Southern Agenda

Sandbar Season

Photo: Tim Bower

The Mississippi River is an impressive sight year-round, but hospitable weather and the usually lower water levels make fall the perfect season for discovering the secret life of the sandbar. Some barren, some sylvan, some miles in length, the Mississippi’s no-name islets might be here one year, gone the next. “We’re basically island-hopping,” says professional riverman Matthew Burdine of his canoe expeditions, which guide explorers—from solo campers to bluegrass bands to supper clubs—to these ephemeral shores. The mission: Soaking up all the secluded natural wonder, sunbathing, and fossil hunting they afford. Barge traffic, fierce currents, and debris, among other hazards, can spell danger for inexperienced boaters, but John Ruskey at Quapaw Canoe Company out of Clarksdale and his partner Burdine at their new Mississippi River Expeditions out of Memphis run expert-led trips all year long. Even first-time paddlers will hit their stride in custom-made, hard-to-flip, thirty-foot-long craft fit for transporting small groups—along with every possible party supply.;