Page 1

River Times ~ ~ A publication of the Mississippi River Corridor - Tennessee

Explore the highways and byways of Tennessee’s Mississippi River Corridor


Davy of the River


Davy Crockett’s Adventures on the Mighty Mississippi


2 0 1 2 / 2 0 1 3 • S u p p l e m e n t t o M e m p h i s m a g a z i n e • w w w. m s r i v e r t n .o r g

Serving as a Conservation and Economic Development nonprof it Organization

the Mississippi River Corridor ~ Tennessee is dedicated to the restoration and preservation of our greatest natural resource the Mississippi River


Find out how you can help our magnificent river by becoming a River Citizen Visit: Small individual changes can have a huge impact on the quality of life, water and air for millions of citizens that live along the ten-state Mississippi River and its watershed.

Please Sign Up Today !

E x pl o re t h e h i g h way s a n d b y way s o f Te n n essee ’ s M ississippi R i v er re g i o n

River Times ~ ~



Table of Contents 15 Lower Mississippi River

4 Welcome A Letter from the Mississippi River Corridor – Tennessee.

5 Davy of the River

Resource Assessment

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers leads the way in studying future river usage.

Davy Crockett’s adventures on the Mighty Mississippi.

16 Hatchie River

8 Ingram Barge

Designated a Tennessee Scenic River, this historic landmark is protected for recreational and educational use.

President & CEO Craig Philip discusses his company and the river transportation industry.

9 Sustainable Shelby Establishing a framework for a greener Shelby County.

10 American Queen Steamboat Company The American Queen provides history, culture and entertainment for its travelers.

17 Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Director Ed Carter manages the agency that ovesees all of the state’s diverse ecosystems.

18 The Blues Trail From Mississippi to Memphis.

20 Mississippi River Trail

11 Unique Museums

A new Shelby County plan enhances the trail for all users.

Treasures of the Corridor.

22 Reelfoot Lake Field Station

14 Lauderdale County Environmental

UT Martin operates the Environmental Field Station to provide educational opportunities.

& Economic Plan This multi-phase plan will create greater awareness of the county’s unique features.

24 Buckaroo Hatters Mike Moore in Covington makes cowboy hats and fedoras with hometown pride.

26 Chisholm Lake Store River Times magazine, a publication of the Mississippi River Corridor - Tennessee is published by Contemporary Media, Inc., 460 Tennessee Street, Memphis, TN 38103. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part of any of the materials contained herein without the express written permission of Contemporary Media is prohibited. Project Writer: Richard J. Alley, Art Director: Murry Keith

River Times is a publication of

People come from miles around for Raymond and Michelle Simpson’s good food and warm hospitality.



Partners, Supporters & Sponsors

Board of Directors, Advisory Council & Staff Photograph by Anne Power/ Cover: Photograph by Gary L. Foreman



~ ~

to the


M ississippi R iver C orridor -T ennessee

It is our honor and pleasure to welcome our river advocates and supporters back to the Mississippi River Corridor in Tennessee with our 3rd edition of River Times magazine! As we continue to showcase and describe the incredible natural assets, historical treasures, wonderful people and recreational opportunities that are located along Tennessee’s “West Coast”, we invite you to begin planning your next day or weeklong trip to explore the great variety of educational and entertainment options that exist along the Corridor. If learning about an historical individual peaks your interest, then you will absolutely love our feature article about Davy Crockett and a few of his infamous adventures in and along the Mississippi River. And perhaps you would like to explore the incredibly scenic and only “unaltered” natural river wonder in the

w w w. m s r i v e r t n . o r g


River Times 2012-2 0 1 3

Lee Hinson Chairman


Corridor – the Hatchie, located in Lauderdale and Tipton counties. If it’s music you’re craving, then check out the article about the Blues Trail traveling up to Memphis from Mississippi… And not to be missed, our culture fans will relish the Unique Museums feature of “must see” and smaller venues in the Corridor. There is truly something to feast on, paddle down, learn about and sing along for everyone on the Great River Road - National Scenic Byway in Tennessee! We also want to take this opportunity to thank the multitude of partners, supporters and donors that have contributed in so many different ways to the success of the Mississippi River Corridor – Tennessee. We are also extremely proud and appreciative of our dedicated Board of Directors, Advisory Council and the six MRCT County Task Force Committee members. They help guide our work and constantly encourage our efforts in creating a better quality of life and additional economic development initiatives for all of our citizens that live, play and work along the Mississippi River. So Happy Trails on land and water – it’s River Time!

Diana Threadgill President/Executive Director

Glenn Cox Vice President

Photograph by Glenn Cox


of the


~ ~ ~


“But I didn’t before know how much any body would suffer and not die. This, and some of my other experiments in water, learned me something about it.” ~ David Crockett 1834

On an early spring morning in 1826, a near tragedy on the Mississippi River brought two famous Tennesseans with different destinies together for the first time. One was Marcus B. Winchester, a prominent resident and the first mayor of Memphis. The other man would have been lost to both Tennessee and Texas history if his original goal of reaching New Orleans on a flatboat went according to plan. His name was David Crockett. The fact that the famous frontiersman/politician was living a hardscrabble life with his family near Rutherford Fork of the Obion River Valley was the result of nature’s destructive force. In 1821, the Crockett family was running their own industrial complex of a gunpowder factory, gristmill, and distillery on Shoal Creek in Lawrence County until a flash flood swept it — and all their dreams — completely away. In true pioneer fashion, they paid off what debts they could and moved on to their new home.

