Close Window
Quapaw Canoe Company Your Mississippi River Adventure Starts Here!
LMRD 707

Delta Blues Museum 40th Anniversary Today!

Our congratulations to Shelley, Maie and all the staff at Delta Blues Museum
for carrying forward the world's first blues museum, started by Sid Graves in 1979!
Celebration starts at 5pm tonight, Wed Jan 30th, with the Delta Blues Museum Band,
as well as choirs and marching bands from local public schools.
For more information go to

Congrats Clarksdale:

Expedia Names Clarksdale As The Best Place To Escape In Mississippi!

Dreams 2019:
February almost here and we're still making dreams for the New Year. Aho! See below for our Spring 2019 Calendar, and join us for one of the many exciting public events we are leading or partnering on. I'm especially excited to be partnering with the Walter Anderson Museum of Art April 20-27 in a Pop-Up Exhibition called "Water, Water" and a week-long Artist's Retreat in Voyaguer Canoe to Horn Island in celebration of Earth Day 2019. Also, we will be collaborating with the LMRF (Lower Mississippi River Foundation) for Mississippi River Summer Camp 2019 (High Schoolers) -- and a series of Community Half-Day Trips on the Sunflower and Mississippi Rivers. (see below for details)

"Deep River, Deep Blues"
(In the planning:) A series of "Deep River, Deep Blues" canoe trips with local blues artists as featured guests... Imagine paddling down the deepest and "bluest" river in North America to heartfelt downhome Delta blues by legendary artists that you've always heard about, but maybe never heard up close and personal -- artists like blues phenoms James Super Chikan Johnson, Lucious Spiller, Kenny Brown, Anthony Big A Sherrod, Bill Abel and Deak Harp??!!! Coming soon, Spring/Summer 2019. Stay tuned for more details!

More Dreams:
I hope you have savored some downtime to nurture your 2019 dreams. Big on our list is living within the needs of our planet, and bringing some much-needed balance back to our community.

New Channels, Bittersweet Feelings:

You might have heard that my wife Sarah is now leading Harrison County libraries — down on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She started last year and is doing great. Our daughter Emma is with her and seems to be enjoying a new school and life's new adventure. I'm going back and forth. Some weeks on the river, some weeks on the Gulf. This might be my roadmap for the future -- some combination of the muddy river and the blue-green Gulf. I'm still working it all out. Exciting times. But also bittersweet...

(Some backstory here: In 2018 Sarah was offered and leapt forward into this amazing opportunity -- where she will be able to put her many talents and skills to work. When we met she was teaching French at Rhodes College in Memphis. At the beginning of the new millennia we married and she moved to Clarksdale -- deep in the muddy frontier of the Miss Delta -- to allow me to pursue my big river dreams. So it is now my turn to follow her, and let her star guide us in this next chapter of our lives... In some way connecting the river and ocean... which of course are connected anyway!)

Regardless -- here is the plan: I am writing to assure you that Quapaw will retain its Clarksdale home base, as well as Natchez and Vicksburg, and operations will continue into the future unchanged. We are here for you, to provide high quality adventures on the biggest and baddest and most beautiful muddy river in this part of the world! We have a time-tested system driven by a great team of Mighty Quapaws in place, and we are paddling a large fleet of voyageur canoes (12 big canoes at latest count!). We hope to find a Memphis base within the next year.

I will be present to fulfill all Quapaw obligations through 2019, and to sculpt a smooth transition for everyone here. Mark River and Lena Von Machui will oversee operations along with our team of Mighty Quapaws Valencia Metcalfe, Tanner Aljets, Ellis Coleman, Adam Elliott (Natchez) and Layne Logue (Vicksburg), and other "on-call" guides and shuttle drivers. We will continue many activities in partnership with the Lower Mississippi River Foundation, now based in Helena, AR, and led by director Shannon McMulkin.
Please know Quapaw Canoe Company will always be deeply connected to you and the Mississippi River. We wouldn’t exist without either! You can take the rat off the river, but you can't take the river out of the rat. I will never stray too far from the river, and will remain a part of the company in some form or fashion, definitely as creative leader and wilderness guide. This newsletter will continue to be published, this being one of my great joys: sharing with you. Also, my parents and sister Jennifer live in Clarksdale. And Sarah's auntie, and many of our closest friends.

