MS Outdoors S30 E02 – Qwapaw Canoe


(rock guitar music) ♪ Ridin’ through the bayou ♪ ♪ Headed for the sky blue ♪ ♪ Back out on the
trail again and again ♪ ♪ Hikin’ and huntin’
and fishin’ the land ♪ ♪ Time is time well spent ♪ ♪ We take it to the delta ♪ ♪ To great white shores ♪ ♪ There’s so much
to see and do ♪ ♪ Mississippi Outdoors ♪ ♪ The great outdoors ♪ ♪ Mississippi Outdoors ♪ ♪ The great outdoors ♪ ♪ Mississippi Outdoors ♪ ♪ The great outdoors ♪ ♪ Mississippi Outdoors ♪ – Welcome to
Mississippi Outdoors. I’m Pamela Weaver. – And I’m Kevin Meacham. Thanks for joining us. – In our first
story we take a look at canoeing the
Mississippi River. – We’re headed to Bolivar County for an adventure of a lifetime. – Let’s go. (melodic guitar music) – [John] Quapaw Canoe
Company was started in 1998 with one canoe. We’re on the river anywhere
from 100 to 300 days a year. Three full time
people and five guides who come on as needed. Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved water and wild places. I found myself in Clarksdale
in the late nineties twiddling my thumbs and looking
for the next thing to do and the river called me. And I have not
looked back since. – [Mark] You guys can
all pay attention. These are big shot paddles. So a lot of people want
to use ’em this way, but this is the way you use ’em. Pay attention when
you’re paddlin’ because a lot of
times people flip ’em and they forget it’s there. So you want it just like
a duck flippin’ water from your knee to your hip. – As you all know this is
the Redemption River trip. And we got a little
quote to kick us off. And it is, “Ring them
bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” – [Mark] Love that,
love that quote. – So that’s our
theme for the week. – [Man] All right, let’s do it. – [Man] Paddles up, here we go. – [Mark] How I got
interested in paddling was born in St. Louis, my
grandfather had a house that was five minutes
from the Mississippi River so I used to go out there
and just stare at people who come up and down
that river in motorboats. Not very many canoes
but I knew that I wanted to be on the river somehow. So once I got older, you know,
me and my buddies from school started paddlin’ the river and then we kind
of abandoned it. All went to college, you know, all went to
business, doin’ stuff and next thing you know
I got a midlife crisis about when I was 44 and I decided, you know, I
wanted somethin’ different and I was gonna
try to find a way to get back on the river. Lay down, lay down. Lay down, girl. One day I was down
by the riverside, here comes a 30 foot canoe. Never seen anything
like it before. It was built by John Ruskey. We start talkin’, we
had a good conversation. He gave me a bunch of books. Went back up to St.
Louis, read ’em all. Walked into my
occupation, retired, and here I am. – Day one is always about
meeting the other people on the trip and
getting to know them. It seemed like this
group just clicked. – [Kris] John Ruskey is the
second draw on this trip. So the first is the Mississippi. And nobody can compete
with Old Man River but after that,
it’s John Ruskey. John Ruskey is something
out of a mythological tale or a movie. – [John] Kris is kind
of like Zorba the Greek. He loves life. And he overflows with it and everything he does is with
a lot of passion and zeal. – [Scott] I see John
as somewhat of a mentor just how he runs his life. He’s truly a peaceful
soul and a generous soul and I think that comes
across in all that he does and who he is. – [John] Scott Shirey is a
resident of Helena, Arkansas but he grew up in New Hampshire. His father raised Scott
goin’ on family canoe trips and it makes an
expedition extra special when you’re with family
who have a feeling and love for each other and especially with the
Shireys since they spent so much time canoeing
in their family history. – [Scott] River doesn’t
sit down and take a break. He gets the job done. First to set up, first
up in the morning. He’s got an easy
spirit too like John. You can tell how the river
has sort of influenced them to flow with life as
you flow with the river. – [Mark] These creeks are very
important for the spawning, all the fish. Whenever the river
comes up in the spring this is where they
swim to to breed. It’s hard for ’em to breed
out there in the current. There’s no structure,
their eggs they get, you know, just swept away. So they come back here and lay. And then when they
get a chance to hatch when you paddle back in here it’ll be like
partin’ the Red Sea. There’ll just be fish. Just little baby fish. Man, it’s incredible. – Man, Mark River, he
makes me happy every day I see him on the river because he is so happy himself and embodies in the
purest sense what it is to be a river
guide and a leader. And he does it whole
heartedly in his deepest soul. – We frame this
trip in our minds as we wanted it to be the
Redemption River Tour 2018. When we were thinkin’
about the trip we were thinkin’ about
how the river always seems to flow through everything,
wash things away, liberate people,
free your spirit. So the idea of bonding
together as a group and learnin’ from each other
in just a matter of a few days. I think that’s the
power of this trip and the power of the river. – [Mark] All right,