~ by G a ry L. F o r e m a n ~

Chester Harding, the same artist who captured Daniel Boone’s likeness in 1820, painted one of Crockett’s finest portraits in 1834. Courtesy, National Portrait Gallery. Sunset photograph by Gary L. Foreman

m s r


We know much about Crockett’s West Tennessee scrapes in the wilderness because of what he wrote in his autobiography, A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee, Written by Himself. Used as a promotional vehicle for future political ambitions and to clarify the wild tales told of him by others, it is now considered to be a national gift of American literature. The way Crockett tells it, nature often humbled him during his life adventures, and it almost always dealt with water; either it was too much or too cold, either close to drowning or nearly freezing to death. There wasn’t a flood, a frozen river to fall through, or a flatboat accident that didn’t have his name on it. On countless occasions his family had given him up for dead when he didn’t reappear out of the canebrake within a respectable amount of time. But it was one of those near-death calamities that nudged Crockett and his eccentric frontier style into national politics and a seat in Congress. Deciding that there was money to be made in the lumber and barrel stave business, Crockett hired a crew to take the lumber on two newly built flatboats down the Mississippi River to New Orleans where they would sell the entire lot. But serious trouble developed after siding with an inferior crew who really didn’t know how to navigate the big river properly. It quickly became apparent the whole operation was floating on borrowed time. Desperate to reverse the outcome, Crockett tried to take over and struggled to get the boats on the correct course. Lashing them together, David decided the two flatboats were in a better situation than drifting apart. But this only made it worse. In the middle of the night their small flotilla remained precariously out of control when Crockett retired from his watch and went below deck to figure out a new plan. Without warning, the rafts struck an island of protrud-

Scene from The History Channel documentary, Boone & Crockett: The Hunter-Heroes Photography by Gary L. Foreman

Crockett was inside the hull, wearing only his shirt and maybe his trousers, when the water came gushing in. He managed to survive by sticking his arms through a small opening and “hollered as loud as I could roar,” alerting his crew that his time was about up.

John Cooper 1828 Flatboat replica at Mud Island in Memphis


River Times 2012- 2 0 1 3

ing logs just north of Memphis, sucking everything under. Crockett was inside the hull, wearing only his shirt and maybe his trousers, when the water came gushing in. He managed to survive by sticking his arms through a small opening and “hollered as loud as I could roar,” alerting his crew that his time was about up. “I told them I was sinking, and to pull my arms off, or force me through, for now I know’d well enough it was neck or nothing, come out or sink. By a violent effort they jerked me through; but I was in a pretty pickle when I got through. I had been sitting without any clothing over my shirt; this was torn off, and I was literally skin’d like a rabbit.” A strange sense of calm came over Crockett as he sat in the darkness, floating on a log and in awe of

the miracle that he had cheated death once more. By sunrise the entire crew was alive but barely hanging on an island of driftwood trees just a couple miles north of Memphis. A substantial crowd was gathering on an adjacent low bluff gawking at the sorry sight about a mile from shore. Within hours, the shipwrecked victims were rescued by a passing boat and taken to Memphis where Crockett met up with one of the most industrious of men in the region. That man was Marcus B. Winchester, a successful and enterprising merchant who provided clothing, money, and eventually a passage back home. Even in disaster, there was something about Crockett’s unique character and the hilarious way he looked at his “canebrake” world that drew people to his side. On this fateful day, the timing that brought the wealthy Winchester face to face with Crockett’s indomitable spirit was worth more than a fleet of steamboats. He became one of Crockett’s strongest financial supporters for the upcoming congressional race of 1827 and even beyond. Almost 10 years later, on the very bluffs where the two friends met, Crockett would bid a final farewell to Winchester as he ferried across the river that had almost destroyed him. No one watching the departure Marcus B. Winchester would imagine the final fate that awaited him at the Alamo, and his destiny to become an American folk-hero.

“I told them I was sinking, and to pull my I know’d well enough it was neck or nothing, come out or sink. By a violent effort they jerked me through; but I was in a pretty pickle when I got through. I had been sitting without any clothing over my shirt; this was torn off, and I was literally skin’d like a rabbit.”

arms off, or force me through, for now

Gary L. Foreman is an award-winning producer, director, writer, and photographer. Known for producing scores of top-rated historical films and documentaries for various television networks and museums, he and his wife Carolyn Raine-Foreman successfully run their multi-media company, Native Sun Productions. Foreman is completing his latest project, a coffee table book entitled, Finding David Crockett: The Search for the Lion of the West.

On-going issues with water mishaps marred Crockett’s life, yet he always showed a resiliency and determination to rise above any of his disasters. Photography by Gary L. Foreman

m s r i


~ ~ ~


& Infrastructure

Ingram Barge

President & CEO Craig Philip discusses his company and the river transportation industry. Ingram Barge Co. has a long and storied history going back to the 1850s, its DNA mingled with sawmills and timber transportation, petroleum refineries and war efforts. It’s a different culture now, however, and long gone are the swashbuckling days of transient river rats hopping on and off barges at will, in ports of call up and down the Mississippi River. These days, says president and CEO Craig Philip, the industry is “a bit of a combination of Tom Sawyer and Star Wars” with more of an emphasis placed on the latest technologies available in communications and navigation. And above all, he says, is safety in the workplace. Philip, 58, grew up near Chicago and, laughing from his office in Nashville, identified himself as “severely overeducated,” having attended Princeton as an undergraduate and receiving a Ph.D. in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He went to work for the railroads before being wooed, more than 26 years ago by Ingram Barge, into making the leap from rail to water. Philip was brought in as vice president of strategic planning at a time when the family-owned business was struggling with the question of whether to get out of the barge industry. “We decided that there was a sensible trajectory to grow,” says Philip, “and have done a whole group of acquisitions since that point in time and built lots of new barges over the years.” But the biggest challenge of his tenure may be in keeping the culture of the company, as it grows, similar to the small company it was 30 years ago. “Trying to become large, but maintain the positive features of the culture of a small company is really what I spend a lot of time working on,” says Philip. To that end, he’s worked tirelessly to make one of the most hazardous types of work people can do into a safer environment. He’s also maintained the professionalism and integrity of the industry by requiring that every associate at the manager level and above make an overnight trip every year. Then, there is the commitment to the 10,000 miles of waterways that Ingram traverses, operating with the goal of “zero discharge,” investing and partnering with organizations such as the Mississippi River Corridor-Tennessee and The Nature Conser-


