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LMRD Vol 8 No 9

The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

Quapaw Canoe Company

40th Anniversary of the US Clean Water Act

This fall we are celebrating the rivers of America with the 40th Anniversary of the US Clean Water Act. The Oct 18, 1972 Clean Water Act led to the cleanup of the Mississippi River, as well as most of its tributaries -- and in fact most rivers everywhere in the Unites States, which had long been suffering with neglect from industry, agriculture and cities along their channels. New York’s Hudson River, Ohio’s Cuyahoga, and New Mexico’s Rio Grande all benefitted from the Clean Water Act and subsequent enforcement. The Mississippi River rebounded from decades of degradation after the 1972 law went into place, although in recent years it has been increasingly suffering from nutrient overload (notably nitrogen) and urban storm-water runoff. This summer of low water has led to massive kills of river fish who have become trapped in dead back channels and isolated pools which dried up. The health of the Mississippi depends upon water quality, but also quantity. When the water gets too low at New Orleans there is a wedge of salt water that drives upstream along the river bottom and threatens freshwater intakes for all people who derive river drinking water. How can we ensure healthy levels of flow? By defending wetlands along the river and its tributaries and creating new wetlands in lowlands connected to the main channel. Wetlands connected to the river act as buffers to change in water flow, and furthermore clean the water as it flows in and out.

Everyone deserves clean water - it is vital for our health, communities, environment and economy. We have made great progress in reducing pollution during the past 40 years. But many challenges remain and we must work together to protect clean water for our families and future generations. Everyone has an impact on the water and we are all responsible for making a difference. Water is worth it.

Go to for updates, photos, essays and more information.

I like what New Zealand recently did with its 3rd longest river, the Whanganui, in granting the river the same rights as a person… (see below for interesting news item sent to me from Joel Charles -- thanks Joel!)

New Zealand Grants a River the Rights of Personhood

(by Stephen Messenger -

“From the dawn of history, and in cultures throughout the world, humans have been prone to imbue Earth's life-giving rivers with qualities of life itself -- a fitting tribute, no doubt, to the wellsprings upon which our past (and present) civilizations so heavily rely. But while modern thought has come to regard these essential waterways more clinically over the centuries, that might all be changing once again.

“Meet the Whanganui. You might call it a river, but in the eyes of the law, it has the standings of a person.

“In a landmark case for the Rights of Nature, officials in New Zealand recently granted the Whanganui, the nation's third-longest river, with legal personhood "in the same way a company is, which will give it rights and interests". The decision follows a long court battle for the river's personhood initiated by the Whanganui River iwi, an indigenous community with strong cultural ties to the waterway.

“Under the settlement, the river is regarded as a protected entity, under an arrangement in which representatives from both the iwi and the national government will serve as legal custodians towards the Whanganui's best interests.

"Today's agreement which recognizes the status of the river as Te Awa Tupua (an integrated, living whole) and the inextricable relationship of iwi with the river is a major step towards the resolution of the historical grievances of Whanganui iwi and is important nationally," says New Zealand's Minister for Treaty for Waitangi Negotiations, Christopher Finlayson.

"Whanganui Iwi also recognize the value others place on the river and wanted to ensure that all stakeholders and the river community as a whole are actively engaged in developing the long-term future of the river and ensuring its wellbeing," says Finlayson.

“Although this is likely the first time a single river has been granted such a distinction under the law, chances are it's not the last. In 2008, Ecuador passed similar ruling giving its forests, lakes, and waterways rights on par with humans in order to ensure their protection from harmful practices.

“And, while it may seem an odd extension of rights, in many ways it harkens back to a time when mankind's fate was more readily acknowledged as being intertwined with that of the rivers, lakes, and streams that sustained us -- a time in which our purer instincts towards preserving nature needn't be dictated by legislation.”

Quapaw Canoe Co.

Fall 2012 Schedule

This Fall

Get to know YOUR river!


Saturday, Sept 15th 9am-3pm. Free short guided canoe tours of the Tensas River, Louisiana in conjunction with the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge Hunting and Fishing Day event on Saturday, September 15, 2012. The event will be held on the Refuge's Visitor Center grounds on Quebec Rd., off Hwy 80 in Tallulah, LA from 9am-3pm. For more information on the Hunting and Fishing Day celebration at the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge or the National Wildlife Refuge System, contact the Refuge at 318-574-2664 ext. 103.

