shack breakfast, and chocolate chip pancake on the side. If he didn’t have a Cardinals game to get to he’d hang out and visit with the crew. If there was a Cards game, see ya later Jimmy. And Jimmy would make his way home — down to the Sunflower River and up under the bridge, where he lived, perched just so, overlooking the river on a platform with just enough room for his hammock, his radio and a few other bare necessities. There was also space for an intrepid friend or two (just don’t look down). But if the game was on, pay attention.

To some, Jimmy’s lifestyle (along with his appearance, which even before cancer took over his face, could be considered “rough”) was hard to fathom: Living and sleeping without walls, or a bed even, by choice, seems crazy. To others, he seemed to have it all figured out. No things equals no worries. He was a Buddhist who lived off the grid, traveling south each winter — by kayak, of course — and passed his days idly, living simply in the present moment.

How he got to that place of detachment and simplicity is a different story, and perhaps a painful one. He had had all the attachments of a standard modern life (family and career) and chose to let go of them. Jimmy didn’t offer up much about his past, maybe because that is part of truly letting go. To be free of bitterness and regret requires acceptance and detachment. And Jimmy seemed to have zero bitterness, regret, guilt or any other soul-crushing weight on his shoulders.

That quality of lightness and being square with the world emanated from Jimmy like a magnet. You didn’t need but a little dose of hanging out with Jimmy to reset your compass and adjust your attitude.

Jimmy trusted the natural world above the manmade world, and that trust was not betrayed. While most of us have our feet planted more firmly in the material world and we try to reduce our carbon footprints, we might also think about Jimmy and work to reduce our psychic footprints, because few people walked this earth as lightly as Jimmy.

Remembering Jimmy

(Lena Von Machui)

I guess what I will remember Jimmy most for is his calmness and his kindness. Jimmy had a way about him that, once in his presence, any tension or anxiety I was feeling at that moment, no matter how hectic the day that I was stepping out of was, seemed to disappear. Jimmy didn't talk much, nor loudly (indeed he was sometimes envious of the loud "hoo hoos" we would call off his bridge to see if he was around to visit, proclaiming that he wished he could make such a high pitched sound), but when he did talk his words were always, without failure, worth listening to. This had many reasons. Jimmy was one of the wisest people I have ever met, and gave great advice if asked for it. He also told amazing stories of his many adventures, which were as insightful and educational as they were hilarious. Jimmy was one of the few people I have known in my life who might make a statement today, and I'll still be thinking, or laughing about it tomorrow.

Jimmy was also one of the kindest people I've ever met. I don't think I've ever heard him say a bad word about anybody. As a Buddhist, he didn't believe in violence of any kind. He wouldn't even slap the mosquitos that landed on him, instead, he would shoo them away - gently.

I gained an even greater appreciation of Jimmy when I started working for the Quapaw Canoe Company. His knowledge of the River, and of living on it for prolonged periods of time without leaving a trace have inspired and humbled me even more since I have gotten the chance to see what that is like first hand.

In all, I'm not sure I can sum up the wonderful person Jimmy was in a few paragraphs. But I do know that I am a better person for having known him. Hanging out with Jimmy is a pleasure and a privilege that I will not forget, and that I won't stop learning from.

Headed down the big river with Jamin and Allen.

Jimmy is a River Man

(Allen Johnson)

Jimmy Vickers is a river man. He owned three boats in his lifetime, as far as I know. Jimmy grew up in Lula, Mississippi, near Moon Lake, and spent many hours of his childhood on that lake. However, he only heard of the Big River when someone would say, “That river’ll kill you!” Well, he must have taken this warning with a grain of salt, as he took most things.

Jimmy’s first boat was a 13 foot Merrimack Canoe, made in Tennessee from cherry wood and fiberglass. This was his boat from ’87 to ’92, and he lived in it with his girlfriend for some time in the late eighties. Down in the Florida Keys, they would pack up the boat and paddle out amongst the old abandoned houseboats and sleep shoulder to shoulder in the bottom of this canoe. He told me that his boat-mate had made a roof out of canvas that they would put up when it stormed. They would prop the paddles up in the bow and stern and then attach the fabric to these makeshift tent poles. The thing Jimmy remembered most about this situation was how claustrophobic it was. More than once, during a downpour accompanied by thunder, lightning, wind gusts, and the obvious waves, he had to lift up the side of the canvas cover and stick his head out amongst the elements. “Freaking out from claustrophobia,” was how he described it.

