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LMRD 794 - Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
"Voice of the Lower Mississippi River"
Monday, Aug 24, 2020 ~ Grandfather Cypress

Grandfather Cypress: the spirit of this stately, mature cypress is leading us in our quest to find and share the skills to survive in the New World! BEAM-ing 13 sessions in 10 months, 2020-2021. No charge, open to all.

We chose a cyress tree in our backyard... what trees are in yours?

~~~Your Turn~~~

Please share with us, in an email reply to
1) What kind of trees do you have in your back yard?
2) And which would you chose for a dugout canoe?
3) and why that tree?


Session #1 Now on Vimeo:

BEAM Intro: Meet Our Dug-Outs!

BEAM Session 1: The Spirit of the Tree


View on Facebook and see comments:
Facebook Live Stream (Archived):

Thanks to the approx 500 who joined us for the FB live event Session #1 -- and asked thoughtful questions -- and thanks for those who shared your visions of Spirit in the Tree... we'll be sharing ours as they come out.

On the banks of the Sunflower River in downtown Clarksdale...

Stands Grandfather Cypress, over 100 feet tall and over 150 years old...

With lyrical branches full of expressive melody...

~~~Your Turn~~~

1) What spirit do you feel in Grandfather Cypress?
2) Do you have a vision for our dugout canoe?
Please share with us, in an email reply to


And a stout, elliptical trunk, 41" x 48", in 2 diameters...

Grandfather Cypress, and a canoe within...

The solid presence of giant tree that was born when Clarksdale was just a dream, and the Delta was covered in endless forests of big trees...

The dugout canoe is civilization's oldest form of transportation (8,000+ years). This ancient tradition will be revived and made visible from our home base, along the banks of the Sunflower, in downtown Clarksdale (Note: North is more or less parallel to the flow of the river, pointing up)...

Some select comments from live FB Feed:

This is special:
On Wed, Aug 19th, we had about 500 people live with us on the FB live feed, from all over Mississippi (Ecru, Tupelo, Vardaman, Port Gibson, Jackson, Flora, Vicksburg and Clarksdale), the South (Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas), and beyond -- including Colorado, Oregon (Hullo Willow Bill!), Minnesota (Whoo-whoop Nephpew!), England (Magic Mississippi!) and Germany -- with 30 or so making comments. Thanks for the assistance with geometry and calculations Annette Anderson, Kevin White and Richie Dickson!

What Spirit did viewers discover? Annette saw a butterfly in metamorphosis, and Angie saw a banana.

PS: We're still looking for that spirit! please share if you saw or felt something, send ideas (or drawings) to Thanks!

Michael Anderson
· 31:10Whooop whoop from northern waters!

Elspeth Fimpel
· 32:54Hi y'all from rainy England, good to see John & River looking well.

Colleen Buyers
· 38:50OOH can John show us how to recognize poison ivy vs. good-ivy?

Melinda Mattingly
· 3:24Boulder, Colorado. The yard looks like dry, high prairie right now. Love the sound and look of water!

Richie Dickson

· 51:46John, I think the tree is 8-12 feet taller than you estimated because the road where the shadow ended is that much higher than the base of the tree. Just eye balled this afternoon.

Quapaw Canoe Company
· 0:00Richie Dickson, I think you're right. My gut feeling was that it stands 100-120 feet tall. Thanks for that input! I was trying to imagine how the rise of the bank would effect the shadow.

Annette Anderson
· 24:50If your radius is 24” (2’) your circumference should be about 151”

Kevin White
· 23:59An ellipse that is 48 inches one direction, 41 the other, has a circumference of 140 inches. So 12'3" is just about right.

Scooter Whatley
· 51:02That Spirit of the Tree question seems very interesting

Quapaw Canoe Company - Vicksburg Outpost
· 21:37Signed in with Love now!

Quapaw Canoe Company - Vicksburg Outpost
· 48:09Wow 8,000 years. Amazing

Quapaw Canoe Company - Vicksburg Outpost
· 48:53How high did the Sunflower flood go above the spot you’re at?

