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LMRD 741, Tuesday, Sept 17, 2019
The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
"Voice of the Mississippi River"

Registration now open:
Sat Oct 5th: Buck Island Canoe Race
Helena, AR: The first-ever canoe race on this section of of the Mississippi River!
Registration now open, click here:
Buck Island Canoe Race Registration
**Keep reading below for more info**

MPB features the Mississippi River Oct 3rd and Oct 5th:

2-part series covering a Mississippi River Adventure on Mississippi Outdoors! Thursday Oct 3rd, 7:30pm and Sat Oct 5th at 5:30pm. On MPB, Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

Beavers and the Willows

By Mark River

It was a glorious morning in the Delta and the Sunflower River had finally started it's decline after many consecutive inches of rain push in by hurricane Rita. The Mississippi River was still flooding and we were headed to paddle in the canopy of willows watching and listening to migratory songbirds, when we run upon a traffic jam on the main road out of town adjacent to distributary of the Sunflower River. A Mother beaver, transporting baby offspring from their high water home, back to their original lodge. She was patient and didn't panic at all as on lookers in amazement root her on her quest. You can see the anxiety in the baby's eyes, wondering why Mom was taking such a chance. She held them by the back of the neck with gentle grip making sure her long forever growing teeth didn't puncture their precious skin. It immediately made me think of my deceased Mother and envy the lucky baby, to have its Mother. It was a lesson in trust, and her instinct drove her to do what's best for her offspring. The people in the vehicles cheered her on while kids pointed and scream at this experience of a lifetime. The story goes she took them one by one - and the Father crossed last.

I've been watching these incredible animals closely for the last 8 years slowly learning their habits and ingenious methods in engineering, farming,, wetland creation, and forestry. In our society, beavers are very underrated. With the infrastructure and navigational wing dams along the River, diverting water into the channel, has creating magnificent sand bars with willow forest growing along the yearly deposited sand. Willow cambium, which lies between the bark and tree, is the favorite food of beavers along the Lower Mississippi River. With tons of sand and silt not making it to the Gulf of Mexico, beavers and willows are thriving more than ever.

I take walks through the now dry forest on the islands of the River. Tall willows with sand at their trunks create beautiful camping. The palm-like trees tower high swaying in the wind creating shade all day during the hot summer days of the Delta. I can tell how high the water got by the explosion of roots in the canopy of the trees. Some have the jagged beaver cut, letting me know a beaver compromised it during the flood. They feel safer than ever during high water, being able to eat from the water building huge lodges anchored by large uprooted trees trapped between the tall willows. They also build platforms on top of their homes so they can nap during the day between feedings surrounded by water for safety. During medium water, they burrow underneath root balls of big, old sycamores, willows, and cottonwoods that have been exposed by erosion along the muddy cliff banks. They will have a garden of willows along the lower end of the sandbar were they harvest willow and swim back to the lodge. You can see the straitions in the sand every morning were they dragged the branches to the water. During this level they also like to drop large old willows into the river. Food for the winter. The following Spring, the base of the trees will sprout 8 to 12 fresh saplings. Talking about farm to table! Low water is the scariest time for beavers. Their is no efficient way to their gardens causing them to risk their lives on land. They are not the most athletic on land, so they are vulnerable to predators . Unfortunately, these are the times we find beaver skulls. Some get lucky and find a home in the back channel, but with the healthy population, first come, first serve.

One of my favorite encounters with beavers was when Quapaw Canoe Company were conducting exploratory trips along the River for The Rivergator. We were camped outside of Memphis on a sandbar peninsula with the River across and a channel behind. It was late evening when we arrive and I chose a small hump of sand closer to the back channel. I failed to notice the piles of dead weeds, leaves, and small branches near my tent. Before I realized it was a beaver scent mound, I had urinated on it, and that was a mistake. The owner of this structure protested outside my tent by smashing his tail whenever I moved or made a sound. This battle lasted throughout the night. It had my scent and was ready for a territorial dispute. That morning around 6am nature called and I head up the bluff on the back channel to find some privacy. The beaver emerged out of nowhere, swimming along side of me as I walked the bluff smashing and picking a fight. To make it worst, he brought reinforcements, a baby beaver taking lessons in tail smashing, mimicked every move with its small young tail. It was an epic natural experience to witness in the wild, so I took it all in and retreated to the woods in defeat.

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. Tune in to the Mark River podcast "May the River be With You."

MPB features the Mississippi River Oct 3rd and Oct 5th:

2-part series covering a Mississippi River Adventure on Mississippi Outdoors! Thursday night Oct 3rd, 7:30 on MPB, and Sat Oct 5th at 5:30pm.

On Mississippi Outdoors we explore the wonder of our state's natural resources and experience the thrill of outdoor adventure. From hunting and fishing to just about anything outdoors, we explore it all. Let us show you where to go and what to do.

Mississippi Outdoors is a production of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.







The Buck Island Canoe Race will be the first ever canoe race on this section of of the Mississippi River. All proceeds from the event support the Lower Mississippi River Foundation’s educational programming that connects youth in the Delta to the Mississippi River.

Caution: The Mississippi River has strong currents and can be dangerous. Strong winds may create more challenges for paddlers. See Safety Information below for more on how to paddle the Mississippi


The race begins at the mouth of the St Francis River and will travel 9 miles down the Mississippi River. The race will travel past Buck Island and end at the Helena River Park.


7:30- 8:30 Registration at LMRF’s office (107 Perry St, Helena, Arkansas)

8:30-9:00 Drive to the mouth of the St Francis

9:00-9:30 Unload boats and prep for the race

9:30- Race begins!

