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LMRD 730, Monday, June 24, 2019
Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
"Voice of the Lower Mississippi River"

Advance Note -- Now on PBS:

PBS Rivers of Life: We've been waiting for the BBC Great Rivers to reach the USA. The wait is over! Now showing on PBS, with the Mississippi episode airing July 3rd. If you miss any programs, they are all available free online at for one month. Also available as DVD and itunes. (Nile episode has already aired; Amazon on June 26th)

Mark River Journal: The Sweet Spot
Mississippi River Summer Camp 2019

It's June, and the Mississippi River is still unusually high, but here in the Lower Mississsippi, we seemed to be in the sweet spot. The Missouri River is causing havoc throughout the Midwest, and there is flooding in the upper Mississippi Valley, meanwhile the Arkansas River is breaking high-water records and then dumping into the big river near Greenville, MS. But we are in between the floods. We have a beautiful flooded forest and a few fascinating islands remain above water that are great for camping. The songbirds are in full swing. Brightly colored Baltimore Orioles flying through the trees singing and competing for females. The beavers, who usually don't build many lodges because of the vast amount of water, are building floating platforms. Bald eagles are off the main channel, taking advantage of the easy fishing in the floodplain. The female whitetail deer are showing their bright orange summer coats, while carrying offspring. They are focus on the next generation, so they seemed to not care of our presence. Turtle markings are up and down the sandy bluffs. They lay millions of eggs, which supplies the mammalian predators and scavengers valuable protein to produce healthy milk for their own newborns. This is part of the balance of nature and the turtle population does not seem to be effected. The least tern females are showing up, with the males already here. Coyotes are calling out, while wild pigs scream and squeal at a distance. Large Delta turkeys litter the sandbars stuffing themselves on sand flies and other insects. Dragonflies are seen buzzing along, while the Mississippi kites are arriving from South America, and stalking them high in the sky. There is only few acres of sand on most of the islands, so we all have to share the real estate.

Summer Camp, Island 64

The morning comes fast as I toss and turn all night waiting for the the storm. Towns all around this section of the River are getting hit with high winds and massive amounts of water. We are in the sweet spot, with storm systems to the North and South missing us. These trips are the most memorable, the ones that make you feel as if the Creator is in the boat with you, while navigating the beautiful waters of the Mississippi River, seeing least terns, bald eagles, song birds, and realizing the connection this has to us all.

The summer camp kids are tired and depleted from exploring and paddling each day with the relentless refraction and reflection of the sun. They continue to put their best foot forward learning about hydration, nutrition and how these things affect one's health and success in throughout life. It inspires me to write. I get emotional knowing the camp is creating young River stewards and passing down the duty of preserving our great River for future generations, while changing the narrative about the Mississippi River.

I've watched these kids connect with nature in just three days. When on land they are so bombarded with apps, grams, and social media rerouting their brains with synthetic information, but the River has brought out so much emotion and thought, these kids have dissected deep poems and writings like college professors, while writing quotes of their own. These kids are brilliant, but they are preoccupied with superficial things. I've witness the light bulb going off in their minds and watch them swim where they were told not to. They are my sons and brothers of the River and I am proud of them.

Summer Camp, Island 67

We exit Mellwood Lake headed for camp on Island 67. We make our crossing to avoid any upstream tows while knowing they are taking advantage of the high, slow water in the back channel. We assume correctly as one pokes its nose out of the channel, causing us to give the right-of-way, and proceed behind. It works out well as we make the turn and head towards Island 67.

The island is located right in the middle of the River. With a back channel and navigational channel in full usage, you have to think ahead and put yourself in the proper position to approach the island. During high water, a secret middle channel appears with bluffs of sand with cottonwoods and willows. It you camp in the middle of the island, you will have cover if a storm pops up and shade throughout the day. We chose properly and the conditions were perfect.

The back channel side has a high bluff of sand that is beloved by turtles. They love to lay their eggs on this bluff. Actually the local name for it is "Turtle Island.” I exit camp to scope it out and walked into thousands of least terns breeding. It was a major nursery. I look to my feet and see the small sand-colored eggs resting in a small indentation in the sand. One and two eggs are normal, but three eggs are special. I immediately brought the summer camp kids over to show them the least terns eggs and ruled the bluff off limits.

We sit in the woods from a distance and watch the mannerisms of the birds. The females keep the eggs cool by dunking their chest in the River and immediately return to the nest to protect the eggs from the relentless Mississippi River sun. The males fish and fight constantly. Stealing fish mid-air and returning to their mate to present her with the prize. She gobbles it down, gives her mate a break, before flapping wings swiftly as to say, " Get back to work", and he continues his fatherly duty.

Mark River

Mark River is Chief Guide and Youth Leader for the Quapaw Canoe Company. He is also the Southern Coordinator of 1 Mississippi's River Citizen Program. Stay tuned for upcoming Mark River podcast "May the River be With You" to be made available in July, 2019.

PBS Rivers Of Life: Mississippi
From BBC Great Rivers:
Mississippi, Amazon and Nile

We've been waiting for the BBC Great Rivers to reach the USA. The wait is over! Now showing on PBS, with the Mississippi episode airing July 3rd.

Adam Elliott and Layne Logue helped BBC Film Crew

Experience the extraordinary animals, epic landscapes, and remarkable people who live alongside three iconic rivers - the Amazon, the Nile and the Mississippi in this landmark three-part series.

Schedule on PBS:

June 19 — Nile

June 26 — Amazon

July 3rd — Mississippi

Note: if you miss program, all programs available online at for one month. Also available as DVD and itunes.

For those of you who are specifically interested in the Mississippi episode, it will broadcast nation-wide on PBS, July 3rd at 8:00pm, under the title "Rivers Of Life: Mississippi.”

The massive Mississippi – a surprising story of a river that unites this great nation.

The Mississippi reaches far beyond the Deep South; its fingers stretch into nearly half of the USA. From the frozen north – where coyotes learn to fish in icy water – down through the nation’s agricultural heart and then to the mysterious, steamy southern swamps where alligators still rule. The many faces of the Mississippi unite a nation.

Mississippi Preview:

For more information, visit PBS: Rivers of Life

Rivers of Life is available on itunes:


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.


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