"The next challenge will be to reach the White River. A route will have to be scouted through the briars, snake-infested woods and alligator swamps. The explorers will then manually portage all of their gear and canoes from the Arkansas River to the White River, a process that might require one long dirty day."
In May 2010 I was lucky enough to spend five days on the Mississippi River with the folks from the Quapaw Canoe Company out of the small town of Helena in Arkansas and over the river at the Home of the Blues – Clarksdale Mississippi.
You can read my account of that trip – brief and incomplete as it is – in my Mud and Blood in the Mississippi in Flood post.
I’ve kept in touch with Captain John Ruskey and the Mighty Quapaw crew and in 2011 managed to get back on the river during another flood for a few brief hours at a very soggy Helena. If I’m lucky I may be able to get back there again when I’m next in the States for the Society of Ethnobiology meeting at Denton, Texas in May this year.
Jan 7, 2013
"The Big Muddy" follows centuries of human efforts to conceptualize this landscape of mud as a place with firm barriers between water and land, and then make these conceptions reality. A few examples: early French explorers repeatedly failed to locate the mouth of the Mississippi out of an inability to imagine a vast, multi-channeled delta. Rice, and then indigo, tobacco, and sugar encouraged settlers to drain, divide, and levee the landscape.
Regular readers here will know of my (somewhat distant) love affair with the Mississippi River and the cultures that live in, on and around it.
I’ve written about it here, here and here and have learnt much about the river from my colleagues Mark Bonta, who lives and works at the small town of Cleveland in the Delta and ‘Captain’ John Ruskey of the Quapaw Canoe Company out of Clarksdale Mississippi and across the river at Helena, Arkansas.
Books like the McDowell’s “Mississippi Secrets“, John M. Barry’s magisterial “Rising Tide“, James C. Cobb’s “The Most Southern Place on Earth” and Mikko Saikku’s environmental history of the Yazoo-Mississippi floodplain “This Delta, This Land” have all piqued my interest and ensured that I’ll return to spend more time with this most magnificent creature that is the river and all around it.