all forward together. First thing we consider
is the weather, wind, and river levels. You gotta evaluate your guests and see what they’re
willing to do and then you go from there. A lot of times we’ll take
them into the map room and we’ll give them three or
four options and let them pick. – That’s the second
piece for River. – River gets a bonus. – This is a special
skipping piece. Layna’s is a skipping expert. – [Scott] Couple paddle strokes. Lookit, they still beat us. (laughing) – I first heard about John right before I moved
down here in 2014. My neighbor, Greg, said if
you’re goin’ down to Helena you need to meet John Ruskey and he’ll take you
out on the river, show you stuff
you’ve never seen. – [John] See further up,
those broader shaped leaves, those are the leaves
of the wild grape. It’s not a Muscadine,
it’s a tiny, little grape kind of shaped like the
size of a pea or something. But they’re very tasty. – [Man] Are they sweet? – No, they’re bitter. But a lot of flavor,
full of flavor. This is all considered
bottomland hardwood forest. All those trees that don’t
mind water being on their roots for months at a time. In fact, they thrive in
this kind of environment. Look, there’s a giant sycamore. – [Man] Oh, that’s an
original growth tree. Look at that. – The trees that
were pulled out here, some of them were so big
that a single section of a trunk would
fill a railroad car. – I’m trying to pick
the ones that look a little more lively and fresh. Like this one here
I wouldn’t grab. These here can be pretty spotty. Oh, but these are groovy. Check these out. Whole good stand of ’em there. Oh yeah, I’m takin’
this whole chunk. Lot of times, too,
it’s really cool ’cause you’re not actually,
I’m not removing like, first off they’re not
plants, they’re fungi but I’m not really
removing like anything that’s going to impact
the reproduction of the mushroom because the
mycelium is inside the tree. Colonized throughout the tree. That’s why it’s
poppin’ up all over. – We had delivery. (laughing) Take away. Look at that, doesn’t
it look great? Corn, onions. – [Mark] Well, when
we prepare for a trip we start with the numbers
and then we got to predict how much food each
person’s gonna eat per day. So you always get a little
bit more than you need. And then usually
if you get a lot, if you present a
lot the first day people will be confident
that you have food and they don’t eat as much. But if you don’t put enough
food out the first day well, people think that
we’re gonna be strugglin’ a little bit people
tend to eat more ’cause they’re in survival mode. And you don’t want
that out there. You don’t want that. Once we deal with the
food, we have the gear. You have your paddles,
your life jackets, your safety ropes,
chairs, tables, everything you have
to take with you. You have to pack it up
every day and put it away and you have to
take it with you. You don’t want anything that’s
with you that you don’t use. This is gonna be our special homemade meatballs and pasta. You know, I grew up
cooking with my dad. We had a big family
reunion every 4th of July and I would have
to cook, you know, 50 pounds of ribs, you know, a whole pig,
chickens, everything. I’m used to cookin’ a
lot of food, big portions for long periods of time. And over the years you
get that patience with it so it’s more like it’s
a feel, it’s a sound. You can’t say it’s gonna
be ready in 15 minutes before you start. It depends on your fire,
how fast it’s cookin’, all that stuff’s very important. And I think I got to the
point where I just enjoy it. Especially cookin’ over a fire. That is the best way to
cook is over an open fire. You can’t beat it. – [John] Inside just
feels harmonious. It feels right, like
everything’s at the right tempo, at the right pace. And it lets you get
into this state of mind that I don’t think we get to
encounter very much these days where you can just relax. You can just let your mind go and focus on small,
quiet wonders. It’s gorgeous. – [Mark] Everybody
used to always enjoy going out and campin’
and stuff like that. Now it’s gotten so
much easier for people just to go places
for a day or so without having to
work to get there. One thing about canoeing, you
have to work to get there. And that’s the joy of it. You know, your accomplishments. – [Announcer] For over 70 years Mississippi Outdoors
magazine has served the readers of the
Magnolia state. The magazines contains
interesting features such as wildlife photography
and solunar tables. Subscriptions to the
magazine are very inexpensive and when you subscribe you’ll
receive six bi-monthly issues containing articles on hunting
and fishing in the state. Public lakes, state parks, and our wildlife
management areas. For more information,
call our toll free number at 1-888-874-5785. – The journey down the
Mississippi River continues, taking four days and
three nights to complete. – Our travelers reached their
destination in Greenville, paddlin’ over 70 miles
on the Mississippi River. (melodic guitar music) (upbeat guitar music) ♪ I slept all night on a ♪ ♪ Big white shore ♪ – [Scott] We camped,
here’s Montgomery Island, here’s Big Island,
we camped right here. This is the channel