At the same time, Quapaw Canoe Company is going to seek a new leader to take over the business aspect of our operations. I know some ideal person is out there! Holler out if you hear your name being called! More details about this soon in upcoming newsletters.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Last year was our 20th Anniversary year — we wouldn’t be here doing what we do if it wasn’t for all of you... and of course, the big beautiful river -- in whose service we remain.

Sincerely yours, in the service of Mother Nature,

-"Driftwood Johnnie" John Ruskey

Quapaw Canoe Company
Calendar, Spring 2019
February 2019

Sat, Feb 9
Community Half-Daytrip - Sunflower River, 9am-1pm

Sun Feb 10 - Mon Feb 11
"The Mighty Mississippi: A Mosaic of America's Growth"
Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock
(Live Dugout Canoe Carving Demonstration)

Sat, Feb 16
LMRF General Annual Membership Meeting
Helena Outpost, 107 Perry St, Helena
12noon - 1pm, Cleanup in Helena Harbor to follow, 2-3pm

March 2019

Sat, Mar 9?
Community Half-Daytrip - Mississippi River

Mon Mar 25 - Sat Mar 30
Pearl River Expedition — Naturalist’s Retreat in Voyageur Canoe

April 2019

April 11-14
Juke Joint Festival 2019
Camping,Carving, Booksignings, Canoeing Sunflower River
And much, much more!

Sat, April 13
Community Half-Daytrip - Sunflower River, 9am-1pm

April 18 - May 18
Water, Water: A Pop Up Invitational
Walter Anderson Museum of Art

Mon April 22 - Sat 27
Horn Island Expedition — Artist’s Retreat in Voyageur Canoe

May 2019
Sat, May 11?
Community Half-Daytrip - Mississippi River

Mon May 20 - Sat May 25
Pascagoula River Expedition — Naturalist’s Retreat in Voyageur Canoe

June 2019

June 3rd-7th
LMRF Summer Camp
for Mississippi and Arkansas youth!

Sat, June 14
Community Half-Daytrip - Mississippi River

June 15
Buck Island Adventure
Experience the East Arkansas Mississippi River Canoe Float
9am-5pm from Helena, Ar.
In partnership with the Mississippi River State Park

…and coming up in Sept 2019:
Magic on the Big Muddy:
Yes Mississippi! Life-Changing Retreat
with Dave & Emma Cornthwaite!

For more info:

…more about "Water, Water:"

Water, Water: A Pop Up Invitational

Thursday, April 18 – Saturday, May 18, 2019

Coinciding with Earth Day 2019, the Walter Anderson Museum of Art mounts a month-long exhibition of contemporary art examining the relationship between people and their waterways. Inspired by Walter Anderson’s excursions in and depictions of both salt and fresh water, this exhibition is guest curated by John Ruskey of Quapaw Canoe, avid adventurer, visual artist, and steward of the Mississippi River. Interested artists should send digital images and an artist statement to; deadline for submissions is March 15.

Water, Water takes its name from a verse from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, one of Walter Anderson’s favorite poems. The exhibition examines the myriad ways that water and human societies interact – sometimes beautifully, sometimes at odds.

Related programs include:

Thursday, April 18 from 5 – 8 PM

Exhibition opening reception

Saturday, April 20 from 1 – 4 PM

RiverTalk with John Ruskey and author Jerry Schumm

Water, Water guest curator John Ruskey discusses life on the river, his upcoming canoe trips to the Gulf barrier islands, and the conservation efforts of 1Mississippi to protect America’s greatest waterway. Author Gerald "Jerry" E. Schumm Jr. signs copies of his memoir, Pass the Paddle: Mississippi Dreamin’ Come Hell or High Water, a tale of his marathon relay canoe trip down the river. Accompanied by an intergenerational art making workshop inspired by indominable character of Mississippi water.

Walter Anderson Museum of Art
510 Washington Avenue

Ocean Springs, Mississippi 39564


…more about Horn Island Expedition
Artist’s Retreat in Voyageur Canoe

In celebration of Earth Day -- 6 Day Expedition to the wildest and most remote of the Mississippi Barrier Islands, Horn Island. 6-day expedition in 29' cypress strip voyageur style canoe, Mon April 22nd to Sat April 27th. All paddle together, very safe & stable, canoes are made for the Great Lakes. Meet at Ocean Springs Harbor. Park vehicles. 1 day paddling out, 4 days on island, 1 day paddling back. Final schedule weather dependent.

