Note: This is the first installment of my 6 part blog series
“River Gator: Exploring the River, Expanding Ourselves,”
a recollection of my adventure on the Lower Mississippi River. 

Have you ever had an experience that lives in your memory forever? Maybe it was attending a World Series Game or reaching the top of a mountain after a long hike. It’s not just something that is easily recalled; you remember it because it transformed your understanding of the world and yourself. It brought clarity, awareness and the joy of knowing you belong in this crazy connected web of the world.

Just as a web ties many strands work together,
the Mississippi ties Americans together through many contributing rivers.

Last fall, I had the opportunity to go on one of those transformative adventures on the Lower Mississippi River with the Quapaw Canoe Company. I’ve always loved the outdoors and I expected getting into the wild would relax the brain strings, but I had no idea that from then on the River would permanently course through my heart.


A few of my fellow adventurers.

Our diverse group of Quapaw staff, scientists, dancers, doctors and writers all had our own reasons for visiting the River. For some, the Mississippi is an old friend they have known for many years, for others like me, it was an introduction of a lifetime. For 100 miles we traveled along the western shore of Mississippi from Greenville to Vicksburg. Paddling in handmade voyager canoes, we had everything we needed: radios, coolers, water, tents, backpacks, cameras and trail mix close at hand.

Gearing up!

Gearing up!

The party was brought together to celebrate the launch of the River Gator website, a mile to mile description of the Lower Mississippi River written for canoeists, kayakers and other River adventurers. River Gator offers a wealth of information like safety tips, good campsite locations and local attractions with personal descriptive experiences woven throughout. It opens up access to America’s great River and allows it to be seen through different eyes. I count myself lucky for the chance to glimpse through those eyes.

The great thing about the River is it challenges you physically and mentally. “Strive to be your best” was the motto in my grammar school growing up. This phrase comforts me from time to time, when I feel I am trying, but maybe not achieving as much as I’d hoped. It haunts me when I’m feeling lazy and think I can do just an average job. It laid the groundwork for my commitment to life because I know deep down I know I’ll never be satisfied with not applying myself.

While I was in Clarksdale, the bluesman Watermelon Slim sang, “You gonna reap what you sow”, a phrase that fit perfectly with my experience on the River. By challenging yourself and working hard, you grow and earn the rewards. In doing so, you become more capable, more willing to move beyond your self-limiting expectations, until being on the edge becomes the new normal.

Legendary Bluesman Watermelon Slim

Legendary Bluesman Watermelon Slim at Red’s Blues Club

And so begins my six part blog series “River Gator: Exploring the River, Expanding Ourselves.” With this great big breath of fresh air fueling my writing, over the next several months I will share my experience of the Mississippi River, the Quapaw Canoe Company and our journey together.


Self Portrait before the grand adventure!



To the River!



   ~ Annette Anderson is the Outreach Coordinator for the 1 Mississippi Campaign, now with River water flowing through her veins!


Sign outside Quapaw Canoe Company

Sign outside Quapaw Canoe Company


Continue reading the rest of the series!

Fresh, simple, spicy, saucy – Food on the Mighty Miss – Series Episode 2

Good and Dirty – Series Episode 3

Still is Still Movin’ to Me – Series Episode 4

Maps: You Are Here – Now Get Lost! – Series Episode 5

Gifts from the River, Gratitude from the Heart – Series Episode 6

Plus a bonus blog:  Top 10 Most Awesome Things About Quapaw Canoe Company