April 14, 2017

We leave Caruthersville on our first sunny day of the trip. Days like these make you forget about the cloudy, cold, rainy days of spring. I take a needed break from my wetsuit and adverse-weather clothing to feel the healing warmth of the sun rays incident to my face. We take advantage of the great weather and embark on a 62-mile day to a slither of sand at the bottom of the first Chickasaw Bluff. We were expecting high winds in the following days, so we had find a place to protect us from the wind.

With the high winds approaching, we wake at 4am, in order to be on the water at sunrise to head downstream to Dean’s Island. We find an archipelago of islands 26 miles north of Memphis with protection on all sides from the gusting winds we expected. Our plan works out well. We arrive at the island by 10am, before the high winds created white-capped swells.

We plan on hunkering down for two days to let the winds subside. Days on land are great for resting and exploring– an opportunity to feel your surroundings and listen to nature. The one thing I have noticed throughout this expedition is that the animals are way ahead of schedule. Canada Geese are already nesting. The Least Terns are arriving months before summer. Maybe the males are here to practice their fishing techniques, so they can be chosen by a highly coveted female? Turtle markings line the sandy bluffs. Baby Map Turtles are floating in the surf. They are about a month early. The water is heating up fast. Stoneflies are emerging. Stoneflies, Mayflies, and Caddis flies are major food sources of fish. Does this mean there will be an early spawn? Parachute Spiders fill the air. This usually occurs during the summer months. Bees are busy on the islands, a welcoming site. Monarch butterflies hover in the wind. Spring Peepers sing their chorus throughout the night. Wild dew-berries blooming. We should be watching and listening to these creatures. They know more than we think.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

We humans have lost contact with these wild places. Our bodies are being altered daily by superficial mechanisms that mean nothing. We are being blindsided by material things that takes our minds of what’s real. We can learn a lot from watching and listening to natural things. You will feel better, think more clearly and figure out that all chains of life are important and that without them we will suffer greatly. We are not here to profit off of every piece of land and all the resources it provides, but to maintain and sustain all life for a healthy balance on this earth. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Let’s not be the weak link.

Mark River 

1 Mississippi Outreach Assistant