Close Window

LMRD Vol 8 No 11

The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

Voice of the Wild & Mysterious Lower Mississippi River

The Mark River Blog:

“What is a River Citizen?"

“What is a River Citizen?" is a common question that I am asked on a daily basis. Though hard to explain, you have to live it to understand, and the first step in my eyes is through introduction.

At Quapaw Canoe Company our main goal is to introduce all walks of life to the Mississippi River. Knowing without introduction, there is no way of developing the relationship needed to understand the diversity of this sacred river and the significance of protecting and preserving it for mankind and future generations.

On the weekdays, if not on an expedition, the Mighty Quapaws and KIPP Delta Collegiate combine for an after school program for Helena area youth using the Mississippi River as our stage to develop self esteem, discipline, and leadership characteristics needed to curve the cycles of poverty that many endure on a daily basis in the Delta. Many have been raised to avoid the river and we are determined to change this mindset through introduction. It allows me to explain to them where their clean water comes from and how it's effected by litter. I can explain the barge industries and how it generates income for their town. They see commercial fisherman with bounties of fish letting them know the resources the river provides. They watch flocks of pelicans traveling from bend to bend gorging themselves on Asian carp. We take them to Buck Island, a place many have seen from the shore, but never set foot. It's wonderful to see parents pick kids up from class, slowly changing negative perceptions of the river that has been embedded in their minds forever, by the introduction of their offspring.

Every paddle stroke brings me closer to the river. It allows me to feed my need for physical sport while providing canvas and stage for my environmental stewardship. It also allows me to train river citizens on the trials and tribulations of the river what they can do to help. With the help of the river's profound personal effect it's has -- once introduced -- they can apply these same concepts to their local rivers, tributaries, and distributaries hoping the collective conglomerate of efforts by all river citizens works toward a healthier river and build a foundation for systemic success.

As I stare at a map of the Mississippi River Drainage System, I couldn't help noticing the resemblance between the circulatory system of the human body. That's it! The Mississippi River is the bloodline of our country and should be treated as such. I realize that everyone is a river citizen in their own way. Some might represent like myself by physical actions like exploration or environmental clean ups. Some by policy and advocacy. Some by picking up a piece of litter in the neighborhood or ask a neighbor not to dump pollutants in the sewer. It doesn't matter. We are a team and every position is of equal importance. Become a river citizen today.

Mark River

1Mississippi Intern

Quapaw Canoe Company

Lower Mississippi River Foundation