Angie Grant
· 4:14I just love this!!

Colleen Buyers
· 44:31Thank you! David observes that John's not wearing shoes... serious adventuring here.

Mark Fingerhut
· 4:05Hi John. St. Louis, MO. Surrounded by rivers, MO, Miss, Mereamec, Des Peres

Jessie Boz Cozine
· 11:15Shreveport Louisiana ! Near Caddo Lake - home of the last Caddo Bateau

Helen Spencer
· 3:16Hello from dark drizzly London - lovely to see you both out paddling

Crystal Wimberly
· 44:56I love that he isn't wearing shoes!

Annette Anderson
· 38:13Great camera work my friend

Rebecca Lorenz
· 28:46Hello from Germany!

Elspeth Fimpel
· 33:19Hi Tanner, hi Layne, Joe you're doing well x

Scooter Whatley
· 18:42How y’all gonna cut that big tree down?

Willie Mounce
· 8:33Ecru ms

Colleen Freeman
· 9:42Hi from vicksburga

Angie Grant
· 34:27I feel/ see a banana

Scooter Whatley
· 9:27I’m in Jackson MS

Annette Anderson
· 34:53I like the idea of a butterfly that changes from one form to another

Leonette Pep Henderson
· 11:46Hey guys!!!!

Scooter Whatley
· 43:48Real men right there!

Layne Logue
· 20:48Whoo whoop!!! My brothers!

Annette Anderson
· 47:50John have you heard of the ceremony that asks the tree spirit to leave?

Crystal Wimberly
· 47:23What creatures live in the sunflower river?

Sandra Perry
· 37:07Yes! Reading my mind!! Thank you for the offering.

Tanner Aljets
· 46:43Hey, skink buddy!!! Juvenile!

Tanner Aljet
· 51:25I was thinking it was "spotted" or "speckled"

Richie Dickson
· 1:00:57Great start to a wonderful project!

Tanner Aljets
· 48:42River rats! Hahaha

William Donald Goulardt
· 9:21Love from the WILLOWS on the Oregon Coast

LaNae Abnet
· 21:53Watching now (late ...Missing everyone

Hayden Glenn Hall
· 2:44Watching from right here

Wanda Bouchillon
Looking good!

Margie Bufkin
· 9:11Watching from Port Gibson, MS

Donna Marie Mitchell
· 3:24This is in my back yard!

Robert J Dexter
· 2:42Tupelo Quapaw

Ron Willett
· 3:01Flora MS 39071


Backyard Expeditions Arkansas Mississippi
BEAM Schedule 2020/2021


Planning & Development
(Create Rough Draft Dugout Canoe Poster)


Session 1: Wed, August 19th
First Session! Jump on board the canoe and join us on a a short journey up the Sunflower River, paddling through downtown Clarksdale to the cypress tree that we will be using as our dugout log stock, to discover the spirit in the tree.


Session 2
Dugout Canoe:
Divine the Spirit of the Canoe
Cut Gunnel Profile
(Print Posters and send to all participants)

Session 3
Fishes, Turtles, Snakes — Mark River

Session 4
Dugout Canoe:
Hollowing Out
Rough Carving of Hull Interior

Session 5
Mushrooms, Fungi and Bugs — Tanner Aljets
Basic Bicycle Mechanics


Session 6
Connection to Nature: Sketching & Watercolor Painting
— John Ruskey

Session 7
Dugout Canoe:
The Heart
Cut Canoe Shape out of Log

Session 8
Poetry in Motion — Allie Grant

Session 9
Dugout Canoe:
Think Like A Fish
Score Keel, Shape Hull Exterior

Session 10
Backyard Birding — Matt Sutton

Session 11
Wild Herbs and Plant Art — Lindsay Kohlasa

Session 12
Dugout Canoe:
Freedom: Carve Canoe Profile

Session 13
Dugout Canoe:
Decorations; Add Decks, Thwarts, and Seats?

June 30
Project Completion, Evaluations

BEAM is Overseen by the Quapaw Canoe Company, in partnership with the the Mississippi Arts Commission, the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, and the Lower Mississippi River Foundation.