Jimmy’s second boat was a custom-made metal (aluminum?) row boat with a small cabin where he lived. He kept his cruiser style bicycle on board at all times unless he was riding it somewhere, likely to get some hot food. Jimmy lived in and near Mobile Bay in this boat, and a lot of that time was spent docked at Grand Mariner Marina. The wooden oars were handmade and very long. They can be found on the stairwell wall in Bill’s House, Shack Up Inn, USA. Apparently this boat was very heavy and quite fun to row in open water. Once, while lost in rowing, Jimmy came to a very abrupt stop. He turned around to find that he had paddled right into an island. Another time, Jimmy tied this boat up on all sides inside a little boat house at the marina, to ride out a hurricane. He said he sat in the cabin of the boat as the wind howled and the water level dropped right out from under him. He sat in that boat, hanging in midair and rode out the storm with coffee and pipe tobacco as encouragement. When he got to Clarksdale sometime around the late nineties, it quickly became evident that the rowboat was not ideal for travel in the mighty Sunflower River, and he sold it for scrap.

Jimmy’s last boat was a 14 1⁄2 foot Old Town Cayuga ocean kayak, made in Old Town, Maine. It is baby blue with a single modification; a faded Yellow Submarine sticker. Jimmy had this boat for about ten years and paddled it countless hours in the Sunflower River, the Mississippi River, and down one of the coasts of Florida. I was lucky enough to paddle part of the Big River with Jimmy, on his way to Mobile, and in the months leading up to our departure he told me, “You are gonna have so much fun. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.” To which I replied, “How many times have you done it?” Without pride or hesitation, he said, “Seven or eight, I guess.” Jimmy always gave good advice, too. We had been in the Mississippi River about one hour, after departing from Quapaw Landing (“hoo hoo”), when we floated over some turbulent water caused by a submerged rock dike. I was panicked and felt like all was lost, paddling feverishly for three seconds that each seemed like my last on earth. The water was swirling around my boat and sending my momentum in five directions at once. Well, a few minutes later, I told Jimmy how freaked out I had been and that I had “almost jumped out of the boat.” He looked at me, tobacco smoke rising from the hickory pipe in hand, and calmly said, “Nah, you want to stay in the boat.” On another occasion on that trip, Jimmy looked at me and said with a

smile, “You know, I would just as soon be sitting in this boat as anywhere on the planet.”

Most of the year, this kayak lived under the Black Locust Tree at the edge of the Sunflower River, under the bridge in Hopson, MS. Jimmy loved “his river” and all the wild friends that lived in and around it. One afternoon, while I was unpacking my kayak on a Mississippi River sandbar, and Jimmy was already in his tent listening to NPR, I was openly talking about how I was a little freaked out living on and beside the Big River like this. I inferred that it was just normal for him, since he lived like this all the time. “I live on the Sunflower River. This is the Mississippi River,” was his only response. A few years before that, sitting down on his platform, overlooking the Sunflower, I told Jimmy that I had written a poem about his river on the third day I lived in Clarksdale. He simply said, “It better be nice.”


End Note: The flowing forever flowing, and now Jimmy forever flowing with it. We Mighty Quapaws raise our paddles to Jimmy, and will devote special attention to his spirit in the coming weeks. You might recall, February is Friends of the Sunflower River month, when we offer educational programs and do cleanups on Jimmy’s favorite river.

PS: Noon on Saturday, Feb 18th is our annual bonfire potluck and general membership meeting, with a river cleanup to follow. On the banks of the river behind Quapaw Canoe Company. If you feel the spirit, come join us in celebration. We'll send some blessings down the river for Jimmy, the beaver, the eagle. And then get in canoes, kayaks and paddleboards for a much-needed river cleanup in downtown Clarksdale. This would probably make Jimmy happy to see his beloved Sunflower receiving respect & attention.

Good Journeys Jimmy!

