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LMRD 803 ~ Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
"Voice of the Lower Mississippi River"
~~~Saturday, Oct 17, 2020~~~

finally! a break in the routine... i have a free day for the river, for a solo exploration, like i used to do to back in the 1990s... to explore... to uncover... to discover... to allow the space for amazement... in this kind of process, exploration leads to discovery. discovery turns to wonder. wonder turns into introspection. introspection leads connection. connection leads amazement... and joy... and the deep connection to the all.

a study in opposites: the rhythms of the universe... the rich biota thriving around Island63, the light & dark, life & death, raw mud and articulations of the creator...


several weeks ago i set on paddleboard from quapaw landing behind island63 in low water conditions before the arrival of the remnants of hurricane delta... i wanted to circumnavigate the island63, but i wasn't sure i could at low water (it was 2.9 on the helena gage). the last time i tried my passage was cut off by shoals of mud and sand, some thin layers of gravel. for one thing, a 20 foot tall castle-wall-like rock dike found 2 miles upstream behind the island cuts it off. but today there was flow. as a wrinkle-faced river rat i knew water flow meant it was flowing in from somewhere. i knew the channel must be flowing! historically the channel was cut off around 12 helena gage. what had changed?

thanks to a 2006 interagency collaboration thanks between the us fish & wildlife and us army corps of engineers, the dike behind island63, was reopened. now, 14 years later, the back channel of island63 has been grooved deeper. as result of the notch cut into the rock wall dike, the biota has benefitted. longer water flow, and the regeneration of low water flow habitat is critical to the survival of many species, and leads to a thriving cornucopia of life forms seen flourishing in the mud, the sand, the bank-top vegetation, and the water connecting it all. rom the microbiota algal blooms, to tiny holes in the mud which insects bored and laid eggs, to mussels in tidal pools, to fish squirming through the shallows, the egrets and herons feeding on them, the beaver in thier low-water burrows and mid-day sunning shelves, to white-tailed deer, wild boar, coyote, river otters, and other foragers and predators of the mammalian kind, the low-water canyon carved as result of the 2006 notching project has created a paradise of creation.

approaching the levee, looking over the corn and cottonfields, the river seemed to be drawing me in with atmospheric pulses... the pulse-rhythms of the universe... rolling waves of gulf moisture, riding in front of hurricane delta, permutations of cloud form approaching over the endless fields of the mississippi delta in coahoma county...

paperthin mussels and dragonfly nymph, caught in low water pool (I released them after taking photo)

paperthin mussel sticking out its foot in attempt to exit tidal pool

water coursing out of mud-encased wetlands as river levels drop, even in their infancy, moving water seeks the meander

the mud takes snapshots of time in the passage of the creator's creatures, a blue heron, later raccoon

a waterfall created by chunks of ancient mud -- ancient in the patterns of rivertime, the annual rises and falls of the ever changing river

low water burrow home carved by a beaver... 3 beaver jumped out and swam away as i paddled by

corn stalks on water's edge... this was a dicovery! beaver like corn as well as their favorite, the willow tree

a crumbling new mexico cliff? arizona? colorado? idaho? utah? no, just some old mississippi river mud, its patina colored by iron and other minerals over the passage of river time...

a view through the geometry of willow trunks splintering off the collapsing muddy banks

iron rich mineral water seeping between layers of mud, sand, and organic matter

not such a pretty scene, a swarm of maggots over a fallen warrior of the white tailed deer nation. His clipped antlers suggest he was run over by a towboat... something I have seen happen before...

a fallen hero of the lower mississippi river floodplain... what's heroic about him? any of god's creatures are now heroes in my book, due to the grave conditions all creatures face in the present threat of destructive human decadence and greed

a rich spectrum of colors in the layers of mud, mostly brown-red tonal variations, but also blues and greens, contrasted with yellowish sand

rhythms of the universe and a cosmic paddle board... this is a snapshot of our reality found of the other side of the levee, in the wilderness of mud and life fecund forms that there thrive

the river arranges matter into layers, and collections of like kind, almost always in mind arresting patterns and textures

you can tell what's been on coyote's menu by looking at the waste products -- here full of red-rich honey locust beans and pithe

a muddy plateau rises from the sandy plains below

graceful forms wrought from raw mud and sand, exposed in low water (helena gage 2.9)

the notched dike behind island63, at helena gage 2.0, thanks to bioengineering by usfw and usace, who reopened this dike years ago, leading to longer water flow, and the regeneration of low water flow habitat critical to the survival of species

why did coyote poop here? on the top of the wing dam exposed by low water? ask coyote. only coyote knows.

a small crawfish scuttling amongst mud rocks formed by the powerful flowing of the Mississippi River in high water, exposed by low water

a small tributary opens up east bank, exposing a dark & deep slot of mud and vegetation, intriguing the passer-by

a forest of red cedar poles, an old docking facility? a former wing dam? I've never noticed before

i caught these three beavers napping on a beaver ledge underneath a giant cottonwood root ball, from a big cottonwood fallen over from 2020 high-water

giant cottonwood root ball

there are endless fascinating landscapes to explore right now. The river is at the lowest its been in years, so there are entirely new, freshly rendered territories of mud and sand recently revealed, an underwater frontier that is normally covered in water, literally thousands of acres alone in the stretch we will be on, and so we are explorers seeing a new landscape never before witnessed, recently sculpted and exposed….

everyone always wants to know what the bottom of the mississippi river looks like. We will be seeing the physical answer to this question. But the more interesting question is what the experience and discovery does to our understanding and connection to the universe. this year we are seeing a 45 foot difference between flood stage and drought stage. we will make startling discoveries. we will discover things about the world, and about ourselves, and about our metaphysical connection to the all. this might express itself through discussion, music, poetry, sketching, storytelling, we can follow it all in our canoes, kayaks, paddleboards... pack your river gee-tar and writing and sketch materials...

the grey cliffs above desolation canyon, green river utah? no, sandy-muddy cliffs were sahpoed by the highwater 2020, later carved by waters as the river fell and sculpted a sandbar edge

the vermillion cliffs? comb ridge? this could be canyonlands, but the giveaway is the green tree-top canopy of willows seen rising in the distance behind!

the meander motions of water expressed in iron rich seeping from a sandbar as the river falls to lowest water levels in years...

river otter tracks and poop, fish remains, the otters had a pre-hurricane rompus on the top of this sandbar!

as remarkable as the rio grande albuquerque sandia mountain range -- a plateau cliff-line cut in ragged relief from a sandbar deposited where previously had been open water, then carved in subsequent changes of river level

our movement forward post-pandemic, is on all our minds, and in the daily conversation amongst us river rat quapaws... how will we re-emerge and recreate a better, healthier, more sustainable world next year? and the year after? and all the years to come? as a team? as a business? aersonally and collectively, this is of great concern to us. we are hands-on, and all about doing, and crafting a better world through our canoes, our activities, our river trips — all in line with our 3 core values: balance, diversity, democracy.

we hope wherever you are, you can also explore yur low water wilderness, wherever it might be found, as we explore ours... and make the internal changes that are necessary for the good of the all...

yours, sincerely, in service of the big river and its many expressions,

driftwood johnnie
aka john ruskey

the lmrd, lower mississippi river dispatch, is published on an irregular, rivertime schedule by the quapaw canoe company, which seeks regain balance by connecting homo spaiens with the rest of creation through the magic of the canoe