of the old wide river. We passed Rosedale
Harbor and now we are at the Arkansas River. And we are on what’s
called Cat Island. – I wish more
people would be able to get to see this beautiful
wilderness down here. We’ve gone by some of
the last like big island and some of the last
big tracts of land that are just barely
touched by man. I wish other people, more people would get to experience
it and see it. – [Man] Here we go, get ready. Punch it! – [John] The stripper canoe
is built in the same shape as the voyager canoes
of the Great Lakes. In 1999 we started
building big canoes and the first big
canoe was the Lady Bug. And she’s a 27 foot
voyager style canoe. – [Mark] When we started
building these boats, we built them 26 feet. And I think over the
years we found out that we needed more
room to carry more gear and more food. And so we extended it
three more feet to 29.6 so we could put a big
cooler in the middle. A cooler the size that would
keep enough food for a week. In one boat you can take
six to eight people, all your gear, and
be out for a week. – I always like
being on the water. That’s the best part for me. There’s something
cleansing about the water. Something nurturing. The open spaces. And then I think you just
envision that as the comradery that the river really
does connect everyone in magical ways that doesn’t
always happen on land. – [Mark] The voyager
canoe is the biggest, the biggest and the strongest
and the most efficient democracy there is. When you’re in a boat
together everybody matters, everybody’s paddling
strokes matters, everybody’s the same importance, and you need each
other to survive. So when you go on the river with people like
this all the time, you become a team and
you just have that down. And that’s what
makes us successful. – [John] I’ve had people
who are, at first, nervous about getting on the water. They’re nervous about
getting in a canoe because they’ve never
done that before. Who they’re fears are
almost immediately calmed once they get in the canoe,
sit down, and start paddling. Because the canoe, it’s a
whole difference experience than a powerboat. – [Mark] There’s no
right angles on the boat so when the water
flows from the top by the time it gets to the back it’s pushing you along. So they’re very efficient boats, they’re very efficient
upstream and downstream and they can carry
a lot of weight and they’re very, very sturdy. – This canoe is stable. People have been
jumpin’ overboard and not even rockin’ the boat. – I’ve met Kris once
before and we’ve been out but he wasn’t that wild. Seems like he got attached
to the Mississippi River and while he was gone he’s been lookin’
forward to comin’ back because it seems like he was
tryin’ to take every inch of it and bring it all
back home with him. – [Man] It matches your arm. – Look at that. It’s cool, man. All right. – That’s crazy Kris Hamel. All the way from Vienna, Austria to do this river trip and he’s enjoyin’ life. It’s great to see. – Back when Twain was writing
Life on the Mississippi, there’s a long chapter about a settlement called Napoleon. And Napoleon was located
at what was the mouth of the Arkansas. At this point right here,
which we’ll pass today. Some early frontiers
people plotted a city to be built
here called Napoleon. They gave it the ambitious
name of that leader. And they actually
started building the city and it was the most
important metropolis in this area, several
thousand people. And then, you can see what a low-lying
landscape this all is. And it started gettin’
eaten away by the floods. Twain tells a long
story about it in his Life on the Mississippi. The future dreams of
those young Americans was eaten by the mighty
waters of the Mississippi. – I had no idea how wild
the Mississippi area is, the actual floodplain. And the river itself. It’s hard to believe
that you’re in the middle of the U.S., the most
developed, the richest country in the world. You’ve got this
massive wilderness just
right in the middle of the country. – [Mark] I’ve been
here before, Scott, and I seen some bear
track up in there and I turned around and
ran right back to the boat. Too fresh. – [Scott] Oh really? – [Mark] You know how you feel like something’s watchin’ you? Yeah, time to go. – [Kris] Today we got
to see some wildlife. We got to see some bald
eagles and pelicans. Some wild boar. So all the sudden, with
the right conditions, a little bit cloudy,
a little rainy, all the sudden you
realize you’re not alone out here in the river. It definitely elevates
the excitement. It did for me. – We’re not close to
nature, we’re in nature. So, we’ve seen eagles
and a lot of pelicans. A lot of shore birds,
wading birds, egrets. I think I saw a white ibis,
couple of ibis yesterday. So we’ve seen a lot of
interesting wildlife and a lot of sign of
a lot more wildlife, like tracks and beaver
cuttings, things like that. – [Mark] We often take
people that have never seen the river before and they
have the same reaction that we have after
our first time. You know, they start
to figure things out, they start to think
about what’s important, you know, and what
they want to do. They all make a different plan
for when they leave the river and it seems like
it changes them. They always come back,