$870 total for guiding, outfitting (big canoe, paddles, life jackets and all necessary water safety gear), meals, dry bags, tents & sleeping bags, kitchen ware and camp setup, all food prep, cooking & cleaning. No previous experience necessary, but must be willing to paddle long miles, and must be in good health and shape. 6 minimum, 12 maximum.

Horn Island is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and was delicately & articulately celebrated by the legendary naturalist-artist Walter Anderson in watercolors, prints, pottery, wood sculpture and journaling.

We will set up base camp on island for 3-4 days of creative and island/seashore exploration. Artistic-types and anyone else welcome. Long open water crossing and primitive camping. Must be in fairly good shape, and comfortable with waves and extended sustained long distance paddling.

In partnership with the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in celebration of Earth Day 2019. Contact to reserve your seat in big canoe, or more info.

…more about

Communities that Canoe Together:

Once you go paddling on the Mississippi you are part of a pretty special club. A club that knows how magical the river is and how much it needs protection.

We need more people in the club! That's why we're hosting community canoe trips in Helena and Clarksdale every month. If you've never been out on the river before this is the perfect opportunity to test it out. If you've been before, come back and bring a friend! Discounts available for local youth and educators.


Anyone is welcome! No experience or equipment necessary! Just meet us at our office in Helena or Clarksdale and join us for a morning canoe trip.

Trips will leave at 9 am and usually return by 1 pm. Bring a lunch and water bottle.

For trips on the Sunflower, you can also bring your own boat and paddle along with us!

50% discount for local educators!

For reservations or more information, contact:

Shannon McMulkin



Saturday, February 9, 2019

9:00 AM 12:00 PM

Join us for a short half day trip on the Sunflower River. No experience or equipment necessary.

$25 for adults

$5 for youth under 18

Call 870-228-2421 or email to register


Saturday, March 9, 2019

9:00 AM 2:00 PM

Join us for a short half day trip on the Mississippi River. No experience or equipment necessary.

Adults $50

Youth under 18 $10


Saturday, April 13, 2019

9:00 AM 12:00 PM

Join us for a half day canoe trip on the Sunflower River. No experience or equipment necessary!

Adults- $25

Youth under 18 $5


Mon, Jun 3, 2019 8:00 AM Fri, Jun 7, 2019 2:00 PM

107 Perry Street Helena, AR 72342 United States (map)

Are you ready to embark on an adventure of a lifetime? On this five day trip, you will be part of the crew as we travel down the river. Each day we will wake up, cook breakfast, load up the boats and paddle approximately 20 miles on the river. While on the water you will help maneuver the boat, and learn from the experienced guides about how to navigate on the water.

We will stop along the way to go for walks, swims or learn about the wildlife along the Mississippi. You’ll learn how to cook over a fire and set up camp. Each night you’ll sleep on beautiful sandy beaches along the river.

…More about 3 exploratory expeditions:
Spring on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Mon Mar 25 - Sat Mar 30

Pearl River Expedition — Naturalist’s Retreat in Voyageur Canoe

Mon April 22 - Sat 27

Horn Island Expedition — Artist’s Retreat in Voyageur Canoe

May 2019

Mon May 20 - Sat May 25

Pascagoula River Expedition — Naturalist’s Retreat in Voyageur Canoe

Paddles Up: Congrats Clarksdale!

Expedia Names Clarksdale As The Best Place To Escape In Mississippi!


Our Dream for Quapaw Canoe Company in 2019:

"To share the raw, wild, power & beauty of the big river
with patience, balance and compassion
for our clients
for the river
for all its creatures
and for our mother earth"


The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch "Voice of the Lower Mississippi River" is published by the Quapaw Canoe Company. Photos and writing by John Ruskey, Mark River and others. Please write for re-publishing. Feel free to share with friends or family, but also credit appropriately. Go to www.island63.comand click on "Quapaw Dispatch" for viewing back issues of the LMRD.


Unsubscribe: If you feel you have received this newsletter in error, please go to bottom of page and hit "Click to Unsubscribe"


The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

is brought to you courtesy of

The Quapaw Canoe Company


Our Projects:

Rivergator: 1Million words describing the Lower Mississippi River, overseen by the LMRF:

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

Our Friends:

Lower Mississippi River Foundation is dedicated to promoting stewardship of the Lower and Middle Mississippi River through deep engagement.

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

Our Range: