Close Window
Quapaw Canoe Company Your Mississippi River Adventure Starts Here!

LMRD Vol 8 No 12

The Lower Mississippi River Dispatch

Voice of the Wild & Mysterious Lower Mississippi River

Ralph Frese

Our Paddles are up for voyageur, historian, and canoe builder extraordinaire Ralph Frese. Please keep him and his family and friends in your river wishes and prayers.

Ralph is in the Skokie Illinois Hospital, and is not expected to come out. He has been battling prostate cancer for some years now, and it looks like he's losing the battle.

Ralph mentored me through the construction of our first big canoe, the 26 1/2 foot cypress strip Ladybug Canoe in 1999. Every voyageur canoe we have built since then has been somewhat indebted to his generosity, patience and unbending sense of style and historical accuracy. He scrutinized our artsy dugouts with a stern historian’s eye. I will always remember the first piece of advice he gave me: "Read, read, read! Read everything you can get your hands on" [about canoes]. I have tried to follow his advice and discover the secrets of the ancient canoe practice in the stories and drawings of the peoples who lived and settled North America. Canoes are as much a part of our story as rivers are, something mostly forgotten or ignored. Trains, planes and steamboats are but a blip in the timeline of the earth, while canoes extend through many centuries, even millennia.

A giant tree in the forest will fall when Ralph passes. A library will burn down. But his stories and canoes and everything he shared with me and many, many others will live on forever on the rivers of Canada and America and the canoes that ply their channels.

We love you Ralph! Thank you for everything you have written, carved, created and shared with us! You have made the world a better place!

-Driftwood Johnnie

Quapaw Canoe Company

Calendar 2012


Thursday December 6th: Clarksdale Christmas Parade. Special Bulletin: Due to incoming thunderstorms the Clarksdale parade has been postponed to Thursday, 7pm downtown. The Mighty Quapaws will be teaming up this year with Griot Youth Program for a special float!

Friday December 14th: Quapaw Christmas Party. You are hereby invited to a Mighty Quapaw Christmas Party and Mississippi River Movie Night! Starting at sundown on the banks of the river behind Clarksdale headquarters. Bonfire. Potluck supper. Bring something to eat and drink. River movies to follow including We All Live Downstream, The Mighty Quapaw, SOLA: Louisiana Water Stories, Mister & Missus Sippi, and others from the DVD library we call the Best of the Mighty Quapaws. See below for complete list.

Monday Dec 17 - Sat Dec 22 Middle Mississippi St. Louis to Cairo Illinois. In conjunction with Big Muddy Adventures. A 200 mile run down the Middle Mississippi in possibly the lowest waters ever from the confluence of the Missouri to the confluence of the Ohio. Paddle or portage the Chain of Rocks, under the Eads Bridge, alongside the Great Arch, past the mouth of the Meramec and the Big Muddy, below the Trail of Tears, past Grand Tower, St. Genevieve, Cape Girardeau, Thebes, and the giant meandering loops above Cairo. Near Thebes the entire Mississippi River flows through the Thebes Gap where the Shawnee Mountains cross from Illinois into Missouri. The Mississippi cuts through this mountain range and their collision creates a bedrock shoals called “The Pinnacles.” If significant precipitation does not soon arrive the Middle Mississippi will have to be shut down to towboat traffic. Subject to change depending on wind, weather and river conditions. Call or write for complete itinerary and details.

Thursday, Dec 27th Full Frosty Beaver Moon Float from Helena, Arkansas call or write for details.

Friday, Dec 28th Full Frosty Beaver Moon Float from Memphis, Tennessee call or write for details.

Saturday, Dec 29th to Monday Dec 31st Full Frosty Moon Float and Sweat Lodge from Clarksdale call or write for details.