River Times 2012 - 2 0 1 3

vancy “to look for places where navigation interests and ecological interests and preservation interests can converge,” says Philip. Ingram has worked in the past with MRCT on an Environmental Protection Agency grant involving testing new emission technologies on some of the company’s towboats. The practice of moving commodities by barge over a natural resource like a river is an ancient practice that has seen little change over time with the basic networks remaining the same. In this region, there has been little new in the form of links to the system since the construction of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in the 1980s. The barges and boats remain the same size they were 50 years ago – they can’t be any deeper or longer because of the restraints of locks and dams – and the last great leap in technology was moving from steam propulsion to dieselelectric propulsion. The industry hasn’t faced the issues of airlines or deep-ocean shipping where the vessels continue to grow in size. But there is always room for advancement and evolution in any business. “We have taken this mature technology and we’ve added a lot of technology in communications and navigation that I think has made it more productive, and certainly safer,” Philip says. “Ingram works hard to be a leader in that.” When not working, Philip enjoys cooking and golf, and spending time with his wife, Marian Ott, and two daughters: Julia, who is working toward a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and Jenny, finishing her third year in medical school. It’s family, and the constant challenges of safety and productivity, that keep this transplanted Yankee ticking and Ingram Barge at the top of the shipping game. Notes Philip, “If it’s bulky and heavy, and shippers need to move a lot of it, we’re going to be the mode of choice wherever the waterways go because we’re a much more cost-effective, economical, environmentally friendly mode of transportation.”

~ by R ic h a r d J. A l l e y ~

The mission of the Sustainable Shelby Implementation Plan, according to its website, is to “set realistic, actionable, and quantifiable strategies that will guide Shelby County toward a more sustainable future. The Office of Sustainability will work with relevant public and private sector agencies and individuals to implement those strategies.” Conceived in 2008 by A C Wharton, then-mayor of Shelby County, the goal was to determine how we, as a community, could make our core city communities more walkable, more attractive, and healthier; progressive concepts that are bandied about when talk turns to “green” and sustainability. Citizens and organizations from around the county came to present their ideas and discuss thoughts, best practices research was done and other cities around the country examined, and the result was a plan with 151 recommendations on all the things we can do to become more sustainable. “It’s really more of a framework plan; it’s not the end-all, be-all for sustainability, but it is a start to move us in the right direction,” says Paul Young, Administrator of Sustainable Shelby. Before he could create an office to implement the plan, Wharton was elected mayor of Memphis. The new mayor of Shelby County, Mark Luttrell, read through the plan and, Young says, “thought it showed great collaboration from community members and that it was something that he really wanted to keep the momentum going on, and so he went ahead and formed the office on April 1, 2011.” The Office of Sustainability is now charged with implementing those original 151 strategies. A true city/county initiative, it was started by Mayor Wharton and formed by Mayor Luttrell, and housed within the Division of Planning and Development, a city/county division. A recent $2.6 million HUD Regional Planning Grant was awarded to develop a plan for a network of greenways, parks, blueways, byways, wildlife management areas, and open spaces throughout the region. In year one, a group of greenway organizations, local businesses, philanthropic entities, and government agencies will establish the Mid-South Regional Greenprint & Sustainability Consortium to create an overarching plan. During subsequent years, individual communities will have the opportunity to apply for additional planning funds for their specific neighborhood. A green building task force has been formed to review building codes and come up with recommendations to make the county’s codes more green and sustainable. The building and permit process is being studied to see how it might be streamlined for more efficiency, to encourage people to take on more sustainable projects in the future. An energy efficiency program is being developed for Shelby County government, looking at government buildings, quantifying utility usage on an annual basis, and targeting future investments for building upgrades and where the largest impact on energy consumption can be made as equipment is replaced. “I like to find solutions to everyday problems through sustainability,” says Young. To that end, there have been discussions with the correction facility to create a training program for inmates to make the facility — the highest utility user in Shelby County — more energy efficient and requiring less funding for utilities while training the inmates in a skill to use after prison. Notes Young, “Then you’re actually addressing social issues, economic issues, and environmental issues all at the same time. That’s the way we’re viewing our office.” Working with GrowMemphis and the Shelby County Land Bank, tax sale properties are being used for urban garden demonstration proj-

Photographs by Christine Donhardt, Senior Planner with Sustainable Shelby

~ by

R ic h a r d J. A l l e y

Sustainable ~ Shelby

Establishing a framework for a greener Shelby County.

ects. “We have all these blighted parcels in our neighborhoods that Shelby County owns because they were taken at some point for taxes,” says Young. “We’re working with nonprofit groups so that they can take these properties, which are a drain on county resources for maintaining them, and turn them over to the neighborhoods and teach them to garden, provide a place for older generations to interact with young kids, and grow healthy foods right here in the community.” Sustainable Shelby has recently worked with the Mississippi River Corridor-Tennessee to develop the Shelby County Trail Plan, an enhancement to the 32-mile local portion of the 3,000-mile Mississippi River Trail, a system of bike pathways stretching from Minnesota to Louisiana. Young attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville to study electrical engineering and then graduate school at the University of Memphis for urban planning. He finds his work with Sustainable Shelby vastly rewarding. “This position is unique in that it gives me an opportunity to help innovate” he says. “Most divisions of government are charged with implementing some rule or policy, or they have a service they have to deliver, and my job is to help come up with new ideas that can help government be more efficient and do a better job of providing those services. I’m loving it.” For more information, please visit

m s r i


~ ~ ~

Economic Development

~ by Richard J. Alley ~


American Queen Steamboat Company

There was a time when traveling from the top of Tennessee to the bottom along the western edge was done on horseback or by river. While having your Appaloosa share the road with a Toyota today might not be viable, we do suggest a leisurely bike ride along the Mississippi River Trail. However, if you wish to see the terrain from the other side of the Chickasaw Bluffs and get a feel for the sights and sounds of the 19th century, hop aboard the American Queen steamboat, the prized jewel in the crown of the American Queen Steamboat Co. The boat measures 420 feet long and 108 feet tall to the top of the ornate smoke stacks. She holds six decks that can accommodate 436 guests and 172 crew. She is, quite simply, the largest and most luxurious steamboat on the water anywhere. Tim Rubacky, vice president of sales, marketing and product development for the company, likens the riverboat travelers aboard the American Queen to those adventurers who “aren’t going to stay in the big, new hotel. They certainly are looking for comfort and modern conveniences, but they also like some richness, some heritage, some history.” Many of those guests are Baby Boomers looking, not only for relaxation and fun, but a way to stay engaged with the environment and to learn something along the way. With stops (out of Memphis) at historic Vicksburg, Natchez, New Orleans; and north to Cape Girardeau, New Madrid, Paducah and St. Louis, the agenda is sightseeing coupled with education. There is much to learn, from Civil War history to the nuances of Southern culture, music, literature and food. Jeff Krida, CEO of the American Queen Steamboat Co. told The Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis last spring that “We’re in the business of taking Americans — mostly over 50, well educated, well traveled — for authentic experiences along with great food, great accommodations, great entertainment, and great hospitality.” On board, too, there are also Riverlorians, those adept at telling a tale of the river and towns from long ago. Mississippi River Corridor-TN


River Times 201 2 - 2 0 1 3

Board member Jimmy Ogle is one such historian, and has been traveling the river since the American Queen’s inaugural trip in April 2012. “The reception has been great,” Ogle says of his lectures. “Guests have been interested in hearing about the small towns along the way; that’s a big part of the trip. What’s different about being on the Mississippi River compared to an ocean cruise is the scenery changes all the time.” And with each new scene comes another bit of history. This isn’t your great-grandfather’s river travel. The American Queen is a floating palace, a raft of opulence to impress even the most seasoned and expectant traveler. Furnishings and décor are the finest antiques, and mahogany gleams from bow to stern. There is a lounge, grand saloon, and replica of Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. “She’s just dripping with Victorian décor,” says Rubacky, “but, at the same time, she’s got all the modern amenities, including coffee makers with Starbucks coffee in every stateroom, Wi-Fi access, and flat screen TVs so it’s the best of everything.” And of course no steamboat would be complete without a gallery named after the godfather of river travel, Mark Twain, who described a riverboat sighting in Life on the Mississippi, his 1883 memoir: “… the people fasten their eyes upon the coming boat as upon a wonder they are seeing for the first time. And the boat is rather a handsome sight, too.” She is handsome, with red and white trim work, slim smokestacks, flags flying high and that bright red paddlewheel, almost as mighty as the Mississippi itself. The itinerary varies (depending upon time of year and river levels), but passes along the Tennessee corridor in June through November, optimum times to appreciate the lush green vegetation on the banks, and then the rich autumn colors as the canopy rusts for the year. It is just as our forefathers witnessed it, and the lapping of water against the hull, calls of native birds, and waves from locals shore-side are still the best way to appreciate the wonders this area of the country has to offer. More information can be found at

The American Queen provides history, culture and entertainment for its travelers.

H e r i tag e D e v e l o p m e n t


C u lt u r a l A m e n i t i e s



Museums Treasures in the Corridor


rom cotton and the means to

transport it, to the appreciation of ornate sculptures and history as literature, Western Tennessee is a treasure trove of artifacts, cultures, people, innovation, and pride. Citizens of this region are makers and keepers of history and it can be seen in the many museums up and down the Mississippi River Corridor. The artifacts in these museums are culled from local stories, families, and histories, yet have impacted the world at large, whether through art, education, culture, or war. Within these walls and among the grounds are homegrown memories with a worldwide impact. And as we celebrate our past, the museums dedicated to a way of life — the seed of industry, the art in our people — become more and more popular. Indeed, visitors come from the world over to visit these counties and their institutions that celebrate the citizenry and accomplishments of the region.

~ by R i c h a r d J. A l l e y ~

~ ~

~ N at i o na l O r na m e n ta l M e ta l M u s e u m Memphis * metalmuseum.or g


ituated on President’s Island among industrial portsof-call, a residential neighborhood, Native American burial mounds, and an abandoned 19th-century Marine hospital is the National Ornamental Metal Museum. Not just a beautiful setting for sculpture and exhibits, the museum is also the only institution in the country devoted exclusively to the advancement of the art and craft of fine metalwork. “The Metal Museum's commitment to education extends beyond exhibitions, tours, and workshops,” says executive director Carissa Hussong. “We provide opportunities for the general public to witness firsthand how metal is forged and cast to create one-of-a-kind objects, while developing the next generation of metalsmiths through our apprentice and artist-in-residence programs.”

m s r i v


Treasures in the Corridor ~ C ot to n M u s e u m o f M e m p h i s

Memphis * memphiscottonmuseum.or g


otton Row in downtown Memphis was the hub of worldwide cotton trading in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Cotton Exchange, — at the intersection of Union Avenue and Front Street, firmly in the center of the Row — was a place for sellers, traders and buyers to meet, discuss the issues of the day and industry, and keep track of the most up-to-date pricing. “A lot of our history, art and culture comes to us as a result of the people who gathered here,” says Melissa Farris, special events coordinator for the museum. That exchange floor now is home to the Cotton Museum and welcomes those interested in agriculture — and the Southern way of life — from around the world.

~ C.H. Nash Museum at the

Chucalissa A rchaeological Site Memphis *


he C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa is a prehistoric American Indian archaeological site dating back to the 15th century. The site was occupied, abandoned and reoccupied several times throughout its history, spanning from 1000 to 1550 A.D. The museum, named after its founding director, curates an extensive collection of artifacts recovered during a 40-year period of systematic excavations. The site features a Mississippian mound complex, nature trail and arboretum, hands-on archaeology lab, and exhibits that explore the history and life-ways of Native Americans of the historic and prehistoric southeastern United States.

~ The Veterans’ Museum Halls *


ennessee is known as the Volunteer State and for more than a century its men and women have stepped forward to protect our freedoms and ideals. The Dyersburg Army Air Base is the site of The Veterans’ Museum and was a B-17 training base during World War II. Exhibits include a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter, an A-7 Corsair jet and other aircraft and artifacts from World War I up to Desert Storm. “We get all ranges of visitors, from 5-years-old to 99,” says Patricia Higdon, director of the museum, who adds that many veterans have made the trip to share their personal stories and donate memorabilia.

~ Alex Haley Museum and Interpretive Center


Henning * al

n researching and writing about his own lineage, Alex Haley gave the world a better understanding of life in the 18th and 19th centuries. And it all began from a little house in Henning, Haley’s boyhood home. In 2010 an interpretive center was built adjacent to the home. It now hosts school groups to walk through its slave-ship replica, watch a film on the making of the miniseries Roots, and conducts free genealogy workshops. “With this new facility, we can offer more facts about Alex Haley,” says museum director Paula Boger, who has welcomed visitors from around the world.


R iver Times 201 2 - 2 0 1 3

~ Tipton County Museum & Nature Center Covington *


his unique museum, says director Alice Fisher, “brings together history, environmental education, and historic preservation.” Sitting on a 22-acre wildlife sanctuary with a half-mile nature trail and a wetland study area, school groups visit for a dual lesson in science and history. The curriculum might include the habitat of native turtles and birds as well as artifacts from the

Shoot Dyer County photo by Jill Vondy

Newbern Depot & Railroad Museum

Mexican War (1846-1848) up to the current confrontations in the Middle East. Citizens of Tipton County have fought in every war represented.

~ Dixie Gun Works

Union City * d i


urner Kirkland, a wholesale jewelry salesman, began selling antique guns from the trunk of his car in 1948. He soon moved up in the world and, though he passed away in 1997, his love of antique guns and cars endures in Dixie Gun Works’ 46,000 square feet of buildings in Union City. Dixie Gun Works is “primarily a mail order business specializing in antique and muzzle-loading firearms, and has quite a large customer base,” says Charles Kirkland, Turner’s son and vice president of the business. The museum side of the business, however, holds a replica log cabin gunsmith shop with period tools from the 1800s, steam engines and whistles, and 40 restored antique cars, the oldest of which is a 1908 Maxwell.

~ Emmett Lewis Memorial

H e r i tag e C e n t e r & M u s e u m Tiptonville * ( 7 31) 253-9922


mmett Lewis was a city historian and served as the fire chief of Tiptonville, working alongside brother, and longtime mayor Bill Lewis as a two-person, privately run fire department following World War II. The Heritage Center & Museum that bears his name is part of the city hall premises, having once been the firehouse where Emmett lived and

worked. Suzanne Davis, a member of Tiptonville Main Street, a community-based nonprofit organization, lists just some of the treasures found within the museum: a section devoted to Reelfoot Lake, a Calhoun “stumpjumper” boat, Emmett’s collection of steamboat photos, an exhibit of Civil War history, information on the flood of 1937, and exhibits devoted to a pair of hometown legends: four-star General Clifton B. Cates and musician Carl Perkins.

~ N e w b e r n D e p ot & R a i l roa d M u s e u m Newbern * cityofne wber n.or g


till a working train depot with two passenger stops daily on Amtrak’s City of New Orleans route, the Newbern Depot & Railroad Museum was built in 1920 by the Illinois Central Railroad and is listed on the National Historic Register. Restored in 1992 with private donations, the museum features authentic tools, railroad uniforms and schedules, photographs, model railroads, and artwork. A monument to the Illinois Central Railroad can be found on the grounds just outside the museum. Newbern hosts the annual Depot Days Festival to celebrate Dyer County and the Newbern Depot.

m s r i v


~ ~ ~

C o n s e rvat i o n

& Environment


On the Tennessee side the Chickasaw Bluffs run the length of the Mississippi River. At Memphis the Bluff butts up to the River (thus the City’s nickname of Bluff City). However, as it progresses northward, the Bluff snakes back and forth from the river. Just north of the mouth of the Hatchie River the Bluff touches the Mississippi for the last time in Tennessee. It is here, in Lauderdale County, that a narrow strip of bottomland emerges that is bordered by the Mississippi River on the west and the Bluff on the east. From the Kentucky state line to the Mississippi line are some of the highest points around and afford commanding views of the Mississippi River, alluvial forests, and large tracts of farmland that dot the landscape. Lauderdale County is the center of the bordering counties, and the keystone. According to John Threadgill, a member of the Board of Directors for the Mississippi River Corridor-Tennessee (MRCT), Lauderdale County is “the diamond in the rough.” This county possesses some of the most unique features of the six counties, including a very well-defined bluff and fertile bottom land. With Chickasaw Bluff No. 1 diverging from the river in Lauderdale County, close to 100,000 acres of alluvial bottom land is revealed (sparsely populated, heavily forested, and jointly private and publicly-owned). Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service own vast tracts as well as large-scale farming operations owned by private citizens. Each of the six counties under the purview of MRCT is unique with its own characteristics, whether topographic, geographic, cultural, or historical. Lauderdale County is no exception as there is no levee system so the soil is constantly renewed and recharged through flooding and silt washed downriver. It is fertile, yet unpredictable, as we learned with the late historic spring flooding of the Mississippi in 2011. Numerous lakes make up the area as well and provide water, sustenance, and recreation for local wildlife, hunters, and anglers. The area seems idyllic, and it is. Part of the problem, though, says Threadgill, is that

by R i c h a r d J. A l l e y


ings with focus groups made up of local citizens to help define exactly what it is that Lauderdale County has, and to map out where the assets are. “What’s interesting is that no one person really seems to have the complete knowledge of what’s there,” says Threadgill, and the meetings and expertise of those involved have led to a much larger picture of the area’s characteristics. Threadgill says Phase Two will include a more detailed conceptual outline of what can be done to make the area more attractive for visitors and result in a cohesive plan that can be used as a blueprint. Phase Three is implementation, though Threadgill is quick to point out that this is a far-reaching, almost timeless plan. “The plan will be a living plan, it will be ongoing. What we want to do is get the ball in motion, to create the blueprint that can be used for every year going forward. It can be altered, it can be amended based on the changes of the political and economic landscapes; a plan that can work in perpetuity.” Part of that plan will include purchasing land to connect the upper reaches of the

Lauderdale County Environmental & Economic Plan

This multi-phase plan will create greater awareness of the county’s unique features.

“You have this bluff system, some great vistas, but there is not one designated overlook anywhere; there is no trail system that allows someone to experience that opportunity. There is no signage, nothing there that would tell someone what’s right up the road that you can go look for.” As part of the Lauderdale County Plan, and with a grant from longtime partner The McKnight Foundation, the MRCT is conducting a three-phase plan. At its simplest, it’s making people aware of what the county possesses. This will include, over time, new signage, road improvements, well-defined trails and overlooks, additional boat access, interpretive centers, and the enhancement and uniformity of current assets. As part of the study, MRCT is working closely with TWRA, USFWS, Tennessee State Parks, Tennessee State Forests, the National Park Service, the Nature Conservancy and private landowners. The area, as it stands, is a blank slate and the challenge, says Threadgill, is to “come up with a master plan that tries to utilize what’s down there and try to figure out a way to put it all together so that we actually have a product.” The project began 10 months ago, and the first phase has included several meet-


River Times 201 2 - 2 0 1 3

county with the lower. “We’re trying to connect them in corridors, so that it’s not just one little piece here and one little piece there,” says Ed Carter, director of the TWRA and an MRCT Board Director. “When we buy tracts of land, we try to buy those that are contiguous to another piece that we have, so that, for the most part, we have a wildlife corridor.” The loss of forestation within the lower Mississippi River, the main flyway for North America, and the resulting impact on habitat for migratory water fowl has been the impetus to the Lauderdale County plan. While adjoining states have as much at stake in the loss of such an ecosystem, Tennessee — and Lauderdale County in particular, — is looked upon as a focal point.

Lower Mississippi River Resource Assessment The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers leads the way in studying future river usage.

The mighty Mississippi River touches 10 states, yet it belongs to no one. It is an artery used freely for travel, transport, recreation, and sustenance. With these pursuits of pleasure and commerce, along with the ravages of floods and the current itself, comes a great toll on this great waterway. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is leading an ambitious project to study how best to improve management of the river for all of its uses. “For 200 years we’ve been significantly altering the river for two main purposes: one is commercial navigation and the other is flood risk management,” says Gretchen Benjamin from her office in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Benjamin is program director of large rivers for The Nature Conservancy. “As we move forward and we look at ways we might also want to take the environment and the natural resource into consideration, we have to think about those two elements first and then how can we integrate the needs of the environment.” To that end, the Lower Mississippi River Resource Assessment is a collaborative project The document involving the Corps of Engineers and sponsor The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and Great Rivers will “provide a Partnership (which includes partner entities Missisframework for sippi River Corridor-Tennessee, Audubon Society, Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee, managing the Delta Wildlife, Mississippi Wildlife and Quapaw river differently Canoe Company). A cost-share agreement was signed by the Corps and TNC in January 2012. than it is today.” According to the project’s mission statement: “This study will cover portions of seven states. It is made up of river reaches and adjacent floodplains within the Lower Mississippi River alluvial valley (LMRAV) on the Mississippi mainstream and tributaries south of Cairo, Illinois, and the Atchafalaya basin floodway system. The active floodplain encompasses 954 river miles and almost 3.0 million acres; including 1,600 lakes and 145 river side-channels. The purpose of the study is to develop recommendations for 1) the collection, availability, and use of information needed for river-related management; 2) the planning, construction, and evaluation of potential restoration, protection, and enhancement measures to meet identified habitat needs; and 3)

Photograph by Glenn Cox

potential projects to meet identified river access and recreation needs.” “The Corps will guide and lead the study, and the sponsor and their partners will contribute to it,” says Bret Walters, senior planner and regional technical specialist with the Corps. “So we’re writing it as a team to meet Corps standards and requirements, and it will be reviewed through the Corps’ review chain and released as an Engineers report to Congress.” The document will “provide a framework for managing the river differently than it is today,” says Walters. “We’re looking at a broader range of uses by a broader range of users and just an overall consideration of other uses in the decisionmaking processes that are used to manage the river.” The combination of the partnership and the large geographic scope make this assessment unique for the Corps. Formal public participation will begin by holding three public meetings to discuss the river and gauge the concerns of those affected by it, followed by agency and stakeholder meetings along the way. Less formal ways for the public to participate will be provided through social media site development that is being led by the non-Federal partners. It’s a true collaborative effort that, once completed, will help improve life, leisure and economics all along the river. As Benjamin says, “We don’t want to jeopardize … commercial navigation and managing the river for floods as a result of trying to improve conditions for a natural resource, but we believe that there’s a way they can blend together better than they have in the past.”

m s r i v


~ ~ ~

C o n s e rvat i o n

& Environment

The Hatchie River Designated a Tennessee Scenic River, this historic landmark is protected for recreational and educational use.

Canoeing the Hatchie River is like floating through the past, a time before humans thought they might know better than Mother Nature. “It’s a meandering, historic river,” says Randy Cook with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. “It’s like going back in time as far as getting out in an area that hasn’t been channelized or altered by mankind.” Cook is quick to point out, however, that the Hatchie has its problems. There are filtration and sedimentation problems, but it hasn’t been straightened or molested in ways that every other river in the state has been. “It’s the threat from activities that have taken place historically and their legacies continue today,” says Alex Wyss, The Nature Conservancy’s director of conservation programs for Tennessee, who spent years working on the Hatchie. “The sediments are coming from streams that were channelized years ago and continue to be unstable. They continue to erode at a rapid pace and those sediments flow downriver, down the tributaries into the main stem of the Hatchie and are clogging up the Hatchie in various places.” While it’s the legacy of upstream channeling that endangers the Hatchie, it’s the unfettered landscape of the river itself that makes it so unique and worthy of protection. Part of that protection includes being designated a Tennessee Scenic River by the Department of Environment and Conservation. Since the Scenic Rivers Program was established in 1968, segments of 13 rivers in Tennessee have been designated as State Scenic Rivers. The largest of these is the Hatchie River, which marks the line between Tipton and Lauderdale counties within the Mississippi River Corridor and is the longest free-flowing tributary of the Mississippi River with the largest forested floodplain in the state.


River Times 201 2 - 2 0 1 3

Designation of a State Scenic River is an act of legislation and its purpose, as stated by the Department of Education and Conservation, is “to preserve valuable selected rivers, or sections thereof, in their free-flowing, natural, or scenic conditions, and to protect their water quality and adjacent lands. The program seeks to preserve within the scenic rivers system itself, several different types and examples of river areas, including mountain streams and deep gorges of east Tennessee, the pastoral rivers of middle Tennessee, and the swamp rivers of west Tennessee. State Scenic Rivers are managed according to the Rules for the Management of Tennessee Natural Resource Area.” (A Natural Resource Area is any that “exhibits significant natural, historical, cultural, or recreational resources.”) “There is a high diversity of aquatic life,” Wyss says. About 250 species of birds utilize the hardwood forests, canebrakes, swamps, and lowlands encompassing the Hatchie River at some point during the seasons. There are 100 species of fish, 35 species of mussels, and more species of catfish than any other river in North America. Turtles, otters, deer and beavers also call the ecosystem home. “Across the board,” notes Wyss, “the diversity of life for the Hatchie is much higher than other comparable rivers.” The USFWS works with numerous agencies such as The Nature Conservancy, The Hatchie River Conservancy, Mississippi River CorridorTN, Hatchie River Alliance, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Department of Forestry, and many others to protect, conserve, preserve, enhance and promote the natural assets of the Hatchie River and its surrounding areas. Cook sits on the advisory board for the MRCT to recognize resource assets and what’s available in Western Tennessee, what facilities are available for the public to use and identify the need for additional facilities. “We encourage people to use these natural resources,” says Cook. “We want them to be used in a way that doesn’t deter from the natural function of these special places … that doesn’t detract or tear down or destroy what nature is trying to do out there.” The Hatchie River is a jewel among the tributaries and rivers of the state, and is being monitored by a plethora of agencies and organizations. If we don’t learn from our mistakes, they say, we are doomed to repeat them. And if the Hatchie is left to its own flow and meanderings, it will continue to be a recreational and educational tool for generations to come.

Photograph by Conner Franklin

~ As those native to the state know, Tennessee is actually three different states – West, Middle and East – and is broken up demographically, historically, culturally, politically, and economically. Some of its most diverse characteristics, though, might be geographic and environmental, from the mountains of the East to the lakes of the Middle and the wetlands and Mississippi River in the West. The management and enhancement of all of these diverse ecosystems, their wildlife and multitudes of recreational uses, falls to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and its director, Ed Carter. “Tennessee is quite unique,” Carter says. “It is the most diverse inland state in the nation. The Duck River (in middle Tennessee) is one of the three most biologically diverse rivers in the entire world.” The TWRA (with more than 700 employees) is charged with not only the management of the resources, but the education of the public about such resources. It may be the most important aspect of the agency, with an entire division dedicated to such work. The bulk of the information, education, outreach, and media relations efforts resides in the Information and Education Division. However, other Divisons such as the environmental division which deals with everything from pollutants to natural disasters and the species affected, such as the mussel population, are also involved with educational responsibilities. It also helps coordinate the environmental education side of things by working with

