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LMRD Vol 8 No 10

The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

Voice of the Wild & Mysterious Lower Mississippi River

Dedicated to the memory of

Mary Margaret Welsh Kirkland

RIP 1961-2012

We miss you, you sassy gal,

We love you!

The Mark River Blog:

Water for Life

By Mighty Quapaw Youth Leader Mark “River” Peoples

1 Mississippi Southern Region Intern

Coming off the healing ceremony of the equinox, the Bear Dance, I'm feeling focused and energized for the season ahead. With fall arriving fast and football season in full throttle my body and mind drift with the Mississippi River, my travels as a Mighty Quapaw, and processing ideas and adventures yet to be documented and shared. With the anniversary of the Clean Water Act of 1972 upon us I'm compelled to share my journeys and the significance of this piece of legislation which saved our waterways and wetland ecosystems. In my universe, the Clean Water Act is as epic of an event as the Louisiana Purchase, the acquisition that acquired the western reaches of the Mississippi River and it's western tributaries. The Clean Water Act regulates industries and other establishments for profits, making them responsible for discharges of bioaccumulative toxins of PCB's( manmade chemicals) and PCDE's (flame retardants) which eventually contaminate river bottoms, then the benthic community, and works itself up the food chain.

Being a Mighty Quapaw I am connected and intimate with with our great rivers and streams. As summer creeps into fall my internal instincts alters my moods and brings the excitement of things ahead. I man my canoe for a overnight expedition past Island 64 and into the Muddy Waters Wilderness below. The gray cool day is infinitely beautiful with sandbars angelic curvature creating a canvas and setting of a desert with only an occasional fish carcass skeletal system altering the landscape. The water is low and beautiful with pelicans, egrets, herons, and other fish eating birds celebrating the reception of a great summer. As usual, a bald eagle welcomes me to the sacred Mississippi River, causing me to pause and thank the Creator for the restoration of the species affected in the late 70's by the runoff of the poisonous DDT use by farmers. The banning of these chemicals were directly related to the passing of the Clean Water Act of 1972. I get emotional knowing the passing of this legislation preserved this great resource for myself and generations to come.

I contain my emotions and realize that the Mississippi River is only as healthy as it's tributaries. I recall my introduction to the Yellowstone River, a tributary of the Missouri River. Us Mighty Quapaws arrived in Livingston, Montana, in the middle if the night, with only the sounds of the current meandering around the shoals of rock. The sky altogether as vast and beautiful as the wide skies of the Lower Mississippi River Delta, it's features leap into your mind as if the Creator took a water balloon of stars and splashed them against the mountains. Thick clusters of stars side by side as if fireworks exploded, but never descended to earth. I sleep with roaring sound of the river anticipating the parabolic view of the mountains that I will receive in the morning. The morning doesn't disappoint as mountains seem to rise from the earth. Walking to the shores of the Yellowstone, I notice I'm not alone as whitetail deer drink and graze 20 feet upwind from human existence, while a beautiful Montana stallion gallops down the mountain for a drink. Rainbow trout tread the shoals waiting patiently for the warming of the sun to trigger the first hatch of flies. With the oil and mining industries prevalent in the Northwest, it's great to see this great river healthy and thriving. Another ecosystem directly affected by the Clean Water Act of 1972.

Nearly 25 years ago, my father purchased approximately 100 acres of land in the St. Francis Mountains of the Mark Twain National forest in Iron County, Missouri near the headwaters of the St. Francis River. Approaching retirement, he wanted to fulfill his father's dream of creating and working a portion of land that would provide the resources essential to sustain human life while reintroducing wildlife to a forest which had been depleted by the lumber industry and streams contaminated from the mining industry. For a great price, my family acquired a fresh water spring and aquifer filtered by the limestone beds deposited by the shallow seas of long ago. We created a lake which is now booming with catfish, bluegill, and bass. It created a freshwater resource for the wildlife keeping them frequenting our land. It's a food resource for raccoons, weasels, fox, and bobcats. Eagles, herons, and egrets keep our lake balanced. Owls and hawks canvass our land taking an occasional chicken and keeping the pack rat population in check. This process of creating a habitat can only be achieved if you have a freshwater source, and the legal means to protect it. That why the Clean Water Act is so monumental.

Einstein once said, "make every equation simple as possible, but no simpler", spawning my title "Water for Life." That's as simple as it gets. Without water there is no life.

Become a river citizen today and continue to protect our most valuable resource. Thank you Clean Water Act.

-Mark River

(*Note: you can help us celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the US Clean Water Act with FREE CANOE & KAYAK & SUP Rentals on the Mississippi River and Sunflower Rivers. Participate in a river Clean-Up. Get to know your river! See below Oct 18th for more information).

This Fall

Get to know YOUR river!


Thursday Oct 4 - Sat Oct 6, Pass Da Biscuits! Its 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. Quapaw Canoe Company - Helena will be open throughout weekend for guided tours & rentals. Helena Harbor Ferry. 1 Mississippi River Citizen signup. For complete lineup and more information go to http:/

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.