Upcoming Events:

This Week! Jan 26-28: 7th Annual Clarksdale Film Festival in downtown Clarksdale, MS. SCREENING LOCATIONS: Delta Cinema, New Roxy, etc. in historic, downtown Clarksdale, Mississippi. EVENT CONTACT INFORMATION:

Sat Feb 4th at 5 pm, Source Of Confidence Celebration and Trailer Release Party: On November 27th, 2016 Viki, Lisa, and Alyce became the first all-Woman’s Expedition to canoe the 4th Longest River System in the World! It was an incredible adventure and we want to celebrate this success with you! Darby’s Pub and Grill, 315 North 5th Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55401

Thurs Feb 16th at 5:30 p.m. For the Love of Books Gala, a fundraiser to support the Community Book Talks series (Carnegie Public Library: the library with a canoe on its card!). See the attached flyer for more information or contact Sarah Ruskey at 662-624-4461 or Jen Waller at 662-345-3555.

Saturday, Feb 18, 2017: LMRF General Annual Membership Meeting. Our general annual membership meeting takes place at noon on the Saturday closest to Valentine’s Day. The 2017 meeting is 12noon Saturday, Feb 18th, at Quapaw Canoe Company Clarksdale, with a potluck, and Sunflower River Cleanup afterwards. Come join us, if you can. We will have canoes and paddleboards for the cleanup. If you can’t join us, then wherever you are -- love your river. And as we say around here: “May the River be with You!”

March 20 -May 10: Rivergator Celebratory Expedition March-May 2017. Now filing seats! You can sign up for the 6-week expedition from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico celebrating the completion of the Rivergator: one million words describing the Lower Mississippi. Your participation in this celebration will help make it a success! See below for complete description, itinerary -- and details about signup.

April 20-23: Juke Joint Festival

Coming up in Fall 2017: Quapaw Canoe Company Artist’s Retreat! One week on the Mississippi River with your pens, paints, paper, guitar — whatever your tools of creativity are. Bring your gear, we’ll take of the rest including guiding, outfitting, meals and campsite. River journey in hand-crafted voyageur canoe. No previous paddling experience necessary.

Now filling seats for the expedition of the year:

Rivergator Celebratory Expedition

March 20 to May 10, 2017 — St. Louis to Gulf of Mexico

Y’all, we are celebrating the opening of the Rivergator: Paddler’s Guide to the Middle/Lower Mississippi River Water Trail, now live at — one million words describing the Middle and Lower Mississippi River — with thousands of photos, videos and maps.

You can join in for a day, a week, or the entire 6 week adventure — whatever fits your Spring 2017 schedule. This is all about sharing the story of the river, so we are reserving 4 seats per segment of the river for photographers, writers, film-makers, bloggers, and etc. Keep reading below for itinerary and more info. Please contact to reserve your seat, or for more information.

The route is St. Louis to Gulf of Mexico, 1154 miles of free-flowing river. March 20 to May 10, 2017. Anyone is welcome to jump on board our voyageur style canoe. No previous experience necessary, but must enjoy wilderness-style camping and must be willing to paddle.

March 20 to May 10, 2017 Itinerary:

Note: Itinerary subject to adjustment according to wind, water levels and prevailing weather conditions. For detailed descriptions of route go to

St. Louis

Monday, March 20 (Vernal Equinox): Meet 3pm at Columbia Bottoms Boat Ramp (on the Missouri River). Pack your gear into drybags and load the big canoe. Push off around 4pm down the last three miles of the Missouri River. Camp at Missouri/Mississippi Confluence on Duck Island.

Tuesday, March 21: continue downstream from Duck Island, Route 66 Bridge, City of St. Louis Waterworks, the I-270 Bridge, and Chain of Rocks (portage might be necessary). Camp: Mosenthein Island.

Wed March 22: Great Arch, LaClede’s Landing, the Stan Musial Veteran’s Memorial Bridge (newest bridge on the Mississippi), Eads Bridge, the McKinley Bridge, East St. Louis, Anheuser Busch Brewery, Jefferson Barracks, JB I-255 Bridge, Meramec Confluence.

Thurs March 23: Herculaneum, Harlow Island, Fort DeChartres, Calico Island, Osborne Island, Magnolia Hollow Conservation Area

St Genevieve

Fri March 24: St Genevieve, Moro Island, Kaskaskia River, Chester, Rockwood Island

Sat March 25: Tower Rock, Grand Tower, Trail of Tears State Park, Devil’s Island

Sun March 26: Cape Girardeau, Marquette Island, Thebes, Pawnee Hills

Cairo/Ohio River

Mon March 27: Big Bends of the Middle Miss around Dogtooth Island and Missouri Sister Island, Cairo, Fort Defiance, Ohio River Confluence