Sat Sept 15 9-11 a.m. Wolf River Harbor Cleanup. A clean-up representing students with the University of Memphis, concerned citizens, Memphis City Beautiful, affiliates of the Lipscomb & Pitts Breakfast Club, and many others who helped with the McKellar Lake clean-ups last year. Contact Colton Cockrum for more information at See below for complete description.

Saturday Sept 22nd, Mississippi River Bear Dance, by invitation only, contact for more information.

All September -- Lisa Kurts Gallery presents Watercolor Painters of the South including Walter Anderson, Bill Branch, Gary Bukovnik, Peter Opheim, John Ruskey, Carol Sams and Jeanne Seagle. 766 South White Station Road in Memphis. Call 901-683-6200 for more information.


Thursday Oct 4 - Sat Oct 6, the 27th Annual King Biscuit Blues Festival! Helena, Arkansas. The best of the down-home delta blues with the Mississippi River right behind you! Headliners: Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal. Go to for complete lineup and more information.

Sat Oct 6 Paddle & Float a celebration of the Mississippi River with big canoes and legendary professional guides “Driftwood Johnnie” and “Big Muddy” Mike Clark, sandbar feast, music, and much, much more! 17 miles on the river. Join in voyageur canoe (no experience necessary) or paddle your own craft. Shelby Forest to downtown Memphis. A fundraiser presented by the Mississippi River Corridor - Tennessee. Contact or for more information.

Saturday Oct 13 the Eleventh Annual Phatwater Kayak Challenge 42 miles down the Mississippi River and no speed limit! Port Gibson to Natchez-Under-the-Hill. Go to for more info.

Saturday Oct 13 Woodville Deer & Wildlife Festival with a live dugout canoe carving exhibition. Woodville, Mississippi. Go to for complete descriptions and contact info.


Fri Nov 2 - Sun Nov 4, Paddle and Explore the Big Sunflower River through Delta National Forest! Anguilla to Holly Bluff to the Little Sunflower. Big trees, deep woods, spectacular fall colors and abundant wildlife. Contact for more information.

PS: More information about the Sept 15th Wolf River Harbor Cleanup:

Greetings everyone! We are officially getting word out about the Sept 15th clean-up of the Wolf River Harbor/Mud Island area. Many of you have joined us at our McKellar Lake clean-ups where we picked up 15,000 pounds of trash in five clean-ups. It’s awesome citizens like yourself that make these clean-ups such a success. Check-in and parking will be on the grassy area between Mud Island River Park and the Greenbelt Park (see map below). The clean-up officially starts at 9 a.m. We’re tentatively on Mayor Wharton’s calendar, so there’s a chance that he will be there to speak and kick-off this event. We have a MATA bus there as well to help transport everyone to the clean-up spots in the harbor. Also, Outdoors Inc. is serving as the official corporate sponsor of this clean-up. They have been tremendous in promoting the health and access of our rivers (Go check out one of their awesome stores when you get the chance). Special thanks also to Memphis City Beautiful, Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club, and Brad Silver for partnering with us on this clean-up. There are many many other groups who have committed to coming and have blasted the clean-up out on their listservs. While I’m sure I’ll forget someone, I want to mention several groups in particular: the Wolf River Conservancy, Outdoors Inc, Univ of Memphis student groups, Christian Brothers University, the Sierra Club-Chickasaw Chapter, Mississippi River Corridor, the Corps of Engineers, Rhodes College, tnAchieves, Surfrider Foundation, Memphis University School, and Olive Branch High School.

Here’s what you need to know:

Clean-up: Takes place from 9-11 a.m. We will meet and check-in at the place listed on the map. After a brief welcome, we will divide up into groups and head out to clean-up sites around the Wolf River Harbor. To get to parking/check-in: Cross over the AW Willis Bridge into Mud Island/Harbor Town, take the roundabout to your left, exit as if you were heading towards Mud Island Riverpark, parking will be on your right. Look for tables, cars, and people ready to dominate some trash

What to Bring: Bring a pair of gloves, wear long pants and old shoes (old boots preferably). Bring your own water bottle (we’ll have some water available but bring your own just in case). We’ll be working around the Harbor, so you might get a little dirty.

Future clean-ups: While we have focused on the Wolf River Harbor for this clean-up and possibly future ones, we always have a special place in our heart for McKellar Lake! We’ll be returning there in November to reunite with the lake and to evict trash.

Contact Colton Cockrum for more information about Memphis area Mississippi River cleanups at