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LMRD 663 -- Monday, May 7, 2018

Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

"The Voice of the Lower Mississippi River"

Published by the Quapaw Canoe Company since 1999

OPEN HOUSE: Lower Mississippi River Foundation (LMRF)

The LMRF is all about deep, lasting stewardship -- particularly through Mississippi Valley youth. Tomorrow night (Tues May 8th) you can find at more 5-7 pm, at 107 Perry street in downtown Helena, (last building headed out to Helena River Park w/boardwalk and boat ramp). Meet & Greet with new director Shannon McMulkin and LMRF board. To be discussed: Summer Camp, Smithsonian Water/Ways, and other exciting projects in 2018/2019. Also, sharing vision for LMRF future. Free and open to all LMRF supporting members and general public. If you ever wanted to know more about the LMRF -- and how you can be part of it -- this is an excellent opportunity to do so!


Come Help Celebrate!

Tuesday May 8th, 5-7pm

OPEN HOUSE: Lower Mississippi River Foundation


107 Perry St in downtown Helena, AR




Meet & Greet with director and board. To be discussed: Summer Camp, Smithsonian Water/Ways, and other exciting projects in 2018/2019. Also, sharing vision for LMRF future. Free and open to all LMRF supporting members and general public. If you ever wanted to know more about the LMRF -- and how you can be part of it -- this is an excellent opportunity to do so!

LMRF 2018 Board:
Kevin Smith, President
Jenn Mohead, Secretary
Scott Shirey, Treasurer
"EB" Erickson Blakney, At Large
Erin Lee, At Large

Executive Director:
Shannon McMulkin

From LMRF Director, Shannon McMulkin

The Lower Mississippi River Foundation is moving offices to Helena! We are located at the entrance to the River Park (base of the levee on Perry St, at the old Helena Outpost). Come see the new space and hear about our upcoming projects!

Such as this:
Mississippi River Summer Camp

Accepting Applications through May 15th!

The 2018 Mississippi Water Security Institute:
Announcing keynote speaker!

Chad Pregnacke

Founder and President of Living Lands and Waters

Sunday, May 13 at 7pm
209 Bryant Hall

University of Mississippi campus

(From Clifford Ochs, leader of the Mississippi Water Security Institute:)


I am very happy to announce that the keynote speaker for the kick-off of the 2018 Mississippi Water Security Institute is CNN Hero of the Year Chad Pregnacke, founder and president of Living Lands and Waters. He will speak on Sunday, May 13 at 7pm in 209 Bryant Hall on the University of Mississippi campus.

Chad is an inspiring conservationist and brilliant speaker, and his talk about Living Lands and Waters will be captivating to all, from young people to seasoned pros to Moms (It is Mother’s day). All are welcome, no charge, with open reception following. Please see the attached announcement, and spread it around. Thank you.

Clifford Ochs
Professor, Department of Biology
Director, MS Water Security Institute

Save the Date!
Sunday, May 13 at 7pm in 209 Bryant Hall, UM

America’s #1 Most Endangered River -- the Sunflower?

What? The Sunflower?

Yes, it's true. Our humble little Sunflower River making big news again… As America’s #1 Most Endangered River... The Sunflower seems to do this every once in a while… In 2008 it was declared #2…. It’s been sung about, written about, legal battles fought over it. It’s virtues have been extolled. It’s flooding is always cursed. And yet it remains a paradise for paddlers -- as well as a wonderland for fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation. Shouldn't we celebrate what we have? And not try to play God, and dry it out when we think it needs drying? (and then turn around and flood it when and where we think it needs flooding?)

Over 60 years ago William Faulkner described similar destructive activity taking place in the Delta as a "mad and pointless merry-go-round...:the timber which had to be logged and sold in order to deforest the land in order to convert the soil to raising cotton in order to sell the cotton in order to make the land valuable enough to be worth spending the money raising the dykes to keep the river off of it." (from Big Woods, 1955)

Why #1? Because of the proposed boondoggle project to drain wetlands -- the Yazoo Pumps -- the precedent would be a threat to wetlands everywhere in America.

We Quapaws fought it once, back in 2008, it was killed by a veto during the Bush administration using the Clean Water Act. Now, *SIGH* it has been revived. The sacred Clean Water Act ignored. See below for more info. We’re part of the team fighting it again. We kind of have to… it’s our river!

This has national influence with possible negative precedents… mainly for the potential abuse of the Clean Water Act.

Furthermore, 6 out of 10 listed in 2018 are within the greater Mississippi drainage (1 on the edge). What a dishonor for our beloved "Queen of America's Rivers."

High Water Spring

by Mark River

Spring time in the Delta is a beautiful sight! The Mississippi River and all its distributaries and tributaries are swollen into there floodplains replenishing wetlands and estuaries, creating the perfect ecosystems for the reproduction of reptiles, amphibians, fish, mammals and waterfowl. Male wood-ducks with striking arrangements of color, are looking for mates and the perfect tree to have their young. Frogs and salamanders take advantage of the shallow pools. All types of birds are arriving, heading north to their summer dwellings. Flocks of White Pelicans soar high in the sky performing mating maneuvers. The female deer are gorging themselves, taking advantage of the accelerated growth of fauna, preparing for their newborns coming in June. Many species of freshwater fish migrate into these ecosystems and spawn. This phenomenon wouldn't be possible if the waters didn't rise annually.