they always bring somebody they really care about,
they always bring ’em back. And that’s the whole thing. That’s what we want. – [Scott] There’s
a great line I read that we need the river
because it reminds us how small we are. And I think we get caught
up in our day to day lives and how everything’s
so important. And it’s humbling out here. It’s restorative. You just come off
the water energized and keep things in perspective. – [John] Well, I’m an artist
and my art is maybe what the river is to a
fisherman, you know. ‘Cause probably 90% of all
fisherman go to the river just to get away and
get connected, you know. That’s what I like best about it is the tranquility it brings. Makes me feel whole,
makes me feel like I’m at where I should be. And when I’m not on the
river I feel ill at ease. And the more days I
spend off the river the more uncomfortable I get. But it doesn’t have to be the
biggest river in North America you know, the Sunflower
will do it too. It’s just that the
Mississippi is wilder and it does it better. I come back feeling
much more satisfied than I do from a day
on a smaller river. So there is something
about that big river. – I think this has
all been very tonic. I’ve felt fitter and better
as each day’s gone on. The water’s been great. I spent so much
time swimming in it. Yeah, it’s been so nice to swim and to swim in the river. It’s unlike any chlorine
pool that you can swim in. It’s far superior I would say. Man, that was just what
the doctor ordered. – For some reason, you
have it all figured out once you get out there. It brings you down
to your natural self. Whatever you are here,
when you get there you are the grassroots,
all the material things go out the window and
it’s about you and nature and where you fit in and
what you’re here to do. And I think you start
thinkin’ more properly but then you get back
to land and we get back to all the superficial
stuff and you’re right back, you’re right back
confused again. So that’s my thing. (laughing) It’s a building block
that’s always changing. Every time you go out there
and you got it figured out, you get back and
go back to work. You gotta get back
out there eventually. – You know, I’m nearly 70
and I’m not in great shape but I’m not in terrible shape and I can do this. You won’t find a better
outfit to go with. I have felt completely safe and they’ve got a
pretty good menu. I haven’t been hungry a bit and we’ve been burnin’ some
carbs and some calories, I’m gonna tell ya. – [Mark] One thing that we
think the most important thing to do at Quapaw is we
want to introduce people to the river so they
can have a relationship with the river so they can
take care of the river. We’re very concerned
with all the plastics. We’re very concerned with some
of the nutrient pollution. We’re very concerned
with stuff that we’re seeing things happen
and we gotta figure out what we need to do
to make it better. Because this river has to
run for the next generation, for the next generation,
for the next generation. It has to. It brings like two
trillion dollars to our gross domestic product. I mean, a lot of people
work on the river. They’re transporting a
lot of goods, you know, from rice and corn
and soy beans. I mean, the soy bean
industry, the farming industry would be a wreck if
something happened to the Mississippi River. This river, this is like
the circulatory system of our whole country. If something happens
to the river, I don’t know what would
happen to our country. – [Kris] You know, I always
try to find some piece of driftwood, some
things to bring back home to give to those near
and dear ones to me. But, I think it’s more the
story of what’s out here. The things it does to me
and the way it moves me, I try to communicate
that to people around me and I try to whip ’em up. So next year I’m
hopin’ to come back with not just myself
but with a bigger crew and give Ruskey a few
more hands on this river so that we can all
enjoy it together. And maybe go to a
new part of the river and keep on exploring
’cause I think that’s a big part of the spirit. – If you love water
and you love paddling, you have to experience this. It’s not like the
Rockies or coastal waters or mountain streams, and
those are all worthy, but this is a very unique and amazing thing. – [Scott] I have found
it very difficult to explain to someone. I think they have
to experience it. You can show photos,
you can tell the stories but it’s hard, unless you
experience it out here. Words don’t do it justice. It is truly magical. – Hey, that’s all the time
we have for this week. Hope you enjoyed the show. – Join us again next time
for more exciting adventures. Until then, I’m Pamela Weaver. – And I’m Kevin Meacham. – See ya outdoors. (rock guitar music) ♪ Ridin’ through the bayou ♪ ♪ Headed for the sky blue ♪ ♪ Back out on the
trails again and again ♪ ♪ Hikin’ and huntin’
and fishin’ the land ♪ ♪ Time is time well spent ♪ ♪ We take it to the delta ♪ ♪ To great white shores ♪ ♪ There’s so much
to see and do ♪ ♪ Mississippi Outdoors ♪ ♪ The great outdoors ♪ ♪ Mississippi Outdoors ♪ ♪ The great outdoors ♪ ♪ Mississippi outdoors ♪ ♪ The great outdoors ♪ ♪ Mississippi Outdoors ♪

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