Made possible with a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commisssion

The Spirit of the Tree (Session 1 of 13)

The launch of the BEAM project takes participants and viewers aboard the Quapaw canoe up the Sunflower River, paddling through downtown Clarksdale to the cypress tree that will be used as log stock for the new, dugout canoe that will be carved over the course of the year using only hand tools. Wilderness guide and voyageur John Ruskey will introduce key survival and cultural concepts, such as the eons-old tradition of the dugout canoe, which dates back to the original Mississippian boat builders. Ruskey will explain the philosophy behind locating the “spirit of the tree” prior to beginning the process of building the canoe.

View on Facebook and see comments:

Facebook Live Stream (Archived):

View on Vimeo:

BEAM Intro: Meet Our Dug-Outs!

BEAM Session 1: The Spirit of the Tree

The BEAM team: river guide & canoe builder, Mark River, and BEAM co-director, and film-maker, Allie Grant, not seen, co-director John Ruskey.

about BEAM:

BEAM Backyard Expeditions Mississippi/Arkansas is a yearlong project of Quapaw’s that brings to life the complete experience of creating a dug-out canoe, its journey from start to finish, for our Mississippi and Arkansas kids! In partnership with the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, The Lower Mississippi River Foundation, and the Mississippi Arts Commission, we have created a series of live-streamed interactive video sessions for students and communities, focusing on canoe carving, along with a myriad of other survival skills, such as: transportation (bicycle maintenance, carving dugout canoe); shelter (building a lean-to tent, setting up a tent); food (gardening, gathering wild foods and cooking over campfire); health (purifying water, ID and gathering of wild foods, wild spices & herbs); animal identification (birding, tracking). We are also sharing the tools, history and inspiration that provide nourishment, sustainability and indeed survival for the soul! Including home-grown & cultivated arts, plant arts, literature, poetry, plein air sketching, and watercolors.

Made possible with a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission.

For more information on BEAM, including full session plans and opportunities for tailored student engagement, contact Allie Grant at

Spirit Canoe (watercolor by John Ruskey)

Mississippi Arts Commission


Mark River’s Podcast: May the River be with You

Season #2 is now live! Click Here to listen on Stitcher. This episode of "May the River be With You" features new music and stories about Mississippi River Flooding and Infrastructure.

6 more to come in the next year or so. Chief guide and youth leader, Mark River, is host -- and designs program. John Ruskey provides music and commentary. Recorded and edited by Coop Cooper. Supported by the Mississippi River Network.

"May the River be with You" speaks to many aspects of our deepest feelings, our goals and our overarching mission in everything we do at Quapaw Canoe Company. The podcasts are filled with river stories and original river music!

On Stitcher:

Episode Info:
May The River Be With You. 33 mins. Flooding and Infrastructure. In this episode, Mark River interviews John Ruskey about the worsening flood events along the Mississippi River and how human engineering - in a benevolent attempt to keep the river stable for development, agriculture, commerce - has unintentionally endangered the crucial wetlands and put communities such as New Orleans at risk. Recorded in Clarksdale Miss. Published Aug 11, 2020.


If you want to get outside, and get on the river, we have figured out how to do it safely, even amongst the challenges of the virus: one person, one family, one group at a time, no mixing & matching, and do your own food and shuttling. Cheaper that way also!

Guided trips to the otherworldy wilderness of Island 63 or the Montezuma Islands, pricing starts at $85/each.

Self-guided canoe rentals on the Sunflower River in downtown Clarskdale. $25/each.

Call trip coordinator Allie Grant 662-627-4070, guides John Ruskey 662-902-7841, or Mark River 662-902-1885, and we'll make it happen! (In Vicksburg-Natchez area please call Capt. Layne Logue 601-529-7354 for other awesome daytrip options!)