Tues March 28: Wickliffe, Columbus Belmont, Wolf Island

Wed March 29: Hickman, Is No 8, Reelfoot Lake, Bessie’s Bend

New Madrid

Thurs March 30: Bessie’s Bend, New Madrid, Kentucky Point

Fri March 31: Tiptonville, Lee Towhead, Hathaway/Island 14, Sandy Hook Bar, Caruthersville

— April 2017 —

Sat April 1: Island 18, Is 20, Is 21, Mouth of the Obion, Tamm Bend

Sun April 2: Chickasaw National Wildlife Refuge, Nebraska Landing, Island 25, Island 26 and Forked Deer Island 27

Mon April 3: Ashport-Keyes Gold Dust, Lower Forked Deer River, Island 30, Osceola


Tues April 4: Sans Souci Driver Island, Old Mouth of the Forked Deer, First Chickasaw Bluff, Sunrise Towhead - Island 34

Wed April 5: Hatchie River, Randolph Landing, The Second Chickasaw Bluff (Richardson Bluff), Dean Island


Thurs April 6: Denseford Bar and Dikes/Hen and Chicks, Meeman Shelby Forest State Brandywine Island, Hickman Bar, Loosahatchie River, Redman Point Bar, Memphis Upper Waswater Treatment Plant, Wolf River, Mud Island, Memphis "M" Bridge (Hernando De Soto Bridge), 4th Chickasaw Bluff, Memphis

Fri April 7: Meet at 12 noon Mud Island Park Boat Ramp and push off downstream Lower Bridges/Engineer's Bar, President's Island, Entrance to McKellar Lake, Dismal Point, Ensley Bar

Sat April 8: Josie Harry Bar, Cow Island Bend, Cat Island No.50, Starr Landing, Tunica Riverpark Museum, Buck Island (No. 53), Basket Bar

Sun April 9: Commerce Bend, Rabbit Island, Mhoon Landing, Mhoon Bend, Whiskey Chute/Walnut Bend, Whitehall Crevasse, Tunica Runout, Shoo Fly Bar, Stumpy Island


Mon April 10: Harbert Point, Mouth of the St. Francis River, St. Francis Bar, Buck Island (Prairie Point Towhead), Trotter's Pass, Helena Harbor.

Tues April 11 (Passover/Full Moon): Re-Supply in Helena

Wed April 12: Re-Supply in Helena

Thurs April 13: Re-Supply in Helena

Fri April 14 (Good Friday): Yazoo Pass, Montezuma Towhead, Friars Point, Kangaroo Point, Dewberry Island 61, Old Town Bend, Island 62


Sat April 15: Island 63, Quapaw Landing (Clarksdale), Muddy Waters Wilderness, Burke’s Point, Mouth of the Mellwood Lake, Mouth of De Soto Lake, Jug Harris Towhead, Island 68, Island 67

Sun April 16 (Easter): Wood Cottage, Knowlton Crevasse, Island 69, Cession’s Towhead, Hurricane Pint (Dennis Landing), Island 70, Henrico Sandbar, Scrubgrass Bend, Smith Point Sandbar, Mouth of the White River, White River NWR

Mon April 17: Big Island, Victoria Bend, Old Channel of the White, Wreck of the Victor

Great River Road State Park, Rosedale Harbor, Arkansas River

Tues April 18: Prentiss Sandbar, Mouth of Lake Whittington, Caulk Neck Bar, Cypress Bend, Catfish Point Bar, Choctaw Bar Island, Mounds Landing, Arkansas City


Wed April 19: Yellow Bend, The Greenville Bends, island 8, Leland Neck Point, Warfield Point State Park, Greenville Harbor, Greenville

Thurs April 20: Sunny Side Landing, Greenville Bridge, Lakeport Towhead, American Bar, Kentucky Bend

Fri April 21: Leota Bar, Cracraft Chute, Worthington Cutoff, Matthews Bend, Grand Lake, Island 88, Bunch’s Cutoff, Corregidor Bar, Wilson Point Bar, Mayersville, Tennis Court Landing

Sat April 22 (Earth Day): Baleshead, Stack Island, Ben Lamond, Shipland WMA, Fitler Bend, Arcadia Point Bar, Cottonwood Bar, Chotard Lake, Terrapin Neck Cutoff, Willow Island


Sun April 23: Eagle Lake Pass, Tara Landing, Madison Parish Port, Paw Paw Chute, Brown’s Point, Mouth of the Yazoo River, Vicksburg