The Mark River Blog:

Why I Paddle

By Mighty Quapaw Youth Leader Mark “River” Peoples

1 Mississippi Southern Region Intern

Mark River - Why I Paddle

I wake on the Sunrise Bar with a layer of ice on the canopy of my tent with the Chickasaw Bluffs in the distance. We are one day into our Low Water Expedition from Osceola, AR to Vicksburg, MS. The night was crisp and frigid, but beautiful, with the sounds of owls, coyotes, and raccoons continuing there nocturnal foraging well into the morning. I lay in my sleeping bag an extra five minutes before I make my dash to the warm fire surrounded by The Mighty Quapaws and friends. They laugh, knowing I'm not a fan of being cold, I'm dressed as if we're in the heart of winter. The whole time I'm smiling not wanting to be anywhere else, but patiently waiting for the sun to warm the cold air and to dry our tents before we continue on. With the combination of the warm sun and the slightly colder water makes the Mississippi River look like a hot spring. I forget about the conditions and marvel at nature at it's best and I ask myself, " Why do I paddle?"

I paddle because I'm an explorer, humanitarian, and environmentalist -- with the Mississippi River being my medium.

I paddle to create and build a sacred, intimate relationship with the river so I can change and destroy the myths that linger with its existence.

I paddle because the river is like life. It's meandering and forever changing moods build character, discipline, and intestinal fortitude needed to handle life's trials, tribulations, and adversity.

I paddle for the constant changing of geological and geographical landscape settings that are so fleeting, they change daily.

I paddle to meet other "river citizens" like myself to share knowledge and information about our country’s most valuable resource and discuss strategies to create systemic health.

I paddle because it's my new sport. I was raised a laborer, athlete and scholar. The river has given me new life. My body is recovering from all the collisions from football reviving the necessary mental and physical health needed to practice my stewardship of this great river daily. Every time the Quapaws and I paddle it brings us closer as a team. The bond between my teammates become stronger. Our relationship, built on trust and honesty, flourish. I try and set an example for our team every paddle stroke.

I paddle because I'm a metaphysical combination the soul of my deceased mother, Iveara Peoples, who died when I was eleven years old, and the river. She taught me that life's a gift. It's not what you get in this life, it's what you give. When she died, I associated hawks and eagles with my mother. So whenever the wind is in my face, the water feels heavy, or the elements seem unbearable -- the creator gives a sighting that soothes my soul. It lets me know she's always with me. I recall camping between Beaver Island and the Port of St. Louis during the Circumnavigation of St. Louis, while the bright lights of the Jefferson Barracks Cemetery illuminated my tears of joy from across the Mississippi River. I was smiling being able to spend the night that close to her. I knew physically she was there, but her soul was with me across the river. She lives through me.

In closing, I paddle because the river is my church, and it restores my soul. I know that every time I return from an expedition it changes perceptions of the people I encounter. I walk through town and people say, "You guys made it back", I respond " Yessir!"

They say, " I need to get out there."

I think in my head, "that's why I paddle!"

Find your paddle and become a river citizen today.

- Mark River

Low Water and the Middle Mississippi River

The Upper Mississippi River has been in the media recently because the Missouri River begins restricting flow to the Mississippi River on December 1. While many reports make it sound like the entire Mississippi River is under threat from the water restriction measures, the Middle Mississippi River will suffer the brunt of the impact. This is the portion of the Upper Mississippi River between the confluence of the Missouri River at St. Louis, Missouri and the confluence of the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois.

In 1986, Congress defined the Upper Mississippi River to include the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers north of the Ohio River confluence at Cairo, Illinois (excluding the Missouri River). But the Mississippi River south of St. Louis is not impounded by dams and subject to water control measures that happen on the Mississippi River north of St. Louis as well as the Missouri and Illinois Rivers. Even though Congress has defined this area as the Upper Mississippi River, most people in the region refer to this unimpounded stretch as the Middle Mississippi River.

The Missouri River provides about 60% of the water in the Middle Mississippi, but because of the drought, the Corps is not able to sustain the "authorized purposes" on the Missouri River. These authorized purposes are defined by Congress limit the Corps' actions on the Missouri River to support only navigation, fish and wildlife, hydropower, irrigation, flood control, drinking water supply, water quality, and recreation. But these purposes do not apply to the Mississippi River and the Corps is legally bound to support these purposes on the Missouri River alone. If the Corps changes its Missouri River operations to support navigation on the Mississippi River and fails to support one of the eight authorized purposes on the Missouri River they are subject to legal action and damages for Missouri River interests.

