How do I plan my trip?
Ask yourself 4 easy questions, and then write us firstname.lastname@example.org or give a call (662) 902-7841.
- How many?
- When? (Scroll through our on-line calendar and choose some dates that work for you)
- How Long? We are available for anything from a one-day run to a weekend adventure, from an extended weekend to a 3-week expedition.
- Where? If you don’t have a preference we’ll take you to our favorite passage: the Muddy Waters Wilderness.
Check out our Expeditions page for more information on how to plan your adventure.
Is it safe to paddle?
The Mississippi is best compared to the rivers of Brazil, Alaska or Canada. It’s a big river, it’s a powerful river, it’s a dangerous river. But done safely and with the right equipment you can enjoy the beauty while respecting the dangers. People have been paddling the Mississippi River for thousands of years. The rewards are well worth the risks. If the river conditions are too bad, our policy is to stay on shore.
Mark Twain said the “Mississippi is a book, you need to learn to read it.” Reading the river takes time & patience. Exercise respect, caution and leave plenty of time for careful observation.
The Mississippi River is notoriously dangerous, difficult to predict and full of surprises for the inexperienced paddler. Please be prepared for any and all river conditions, including fast water, turbulent water, large whirlpools, violent eddies, and erupting boils – AND extreme weather conditions: severe thunderstorms, front line winds, torrential rainfall, tornadoes. Use utmost caution around tugboats & other motorized traffic, especially around the Helena Harbor, or when making a channel crossing. Any stationary object is a potentially dangerous hazard to a paddler: buoys, piers or other docking installations, and forest hazards such as snags, sawyers, strainers, etc. Do not attempt any paddling anywhere on the Lower Mississippi unless you are proficient with Self-Rescue Technique. Experienced paddlers only, or hire a guide familiar with the big waters of the big river (such as Quapaw Canoe Company).
Canoes have been successfully used on the big rivers of the world for thousands of years, and good practices have developed alongside that make it a safe & efficient way to travel. Learn to safely paddle and you will enjoy the many pleasures of the big river! For more information about canoe & kayak rescue contact the American Red Cross or the American Canoe Association. Quapaw Canoe Company offer hands-on workshops on Self-Rescue Technique for canoeists & kayakers.
Do I have to know how to swim?
No, but you must wear a life jacket at all times while in the canoe (or kayak). If you decide to go wading off the shore keep your life jacket on.
I’m a swimmer. Is it safe to swim?
In the right places it is safe to swim; in the wrong places it is very dangerous. Always let someone know if you are going for a swim. Wear your life jacket. Consult your guide if you have any doubts.
As with the paddling, exercise extreme caution when swimming in the Mississippi. The swimming is dangerous in places, safe in others. When in doubt, don’t do it! If you are uncertain of the current, sit down and watch it for a while. Keep on the lookout for chaotic water movements. The best place to swim is in the shallows along the big sandbars, or in the many inlets created along the sandbars. Back channels are always safer than the main channel. Avoid places where the current is moving fast, and especially where it seems to be pulling away from the shore. Avoid strong eddies, whirlpools and places where violent boils seem to be erupting upward. Follow the rule of twos, always swim with a partner (or more). Even better, designate a “life guard,” one person who will stay on shore and watch out for all others. Trade off responsibility. Weak swimmers should wear a life jacket. We make it our practice at Quapaw Canoe Company to always keep a rescue canoe ready to go at all beach landings, and to have a 75 foot “Rescue Rope” with floating polypro line ready for use.
What should I bring with me?
Arrive with all clothing and personal items and pack into our drybags. Pack any required medications. Remember, you are entering a wild remote landscape: there are no convenience stores along the way! Quapaw normally provides all river gear, cooking & eating utensils, and camp furniture. Sleeping bags, tents, wetsuits, neoprene gloves & booties all available for rent.
What about bathrooms?
This is a wilderness adventure: primitive camping only, no facilities whatsoever. Please carry any necessary toiletries with you. Dig a cathole in the sand at least 200 feet away from the water’s edge and at least a foot deep. Completely bury afterwards and mark with a stick. We practice the Leave No Trace principals. http://www.rivergator.org/resources/leave-no-trace.cfm for more information.
What about a shower?
There are no facilities along the way, but you can refresh yourself in the river or in back channel pools, or in possible blue holes (dependent on river level). You can also carry a solar shower.
How old do I have to be?
No age requirement. We have life jackets for everyone from infants to XXXL. We’ve had everyone in our canoes from 7 month old babies to 94 year old grandmothers. Our mission is to provide access for anyone with any interest!
How many can go?
We’ll go with one person, we’ll go with the whole family reunion – or the whole church or school group, or the entire girl scout or boy scout troop. We’re not picky. The river needs more paddlers!
Costs all depend on number of people going and distance traveled. Basic fee includes canoes, paddles, lifejackets and all necessary river gear, first aid kits & emergency gear. Meals are optional. We can do all the food prep, campfire cooking, provide cookware & eatware & cleanup, or you can bring your own & do the work. Shuttle covers transportation of canoes & gear plus our vehicles & drivers for drop-off and pickup.
What will I experience?
You will experience extensive pieces of intact wilderness and return home refreshed and full of stories & memories.