Mon April 24: Vicksburg Loess Bluffs, Delta Point, Vicksburg Bridges, Racetrack Towhead, Letourneau, Palmyra, Togo, Middle Ground Island

Tues April 25: Big Black River, Grand Gulf State Park, Yucatan Ditch, Coffee Point Dikes, Diamond Cut-Off, Port of Claiborne County, Bayou Pierre, St. Joseph Boat Ramp

Bondurant Towhead

Wed April 26: St. Joseph, Waterproof, Natchez

Thurs April 27: Natchez, St Catherine's Wildlife Refuge, Carthage, Warnicott, Homichitto River, Washout Bayou, Artonish, 3 Rivers WMA

Fri April 28: Ft. Adams, Old River (Mouth of the Atchafalaya River), Angola Ferry & State Penitentiary, Shreve’s Bar, Hog Point, Tunica Bayou, Polly Creek, Little Island, Iowa Point

Sat April 29: St. Maurice Island, Bayou Sara, St. Francisville, St. Francisville, John James Audubon Bridge, Fancy Point

Sun April 30: Thompson Creek, Profit Island, Devil’s Swamp, Istrouma Bluff

— May 2017 —

Baton Rouge

Mon May 1: Re-Supply in Baton Rouge

Tues May 2: Baton Rouge, I-10 Bridge, Baton Rouge to Plaquemine Red Eye Dikes Manchac Bend, Plaquemine, Nottoway Plantation, Bayou Goula Towhead

Wed May 3: Point Clair, White Castle, Philadelphia Point, Eighty-One-Mile Point, Donaldson, Bayou Lafourche, Bayou Teche, Bringier Point, Point Houmas, Sunshine Bridge, Oak Alley Plantation, Magnolia Landing, Paulina.

New Orleans

Thurs May 4: Bonnet Carre Spillway, Twenty-Six Mile Point, I-310 Bridge, Huey P. Long Bridge, 9-Mile Point, Audubon Park, Algier’s Ferry, French Quarter, Algiers Point.

Fri May 5: Algiers Point, Industrial Canal, Algier’s Lock, Poydras Bend, English Turn Bend, Caernarvon Crevasse, Twelve Mile Point, Shingle Point, Belle Chasse Ferry, Jesuit Bend, Will’s Point

Sat May 6: Will's Point, Poverty Point, Point Celeste, Pointe A La Hache Bohemia Beach, Mardi Gras Pass, Happy Jack, Sixty Mile Point

Sun May 7: Tropical Bend, Point Pleasant, Ostrica Pass, Buras Landing Boat Ramp, Fort Jackson, Plaquemines Bend/Fort Jackson Point, Baptiste Collette Bayou, Venice,

Grand Pass Island, Cubit’s Gap, Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Pilottown, Head of Passes, -0- Mile Zero

Mon May 8: Head of Passes, -0- Mile Zero, Southwest Pass, South Pass, Port Eads

Lower South Pass Island, Pass A Loutre, Southeast Pass, Last Camp on Expedition: on the Gulf of Mexico (Full Moon Night!)

Tues May 9: Paddle back upstream to Venice, Grand Pass Island, Cubit’s Gap, Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Pilottown, Head of Passes, -0- Mile Zero, final takeout at Cypress Cove Marina in Venice.

Tues May 10 (Full Rose Moon): Drive back through New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Natchez, Vicksburg, return to Clarksdale. Shuttle back to Memphis, St. Louis, or points in between, as needed.

Contact: John Ruskey, 662-902-7841 or to reserve your seat, and for more information.

Mission: We are celebrating the opening of the Rivergator: Paddler’s Guide to the Middle/Lower Mississippi River Water Trail, now live at

Route: St. Louis to Gulf of Mexico, 1154 miles of free-flowing river

Dates: March 20 to May 10, 2017

What is the Rivergator Celebratory Expedition?

In Spring of 2017 we’ll be paddling the Mississippi River from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico in a 45-day expedition to celebrate the completion of the Rivergator: Paddler’s Guide to the Lower Mississippi River Water Trail.

Who can Join?

Anyone is welcome to jump on board our voyageur style canoe (Option: if you are an expert paddler you can bring your own vessel). No previous experience necessary, but must enjoy wilderness-style camping and must be willing to paddle!