In 2016, Clarksdale witnessed a 1000 year flood, only to see a similar scare two years later. All across the country we are seeing an increase in rainfall due to the warming of the planet and there's more to come. Unfortunately with the increased water, we are closing off floodplains and wetland across the nation, which will add to the problem. When floodplains and wetlands are drained and destroyed, we always see the effects downstream. These watery ecosystems are home to thousands of species. They say if the main stem of the river has one species, the floodplains and wetlands will have up to 10,000 more species. With the attack on our rivers and environment from our current administration, we have to come together as River Citizen's and let the country hear our voice.

The Yazoo Pumps, a failed man-made concept, is back on the table. This idea was refused and labeled a failure years ago, is now being reconsidered. It was a bad idea from the start and now is revisited for political reasons. With the draining of wetlands, you not only decimate a whole ecosystem, but setting ourselves up for another failed environmental catastrophe downstream. The one human trait that continues to ruin our country, is our inability to admit our failures. Our pride and false perception of humanity , has put us in a position power, and we can't allow it to ruin our precious natural world. We need to stop the attack on our natural world for profit, or we will pay for it dearly.

Become a River Citizen today and get involve in the fight to protect and preserve our great River!

Mark River

Natural and Cultural Description of the Sunflower River

by John Ruskey

The Sunflower River is sometimes difficult to access paddlers, in part because it is carved out of the deep mud of the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Nevertheless it is well worth the effort to explore. Paddlers are rewarded with abundant birds, amphibians and mammals, deep woods, endless wetlands, and the rich culture of the Mississippi Delta. How many rivers can you put-in near the Delta Blues Museum (Clarksdale), paddle behind the most active juke joint in the world (Red’s in Clarksdale), meander though the “birthplace” of the blues (Dockery Plantation) visit another legendary juke joint Club Ebony, (BB King’s haunt in Indianola) and end up near the birthplace of Muddy Waters (Rolling Fork)?

Don't look for sandbars on the Sunflower River. You will encounter nothing but thick, rich Mississippi alluvial floodplain soil, and the fields and towns and forests adjacent. Exceptional wildlife, especially raptors & amphibians. Muddy banks make for muddy landings, muddy picnics, muddy camps. In high water the mud is all hidden. But in low water be ready for climbing and descending steep slippery banks of chocolate goo as you enter and exit the waterway. An extra rope to help in getting in and out of the river is sometimes useful. Wear shoes you don’t mind getting muddy and wet, or go barefoot. In warmer months be prepared for abundant hatches of mosquitoes!

This river has the blues. Besides the many blues & gospel musicians who were born & baptized along its banks, its mussel shell beds, which are reported to be the richest such biota in the world, seem to be in constant danger of overzealous engineering. The Sunflower River has been neglected, dumped upon and over-worked — so much that American Rivers has proclaimed it to be America’s “Most Endangered River” in 2018.

The good news is that its forests constitute the largest bottomland hardwood forests in the National Forest system (they also produce the highest carbon-sequestration of any forests in North America!), and its banks are home to every creature found native to the Mississippi Delta, winged, webbed or otherwise. It’s a beautiful place to get away, to reflect a moment on the rivers and woods of America, to walk along its banks, to paddle its waters, to enjoy its primeval scenery. Most importantly, it’s home to all of us who live on or near its banks, and second home to many others who love it from a distance. Shouldn’t we be taking better care of our lonely muddy river — the little lonely river with a bad case of the blues?

Where can you paddle the Sunflower River?

by John Ruskey

There are many places along the 250-mile length of the Sunflower River to access and paddle, but the best spots are found near Clarksdale and Rolling Fork (Delta National Forest). See below for complete listing and links to water trails in Clarksdale, Anguilla, and Rolling Fork. Canoe, kayak and paddle board are all suitable vessels. Consult river gages before going, and dress for the weather.


In the Clarksdale area, you can do a round trip from downtown, paddle upstream as far as you feel like and then turn around and come back with the flow. The Quapaw Canoe Company is a good place to base your paddle from — with easy parking, access and maps. Quapaw can also provide canoes, kayaks and paddle-boards for rent. Quapaw Canoe Company, 289 Sunflower Avenue, Clarksdale, MS. 38614. 662-627-4070 or

There is also a beautiful 3 mile paddle (approx 1 hr.) into downtown from the Friars Point Bridge. Or take an afternoon and put in near Clover Hill on the Farrell-Eagle’s Nest Road, 10 miles total Duration: 4-6 hrs. Best river levels: 12 or above on the Clarksdale USGS river gage. For mile-by-mile itinerary go to water trail online:

Hopson Plantation/Shack Up Inn: Start out near Red’s Juke Joint in downtown Clarksdale and paddle 5 miles downstream for a takeout at the Hopson Bridge, directly behind supporting business the Shack Up Inn. Highlights include the back-door tour blues tour of Red’s Juke Joint, Ground Zero Blues Club, the Delta Blues Museum, Riverside Hotel (Bessie Smith), Rivermount Lounge (site), Highway 61 Bridge, and Hopson Plantation (Pinetop Perkins). Warning: portages necessary when the river is below 12 on Clarksdale Gage.