Sat, Oct 13th Canoe/Kayak Clinic 8am-4pm Cypress Black Bayou Park, Benton, Louisiana. Learn how to load and unload your boat, tie the boat down properly to your vehicle, how to carry your boat, learn about boat types and outfitting your boat to your body safely. You will also learn many new paddling strokes, the right and wrong gear to have, self-rescue, river signals, river classification's, how to plan a trip and many other necessary skills to be a great paddler. The class is $70.00. We do have boats that can be rented prior to the clinic. Minimum age is 12. Register now! Deadline to register is Friday, October 5th. Only 20 spots available. Email Adam Willard at to receive your registration form and rental information. Bayou Chapter of the Ozark Society

Thursday Oct 18 -- 40th Anniversary Celebration of the US Clean Water Act! Free Paddling on the Mississippi River! Buck Island and Helena Harbor Cleanup. 1pm-6pm from Quapaw Canoe Company 411 Ohio Street in downtown Helena, Arkansas.

Thursday Oct 18 -- 40th Anniversary Celebration of the US Clean Water Act! Free Paddling on the Big Sunflower River! Sunflower River Cleanup. 9am-1pm from Quapaw Canoe Company in downtown Clarksdale, Mississippi.


Thurs Nov 1 - Sun Nov 4, Free Guided Tours! 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. Free Guided Tours Every Day! Nominal charge for canoe, kayak or SUP rental ($35/vessel + shuttle). Contact for more information.

Nov 12 - Nov 23, Low Water Expedition Memphis to Vicksburg. 360-mile long Expedition. Put in above Memphis and paddle the lowest water in almost 100 years down the Chickasaw Bluffs and into the Mississippi Delta, past the Arkansas River and the land where the blues was born all of the way down to the towering bluffs of Vicksburg. The wildest and most remote floodplain of the Lower Mississippi River. Low water has exposed steamboat and towboat wrecks, extremely rare fossils, and fantastically strange convolutions of river topography. If you’ve ever wondered what the bottom of the Mississippi River looks like, here is your opportunity! Contact for more information.

Mary Margaret Welsh Kirkland


It’s with great sadness that I share this news about my friend Margaret Kirkland. 10-time Canoe & Kayak race champion, and lover of life and everything wild in life, from the wild river to the wild mountains, from her wild husband Keith to her wild daughter Hannah. See below for Margaret’s Obit, as published last week in the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Memorials can be sent to the Wolf River Conservancy, or others (see below).

Mary Margaret Welsh Kirkland. If the love of family and friends is the true measure of riches, then Mary Margaret Welsh Kirkland was rich indeed. Margaret, 54, fought cancer with the same spirit and grit with which she lived her life. As a daughter, sister, wife and mother, she embodied strength and compassion plus a sense of fun and adventure. She was a talented photographer, could do a great yoga headstand and was a three-time winner of the Mississippi River Canoe and Kayak Race, although she was not happy that the women’s prize was less than the men’s. Margaret was the middle child in a family of five, a loving wife of 13 years to Keith Kirkland and devoted mother to 12-year-old Hannah, who was the center of her world. She fell in love with Keith because of a shared passion for the outdoors. Not even camping out in a rainstorm drinking soapy B&B could dampen her enthusiasm. Margaret loved helping people, both through her work and in her personal life. She was a proud alumna of Camp Miramichee in Hardy, Ark., a former Interlochen leader and an avid environmentalist for Ghost River Rescue. She worked for Memphis City Schools for 21 years. As a school psychologist, she gave hundreds of children the benefit of her concern and wisdom. An eclectic group of people returned her friendship by traveling from as far as Florida and California to help during her final battle. Margaret was never prouder than when watching Hannah swim or horseback ride. They raised chickens together in their backyard and played the best jokes together every April Fools’ Day. She was the point person during any family crisis, but now those who loved her will have to carry on without her, sustained by memories of her independent spirit, her feisty attitude and her great laugh. In addition to her husband and daughter, Margaret is survived by two sisters, Penny Aviotti (Pete) and Anne Halloran (Pat), both of Memphis; two brothers, Thomas Welsh Jr. of Memphis and James Richard Welsh (Wilma) of Sao Paulo, Brazil; and numerous in-laws, cousins and friends. The funeral service will be held at 4 p.m., Sunday, September 23, at First Presbyterian Church, 166 Poplar Ave., with a visitation to follow. The family asks that any memorials be sent to First Presbyterian Church, the Wolf River Conservancy or the charity of the donor's choice . Arrangements have been entrusted to: High Point Funeral Home & Crematorium (901)454-5795

Published in The Commercial Appeal on September 21, 2012

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 -- most of 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 between New Orleans and the Gulf. 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.

The current US Farm bill proposed by the Senate has provisions that encourage farmers to preserve wetlands and use simple conservation practices when farming in highly erodible soil. The House bill lacks these incentives. Call or write your Representatives and let them know what you think of this shortcoming! To find your Representative go to

* Farm Bill Update:

As expected, sadly, the House of Representatives left town without addressing the Farm Bill that was passed by the House Agriculture Committee. The current Farm Bill expired September 30, so without a new Farm Bill, price supports will revert to 1949 levels. However, the Farm Bill in place now covers this year's crops, so as farmers are harvesting their fields now and over the next couple of months, they are covered. Without a new Farm Bill, whether a multi-year or an extension of some kind, crops that are harvested in the spring, such has winter wheat, would be impacted by the new price supports. Because some crops were not added to the commodity list until after 1949 (e.g. soybeans), they would not be covered.

That said, this is not unprecedented. In 2007, Congress allowed the 2002 Farm Bill to expire and it was several months later when the 2008 Farm Bill was passed. Northeast Midwest Institute has an excellent article here with more details on what this lack of action may mean.

We can use this time to continue our push for programs to be included in the Farm Bill that are important for the health of our soils and water in the Mississippi River basin.

Americans deserve 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. Our children are worth it. Our grandchildren are worth it. Don’t you agree?

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

Check out 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.”