Journalists on board:

This is all about sharing the story. We are reserving at least 4 seats on every segment for writers, photographers and any journalists who will help us share the story about the beautiful and dynamic Mississippi River and the Rivergator Middle/Lower Mississippi River Water Trail describing it. This includes newspapers, magazines, bloggers, local media, documenters, and any other form of media.

Daily Schedule:

Coffee (or tea) at sunrise, breakfast one hour later. Pack up and get on river around 9am. Paddle and explore 2 hours. 1 hour lunch at noon. Paddle and explore all afternoon. Camp around 5pm. We will probably average about 5 hours/day of paddle time in the canoe. This expedition is all about exploration, discovery, and sharing. We like to stop and explore along the way. So when there are interesting sites to see, we stop a lot, maybe once every hour for a 15 min to 1/2 hour (maybe as long as 2 hour or even half day if schedule allows) walk or hike for documentation, or tracking, bird watching, beachcombing, swim, or whatever. Lunch is usually an hour. Also, a mid-day nap sure feels good on the river! There is room in the itinerary for flexibility… so if the weather is bad, or the crew is worn out, we might stay on shore one full day, and each person will be at leisure to do as they please. On the other hand some days we be “voyageur-style” and stay in the canoe longer (maybe 2-3 hours at a time for a total of 8-12 hours of paddling) to make distance, or because the weather is bad.Food & Gear:

Outfitter Quapaw Canoe Company provides all necessary river gear & emergency equipment. Normally we prepare all food & refreshments, drinks include water, teas and coffee. Alcoholic beverages BYOB. We will pack all necessary cookware and eating utensils, as well as camp tables and camp chairs. Pack favorite snacks. Vegetarian and vegan options available.

Bring all personal gear and stuff into our waterproof drybags before launching (or use your own). These are backpack-style bags made of tough waterproof material - great for packing on a rainy day! It takes three complete fold to make them water-proof, be sure to lock all four buckles! If you have any questions, check with your guide.

Be prepared for everything from heavy rain to hot days with intense sun UV exposure! Sunlight is surprisingly strong on the river, even in the winter (you get the sun twice – once from above and once reflected from below). Sunburn is our number one complaint and has caused more than one Mississippi River paddler very painful days and sleepless nights. Be forewarned! Sunglasses, sun screen, long sleeve clothing and a wide brim hat are all good ideas, especially for anyone particularly sensitive.

Camping equipment and wetsuits: You will need tent, sleeping bag, pad, wet (or dry) suit and neoprene (or comparable) boots. We can supply to anyone who needs them. Otherwise, bring your own and pack with your gear into our dry bags.


Remote islands, sandbars, towheads, usually sandy places, sometimes it’s necessary to make a muddy landing. In inclement weather it might be necessary to find shelter within the forest. This is primitive camping on a river island, no services of any sort. Bring everything you need to make yourself comfortable. Bring your own toiletry. Bring a change of warm clothing, including summer months, when mornings can be cool. It’s always cooler on the river.

Lower Mississippi River Foundation: The Rivergator is overseen by the Lower Mississippi River Foundation which is dedicated to access, education, and the betterment of public outdoor recreation on the Middle & Lower Mississippi River.

The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

is brought to you courtesy of

The Lower Mississippi River Foundation

Our Projects:

Rivergator: 1Million words describing the Lower Mississippi River:

Wild Miles: 71% of the Lower Miss is wild according to river rats. Will it stay that way?

Mighty Quapaw Apprenticeship Program: long term apprenticeships developing personal character and young leaders through canoe building, big river guiding, and survival skills on the Lower Mississippi River.

LiNKS = Leave No Kids On Shore

LiNK-ing kids to the big river and mother nature -- with the passion of a LYNX.

Every LiNK in the chain is as important as the others. Real-time experiences for the betterment of personal health and environmental conservation along the Lower Mississippi River.

Friends of the Sunflower Rive

Established in 2005 for cleanups, paddle events and other educational programming on the Sunflower River.

River Arts

Youth program begun in 2012 as an after-school river activity in conjunction with GRIOT Arts.

Our Friends:

Quapaw Canoe Company: custom-guided wilderness expeditions on the biggest and wildest river in North America, in our hand crafted cypress strip voyageur canoes. Now with outposts in Memphis, Vicksburg, Helena and Natchez. Home base: Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Big Muddy Adventures: custom-guided adventures on the Missouri, Mississippi, Meramec and Illinois -- covering the Grand Central Station of America's rivers from home base St. Louis.

Good Journeys Jimmy!