Quapaw Canoe Company Pandemic Protocol:

We are using virus-era protocol for safety: 1) clients are doing their own shuttling and 2) providing their own food. We are only doing custom guided trips for individuals, friends, or families. No large groups or mixing & matching of groups. We are setting up hand washing station at landings and all stop places on trip. No hugs or handshakes. Practice safe CDC protocol with hand sanitation, use face masks in enclosed indoor places, and etc, and etc. Our staff and all Clients must sign Covid-19 agreement. Temperature taken before activity. If you are virus positive, or have been in recent contact with someone, stay home!

Quapaw Virus Protocol

The canoe and the river present special challenges and advantages:

1) no hugs or handshakes. We’re doing Japanese style bow, or tip your hat, or other no touch methods of greet and goodbyes. Don’t be insulted when we don’t hug…. We still love you!

2) Wash your hands frequently: We will make hand washing and hand sanitizer available to any visitors to our Clarksdale home base location. If you visit, go directly to one of our bathrooms and wash your hands! Use paper towels to dry, and then throw away.

3) Island Hand Wash: We will set up hand washing station with soap wherever we stop on river

4) Everyone should carry personal hand soap and/or hand sanitizer on canoe to use as needed.

5) If you have to sneeze, or cough, it’s easy in the canoe — use a disposable hand kerchief or paper towel, and sneeze towards water, away from center of canoe! Be aware of which way the wind is blowing!

6) you can always wash your hands in the river seated in the canoe. Use your personal hand soap and/or hand sanitizer. Biodegradable soaps are always a good choice for nature-friendly cleanliness (such as Dr. Bronner’s or other).

7) in public places, it’s also good to avoid touching common surfaces as much as possible -- for us that’s the paddles, life jackets and sides of the canoe. At any stops, keep your paddle and life jacket at your designated seat, or on shore. We will sanitize gunnels and seats in between trips, and at all stops during trips.

Note: As far as I can tell, vigorous hand washing with soap for 20 seconds is more effective than hand sanitizer. On the sandbars add sand for extra grit!

Info on traveling within the US:

General recommendations on prevention:

If you have any questions, or etc, see below for my contact. Feel free to write or call back!

Our Partners:

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


Mississippi Arts Commission invests in our state’s makers through a variety of grant programs supporting nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and individual artists. Through the arts, diverse communities of all sizes can better identify shared values, create vibrant public spaces, and enhance the effectiveness of schools. The arts also attract visitors who leave with a strong, positive image of Mississippi. Fostering excellence in the arts provides the inspiration to generate a higher quality of life for all citizens.


The Walter Anderson Museum of Art inspires discovery, imagination, and community-building on the Gulf Coast and beyond through programs, exhibitions, and outreach; and embodies Walter Anderson’s vision for societies in harmony with their environments. "Our mission is to empower lifelong curiosity and connection to the natural world through the art of Walter Anderson and kindred artists."


1Mississippi River Citizen Program: River Citizens are people who want to clean up and protect America’s greatest River. Whether in armchairs or wading boots, River Citizens protect the River by speaking up on its behalf and caring for it in simple ways that make a big difference. Together, we can protect the River for future generations. Take the first step today and sign up for free as a River Citizen at 1Mississippi, can the River count on you?"


Balance, Diversity, Democracy

Quapaw Canoe Company core values are balance, diversity, and democracy, which all derive from our experience paddling big canoes on the big waters of North America. Balance is exemplified by the passage of our canoes. Everything we do is about keeping even keel. To do otherwise is dangerous to our health and well-being. Pandemic and police brutality are symptoms of the imbalance we seek to counteract in our services and work as canoe builders, guides & outfitters. Other imbalances include species loss, global warming, and loss of wild places. Diversity for us includes all peoples and all creatures great and small. We have always created equal access for all. Our staff reflects our regional demographics, around 60% Black and 40% White. Since 1998 we have made it our mission to make sure all communities found along the Lower Mississippi River enjoy equal access to the wonders of the big river, and the life changing experience of the wilderness. Our adventures practice the best qualities of Democracy. Everyone in the big canoe sets aside their differences and paddles together for the good of the whole. We believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Inherent in life is the right to breathe clean air, the right to drink clean water, the right to eat good food, and the right to live in healthy shelter, in healthy communities.