As a result of one of the worst droughts in a century the Middle Mississippi River may not have sufficient water levels for navigation, especially near Thebes, Illinois. The Thebes Gap is an area of the river where the Shawnee Mountain Range crosses from Illinois into Missouri, and this unique geography creates beautiful rock bluffs and outcrops in the Mississippi River. While most of the Middle Mississippi is being dredged furiously to keep navigation depth, the rock pentacles lurking just below the surface near Thebes prevent normal dredging.

To maintain navigation, the Corps is proposing the blast the rocks down 1.5 feet in the Thebes Gap in February and March of 2013. But, grain shipments will be off the Upper Mississippi River by December 15. So, how will the blasting help? It won't for this season.

The Corps anticipates that the drought will persist into next year and to ensure the river will be open to navigation next year, they will remove the rock this winter.

But, this is a very unique habitat area and to date the Corps has not released an Environmental Assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), although at meetings they claim the EA is complete. Additionally, they seem to have pre-concluded that an Environmental Impact Statement and further mitigation efforts are not required because such actions would delay the process, not because they are unnecessary.

This pre-emptive decision-making is common for the Corps' St. Louis District. Just last year the Government Accountability Office reprimanded the St. Louis District for relying on decades old Environmental Impact Statement and Environmental Assessments. These procedures were established by Congress to protect the environment from unnecessary construction projects and ensure environmental quality is maintained. But the St. Louis District hasn't learned their lesson yet.

Even though the blasting is in a small area, the League and partners in the region are demanding that the Corps actions are consistent with federal law to protect the local and very unique environment.

From Olivia Dorothy

Regional Conservation Coordinator

Upper Mississippi River Initiative

Izaak Walton League of America

Friday, Dec 14th

Mighty Quapaw Christmas Party

and Mississippi River Movie Night:

Bring your jackets and scarves and bundle up for an outdoor movie night under the stars by a roaring fire with apple cider brewing. We’re going to set the projector and screen up on the banks of the Sunflower. Rain Location: inside Quapaw Canoe Company.

Movie Choices Include:

The Mighty Quapaw

by Natalie Irby and Rachael Johnson

Barefoot Workshops

Dave Cornthwaite and the Mighty Quapaws

by Madge & Billy Howell

the Delta Bohemian

We All Live Downstream

by Hillary Cline and Lori Garrabrant

Barefoot Workshops

SOLA: Louisiana Water Stories

by Jon Bowermaster

Mister & Missus Sippi

by Monsta Movies

Livingston History Past & Present

(from Livingston Montana on the Yellowstone River)

by Herbert Krill

Turning the Tide

by Louisiana Public Broadcasting

Troubled Waters:

A Mississippi River Story

by the Bell Museum of Natural History

Nobody (The Jerry Bell Story)

by Alan Spearman and Lance Murphey

Along the Mississippi

by Peter Adler

Rick Stein: Tastes the Blues

by the BBC

Note: we probably won’t watch all of these unless it turns into an all-night slumber party!

Friday, Dec 28th

Full Frosty Beaver Moon Float from Memphis:

Put in at Meeman-Shelby Forest and paddle into the rich undulating colors of sunset as the river swirls between islands and floodplain forests.

Make a supper landing, build a fire, and enjoy the rising of the moon over the Mississippi River. Set off again in the canoe paddling now by the mysterious undulating light of the Full Moon past the mouth of the Loosahatchie River, the Wolf River, and then down along Mud Island and into the Memphis Harbor at the foot of Beale Street. The sandbars are as bright as snowfields in the full moon and the river glistens like cold stainless steel.

17 river miles. Meet and park your car at Mud Island (secure parking). Shuttle to Shelby Forest Boat Ramp. Return to Memphis by canoe, your car will be waiting. Includes life jackets, paddles and all necessary river & emergency gear. All ages welcome. We have life jackets for all sizes & shapes! Leave towel & change of clothing in your car. Bring daypack for personal items. Place cell phone, camera and any other electronics in zip locks, drybags or dry box. Schedule subject to change in case of inclement weather.

Call 662-902-7841 for details & reservations or write No better way to prepare for the New Year -- with a roaring driftwood fire, good company and the Full Frosty Beaver Moon rising over the biggest river in North America!

This Winter

Get to know YOUR river!