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LMRD 805 ~ Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
"Voice of the Lower Mississippi River"
~~~Monday, Oct 26, 2020~~~

Special Scary Halloween Issue:
A Muddy Walk... into the Valley of Orange Death...

...last week the trail took me into the valley of death...

...full of phantasmagorical, swirling shapes and colors in the muddy floodplain. recently the water had retreated in the low water conditions of the Mississippi, the lowest in years, down to 2.0 on the helena gage... was scary... dozens of dead turtles...

...trails leading to dead ends and turtle shell bodies, their spirits long departed, only skeletons remain... early halloween experience maybe?, not just scary, it was stinky, confounding, upsetting, the images and smell memories not leaching away easily like the colors in the mud...

...the very worst kind of scary experience... more loss of wildlife... life is becoming so precious.... everyday becoming more scarce and more precious...

...a death of species not to be ignored, i am was puzzled -- why?

...a deceivingly pretty place -- dozens of dead turtles surrounding this one particular low water inlet on island 62... everything stained orange...

...a pooling place, the water trapped between undulations in the sandy river bottom, metallic colors leaching into the pools, festering in algal blooms...

...other tracks mixing with trutles, heron, egret, some small shorebirds, lots of raccoon... i started wondering what metals oxidize what color, maybe heavy metals? maybe other substances?

A quick internet search revealed the following:


Tarnish Black




Pinkish red

Reddish Brown or Rust Color


...i was seeing predominantly oranges, yellows, reddish tones, maybe this was some kind of mixture of iron and chromium?

the metallic blues could be manganese and copper? what about lead and arsenic? what colors do they express?

...nothing but dead turtles, although we found a dead raccoon across the river on island 63...

...mud is known to absorb and trap chemicals, like the fat does in our bodies... you cannot dredge certain parts of certain rivers and lakes, for instance, because of the layers of DDT locked into the layers of sediment on their bottoms...

...wondering if low water creates some kind of reverse pressure on the muddy layers?

...sorry about all the questions, and so few answers...

life is a constant mystery unfolding before our eyes, wandering towards the light glowing on the horizon, maybe no easy answers...

...but if nothing else we can keep on walking...

any input from you readers?

...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? personally 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, river-time 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


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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