11:00-12:00- Estimated arrival time at Helena River Park. The course takes 1.5- 2.5 hours to run.

11:30-1:00 - Celebration at Helena River Park

1:00- Shuttle back to start


All racers are responsible for shuttling their own boat to the start at the mouth of the St Francis River. LMRF will provide a shuttle back to pick up your car at 1 pm.

If you would like to have your car driven back down so it is waiting for you at the end of the race we will shuttle it for an additional $25 fee.


All racers must wear a life jacket at all times during the race. Each boat must also be equipped with a throw rope and bailer. Boats will be checked for safety equipment at check-in.

There are strong currents on the Mississippi River that can cause challenges for boaters. We recommend that one person in your boat is an experienced paddler. Learn more about paddling on the Big River at


Minimum Donation per person

$65- Early Bird Registration before September 21st

$75- After September 21st

All proceeds from the event help support connecting youth in the Delta to the Mississippi River.

Register online or by contacting the Lower Mississippi River Foundation at 870-228-2421 or


What types of boats can enter? Canoes, kayaks and SUPs of any size are welcome!

I don’t own my own boat, can I still participate? Rentals are available from Quapaw Canoe Company. Contact them to reserve yours.

Do I need to fill out a waiver? Yes, you will fill out a waiver during check in

I don’t want to race, can I still participate? Yes! You are welcome to watch the start and end of the race with us. You can also join the celebration at the end of the race. If you plan to eat please make a $10 donation to cover the cost of food. If you want to volunteer for the day you can eat for free! Contact 870-228-2421 if you want to volunteer.

Can a youth under 18 participate? Yes! A legal guardian must be present to sign the waiver for each participant under 18.

What should I bring the day of the race? We will send you a packing list when you register.

Where can I stay in Helena? Check out motel options in Helena. Camping is available at Mississippi River State Park. Several Air B&B’s are also available in town. Check out a list of other events and attractions in Helena to plan your trip!

More info about Buck Island Canoe Race:

Event Location:

The Race will begin on the Mississippi River at the mouth of the St. Francis River, RBD mile 672.3, and proceed downstream staying right bank descending approx nine miles downstream to RBD mile 663, the mouth of the Helena Harbor, where it will round the corner into the harbor. Paddlers will continue into harbor for finish line near the Helena Harbor Boat Ramp. If the water is high enough (above 20 on the Helena Gage), the race course will go down the back channel behind Prairie Point Towhead. If the river is not high enough (below 20 on the Helena Gage), the course will continue RBD around the perimeter of Prairie Point Towhead, and then across the bottom of the island RBD, and down the harbor, all RBD. Regardless of water level, the course will stay right bank descending in its duration, and will not cross navigation channel at any point.

Description of Event:

The Helena Canoe & Kayak Race will be a recreational event from 9:30am to 12:30pm on Sat, Oct 5th for understanding and enjoyment of the Mississippi River. This will be the first-ever Helena Canoe & Kayak Race for the city of Helena, Arkansas. It is overseen by the Lower Mississippi River Foundation. We hope that it is successful, and that it will grow in future years.

Types of Participating Boats/Craft:

Canoes, all lengths

Kayaks, all lengths

Paddleboards, all lengths

Types of Participating Boats/Craft:

Canoes, all types, no restrictions

Kayaks, all types, no restrictions

Paddleboards, all types, no restrictions

Description of Event:

The Helena Canoe & Kayak Race will be a recreational event from 9:30am to 12:30pm on Sat, Oct 5th for understanding and enjoyment of the Mississippi River. This will be the first-ever Helena Canoe & Kayak Race for the city of Helena, Arkansas. It is overseen by the Lower Mississippi River Foundation. We hope that it is successful, and that it will grow in future years.

Will this event interfere/impede natural flow of traffic?

Even though the race is right bank descending and will not cross navigation channel at any point, we know that towboats sometimes make crew shifts at the mouth of the Helena Harbor RBD 663, and when they do they sometimes block the entrance to the harbor. Also, sometimes there is small tow traffic in and out of harbor moving single tows to and from the grain elevator within. So there might be some possible interference at the RBD 663 mouth of the Helena Harbor.


Now Available Online!
May the River be with You
Micro Plastics


In this episode, we talk to Maya Dizack, a University of Vermont student who is spending her summer traversing the entire length of the Mississippi River to collect water samples to study water quality and micro plastics within the ecosystem. We also talk to Quapaw Canoe Company founder John Ruskey about his observations on how micro plastics could be affecting the river environment. Also featuring "River Stories" with Coop Cooper, "Reflections" with Mark River and "River Time" with John Ruskey.

go to:


Quapaw Canoe Company guide, Tanner Aljets, recently on PRI!

The Mississippi: Pushed to the brink

Up and down the Mississippi River, new pressures are being put on America’s inland hydro highway, which helps deliver US goods and commodities to the rest of the world and allows trade flows to return. The strain on the river system is only becoming more acute with the impacts of climate change.
PRI's The World

September 03, 2019 · 2:00 PM EDT
By Jason Margolis

For story, click here:

The Mississippi: Pushed to the brink


Shout Out to Scott Shirey:

Our paddles are up and we are sending a special "shout- out' to our friend and passionate, dedicated, educator, poet, leader "Bold Eagle" Scott Shirey -- Eastern Arkansas KIPP founder/director extraordiniare -- also founding treasurer of the Lower Mississippi River Foundation. Scott, we look forward to whatever adventures lie awaiting for you around the bend!



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 and click on "Quapaw Dispatch" for viewing back issues of the LMRD.


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