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Canoe the Great River

Canoe the Great River
By: Melody Dixon

Canoeing is not just a Summer Olympics sport. It is a fun water activity that gets kids excited about being outside.

John Ruskey is founder and owner of Clarksdale’s Quapaw Canoe Company, which provides canoe and kayak trips on the Lower Mississippi River. According to Ruskey, canoeing is similar to flying, except it does not require wings or a special ability.  

“Anyone can learn to canoe with a little training,” he said. 

Families can embark on a fun canoe journey to bond and spend quality time together while absorbing nature. Not to be confused with kayaks, which do not have raised seats inside of them to give you a good view of the natural beauty around you, canoe rides can be very serene when in the right weather conditions. 

“It’s quiet and peaceful, and on a calm day you simply move your paddle through the water and the canoe flows along like a bird gliding in the breeze,” Ruskey explained. 

Canoeing dates back thousands of years to when rivers were our original highways. It has its advantages, as it inspires good health and promotes teamwork, causing youth to learn to work together in order to reach a destination.  

This water hobby gives kids the same sense of freedom they get when they are legally old enough to drive. To operate a canoe, one only has to be physically capable.  

“There is no age requirement, but make sure you have a properly fitted life jacket,” Ruskey advised. “My daughter is 10 and has become a good paddler. I first started taking her canoeing when she was two years old.” 

Canoeing may be a daytrip or an overnight camping trip. Canoes provide an immediate connection to nature and make for a fun activity the whole family can enjoy together, Ruskey said. 

“Paddle quietly and you will see songbirds, shore birds, and waterfowl like pelicans and geese,” he said, painting a picture of his experience with nature on a canoe adventure. “The waters of the south are rich with turtles, frogs, crayfish, beaver and river otter. Bald eagles and osprey like to fish in places you can canoe.” 

Safety measures must be taken before embarking on a canoe voyage. According to Ruskey, a properly outfitted boat includes: 

• Ropes tied to the bow and stern, the front and back of the canoe 

• Sponges and bailers (to remove water from canoe) 

• An extra paddle 

• A survival kit 

• A first aid kit 

Ruskey encourages first time paddlers to learn from a knowledgeable paddler, or enroll in a canoe safety course. If canoeing on large bodies of water, paddlers should learn canoe self-rescue in case of capsize. 

He explained that each person should be properly dressed for the weather, and pack water bottles. Since canoeing exposes you to the elements, you should wear rain gear for the rainy days, and sun protection such as a brimmed hat and sunscreen on sunny days.  

“If paddling on cold water, wear a wetsuit or drysuit. Don’t paddle in high winds or storms,” he added. 

A usual Quapaw Canoe Company canoe ride from Friars Point’s Montezuma Landing to Quapaw includes a stop on the Dewberry Island, allowing travelers the chance to fish, swim, search for fossils and follow trails of footprints in the sand. 

“Pack a picnic lunch, extra water, and when you are ready, find a shady place on the edge of the lake to enjoy a meal,” Ruskey said. 

For costs of canoe trips led by the Quapaw Canoe Company, visit Island63.com, call (662)627-4070, or send your request to info@island63.com. 

A few more outdoor ideas for this summer:

— If you own a canoe or kayak already, take a trip following the Lower Mississippi River Water Trail, outlined in a guide called “The Rivergator.” Find out more at Rivergator.org.

— Explore the Delta waters by renting a houseboat from S&S Houseboat rentals.

— Take a canoe or kayak trip on the lakes at Tara Wildlifein Vicksburg.

— Rent a cabin, camp, fish, hike nature trails, and catch a glimpse of alligators at Leroy Percy State Parkin Hollandale.

— Take a fishing excursion or bring your own boat to Tunica Lake, where you can fish and camp as a family.

— It’s a small one, but Lake Charlie Capps, in Rosedale, allows for your non-motorized boat — such as a rowboat, canoe, or kayak — and some fishing.

— Do some bird watching in Vicksburg, an important part of the National Audubon Society’s Great River Birding Trail.

— Go fishing, camping, or enjoy the ATV trails at theDelta National Forestin Rolling Fork.

— Schedule a hunting trip at Perry Farmsin Yazoo City.

These are just a few quick suggestions; there are many more options available in the Delta region. Please Google each of these ideas to find out more.

Melody Dixon is a 24-year-old freelance journalist and grace revolutionist who resides in Clarksdale, Mississippi. She earned her bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the University of Mississippi and enjoys keeping up with the latest in popular culture, especially fashion and feminism. 

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