River Gage at Clarksdale:


In Sunflower, put in behind the Library and do a round trip paddle, first upstream, you can make an interesting foray up to the mouth of the Hushpuckena River, and then float back into town. (like climbing the mountain: do the hard work first!)

River Gage at Sunflower:


Put in at the confluence of the Quiver River, approx 8 mile paddle to the Hwy 49 Bridge below town. Walk 2 miles north into town to reach Club Ebony, BB King’s favorite juke joint. The phenomenal BB King Museum is located nearby. Both are must-see visits!


Boat Ramp at the Hwy 14 bridge. Do a round trip, or make a day (or overnight) 14 mile paddle into Delta National Forest, the largest bottomland hardwood forest in the National Forest system.

River Gage at Anguilla:

Near Rolling Fork/Holly Bluff:

Good ramp on the old channel of the river off highway 16. Paddle upstream past the distributary Little Sunflower River, and meander deeper and deeper into the woods. Round trip: go as far as you feel like paddling, then turn around and return to your vehicle.

Little Sunflower River: Put in at the boat launch off the 433 (Spanish Fort Road) deep in Delta National Forest (the largest bottomland hardwood forest in the National Forest system) and explore the same woods legendary hunting guide Holt Collier frequented.

Near Eagle Lake:

Steele Bayou Confluence: put in at the Steele Bayou Control Structure and paddle upstream ½ mile to the confluence of Steel Bayou, where steamboats used to start their journey up into the frontier Mississippi Delta.

Yazoo River Confluence: put in at the Steele Bayou Control Structure for a one-mile paddle to the mouth of the Big Sun at the Yazoo, the “River of Death.” Enquire about further paddling options down the Yazoo River.

For More Information contact:

John Ruskey, Quapaw Canoe Company

Update from Shannon McMulkin,

Director, Lower Mississippi River Foundation

Deadline has been moved back to May 15th for Summer Camp! See below for more information. Also, the Lower Mississippi River Foundation will be hosting an Open House Tuesday May 8, 5-7pm at 107 Perry Street in Helena, AR.

The Lower Mississippi River Foundation is moving our office to Helena! We will be located in the Quapaw Outpost at the entrance to the River Park. Come see the new space and hear about our upcoming projects!

Lower Mississippi River Foundation Open House

Tuesday May 8, 5-7pm

107 Perry Street

Helena, AR 72342

For more info, contact:

Shannon McMulkin

Mississippi River Summer Leadership Camp, June 11-15, 2018

Deadline extended to May 15th!

Delta Students are Invited to Join the Crew for a Five Day Voyage on the Mississippi River

A new camp offers a unique summer experience for high school students

This summer, high school students in Arkansas and Mississippi will have a chance to join a new kind of summer camp. In the Mississippi River Summer Leadership Camp (June 11th-15th) students become part of the crew as they navigate 100 miles of the Mississippi River in voyager style canoes.

The camp was planned by the Lower Mississippi River Foundation, a non-profit that connects youth to the Mississippi, in partnership with Quapaw Canoe Company, a guiding and outfitting service on the river. Students will work with experienced Quapaw guides to navigate their canoes approximately 20 miles each day along the river. Each day they will take on more responsibility for their boat and their crew.

The trip will leave from Helena, Arkansas and end five days later in Arkansas City. Each night students will camp on remote beaches and islands on the river. Each day they will practice canoe handling and navigational skills as they work together to reach the end of the journey.

Twenty students will be selected to join the trip. The Lower Mississippi River Foundation wants most of those students to come from the Delta where students live nearest the Mississippi River but often don’t have the means to access it. Through the help of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi and private donations, they have raised money to provide scholarships to any student from Phillips or Coahoma Counties who wants to attend the trip.

John Ruskey, the owner of Quapaw Canoe Company in Clarksdale, has led several trips like this one on the Mississippi with groups from all over the country. Students from the Delta are often not able to come on these trips either because the cost is too high or because they do not know about them. In July of 2017, LMRF committed to working with Quapaw to provide a trip specifically for students in the Delta. LMRF is recruiting students from local schools and youth organizations and offering scholarships for all students from the Delta.

This is the first time LMRF has offered this camp. They intend to use it as a learning experience. They intend to offer multiple camps in 2019 and beyond using what they learn from this first trip in 2018.

Applications for the trip will be accepted through May 15th. Accepted students will be informed by May 31st.


Shannon McMulkin- Lower Mississippi River Foundation


John Ruskey- Quapaw Canoe Company