by R i c h a r d J. A l l e y


programs. The agency receives no state dollars, but is self-funded from hunting and fishing licenses and whatever money comes in from the federal government. “The number of hunters and fishermen is decreasing almost every year,” says Carter, “so we’re trying to figure out some way to fund the agency long term.” As part of his love of the outdoors and his interest in the diverse ecology of Tennessee, Carter sits on the board of the Mississippi River CorridorTennessee and says “their best days are yet to come . . . they’ve already done a bunch of good things . . . the strategic plans that they’re putting together, both for specific counties and overall, fits right into our mission.” Carter has managed a rarity for a working man: the marriage of one’s career and life’s passion. Along the way, he’s discovered a personal mission: to enjoy the outdoors, share it, and be as good a steward for the next generation as possible.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Director Ed Carter manages the agency that ovesees all of the state’s diverse ecosystems. school groups alongside the Department of Education. In addition, there are formal classes such as the Hunter Education program, necessary for anyone after they turn 10 years old before they can hunt in the state; and the boating class required to operate a boat. For anyone interested in the outdoors, there are a plethora of classes and programs available. Raised in East Tennessee and having majored in Forestry & Wildlife at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Carter spent time “doing an odd job or two from Kroger to car washes” until a job opened at the TWRA, where he’s now worked for the past 40 years. “I’ve been in and out of just about every division that we have in the agency over that number of years,” he says. “I’ve been in field positions and staff positions as well, so it’s given me a pretty broad view of looking at the entire agency.” He still appreciates the time to get outdoors and the diversity of the state. “There’s not much I don’t enjoy,” he says, recounting a recent turkey hunt with his son, daughterin-law, and grandchildren. A family of the outdoors, his wife and family canoe, hike, go boating, and fish together as often as possible. At 63 years old, Carter isn’t anticipating retirement within the next few years. “We’ve got some programs that we’ve just begun that I’d really like to see to fruition,” he says. Among the priorities: reorganizing the complete strategic plan from the current species-based plan to a habitat-based plan, and figuring out a better funding initiative to fund the

m s r i v



River Times 201 2 - 2 0 1 3

~ by R i c h a r d J. A l l e y ~ Blues musicians historically traveled a long route lined with high cotton and hard luck, up through Mississippi and the Delta to make a home in Memphis. And with the work of the Downtown Memphis Commission and a resolution signed by the Memphis City Council in November 2011, the city is finally getting its due with the official naming of the “Tennessee Highway 61 – Blues Trail.” (or…by officially naming the “Tennessee Highway 61 – Blues Trail.”) The original route of storied Hwy. 61 (mapped out in the 1920s) ran from New Orleans to Minnesota, connecting cities like Memphis, St. Louis, and St. Paul. The Memphis portion of the highway is also known as Third Street, yet it currently turns west on Crump Blvd. in its downtown approach and is carried The Blues Foundation, Memphis across the Mississippi River and into Arkansas, never realizing its rightful place in Memphis — and Blues — history. “The actual route that most musicians took through the Delta went through the core of downtown and that’s reflected in where they played and the creation of Beale St. and all that,” says Andy Kitsinger, senior vice president of planning and development with the Downtown Memphis Commission. On its winding way through Mississippi, the trail recognizes such iconic locales as B.B. King’s birthplace in Berclair, Charley Patton’s grave in Holly Ridge, Elvis Presley’s birthplace in Tupelo, and the

Hi-Hat Club in Hattiesburg. The Downtown Memphis Commission looks at the rightful routing of the Blues Trail through Memphis as both cultural and historic justice, as well as a potential economic boon to the downtown area. “Intuitively, it seems that there are a lot of visitors, both national and international, that are looking for that blues thing, that authentic heritage focus,” says Kitsinger. “When they get here, it’s sort of interwoven and hidden, and there’s not this easily understandable direction and documented approach about how to discover the blues.” With initial seed money from a Tennessee Department of Tourism grant, the B.B. King’s birthplace Memphis Blues Trail will begin correcting this oversight and place markers at key historical and cultural sites such as The Chisca Hotel, Memphis Rock ’n Soul Museum, Daisy Theater, Center for Southern Folklore, WDIA Radio, and the W.C. Handy House Museum among many others. “There are so many existing sites that reinforce that it’s just a matter of exposing and connecting these sites,” notes Kitsinger. “Between Sun Studio and the Blues Foundation, and the Rock ’n Soul Museum and Beale Street, there’s a story to be told by each one individually, but it’s a lot stronger when it’s connected and tied together.”

m s r i v


~ ~ ~


Mississippi River Trail A new Shelby County plan enhances the trail for all users.

The Mississippi River Trail (MRT) is a 10-state, 3,000-mile pathway identified. These are sporadic two- to four-mile loops that takes a cyclist from the headwaters in Minnesota to the bayous of that break away from the trail and, says Reardon, Louisiana. Thirty-two of those miles fall within Shelby County, entering “give them different slices of Shelby County. There from Tipton County just north of Atoka and winding itself to downtown is a real sense of the extraordinary resources that Memphis and now travels south to the Mississippi state line. exist in the county.” Stops include the rolling hills Though those 32 miles previously existed in the form of pathways and of Shelby Forest, important sites in the fight for civil public streets with designated bike lanes and signage, the County asked rights, the C.H Nash Museum at the Chucalissa the Mississippi River Corridor-Tennessee to look at “ways in which the Archaeological Site, and cultural stops including corridors could be improved, enhanced, highlighted to make it a more Soulsville U.S.A. and the childhood homes of area vital recreational, cultural and economic development resource,” says Dr. music icons. Ken Reardon, professor and director of the graduate program in City & The next step, now that the study of what is availRegional Planning at the University of Memphis. able is complete, is to reach out to the public and The Memphis Regional Design Center and Reardon’s graduate private sectors, those with an interest in promoting program were enlisted by MRCT to create a Shelby County Trail Plan. a healthier, more active and vibrant Memphis, and An ambitious research project was created to survey every mile of the encourage them to invest in one aspect of the plan or current trail, including phoanother. “Typically when people think tographing the trail every 10 about planning,” says Reardon, “the seconds, a detailed look at each plan is usually described as the end mile of the roadway and path point; I think it’s more appropriate system, noting changes of elevato view this as the starting point now tion, quality of surface, whether that there’s a consensus about what’s or not it is protected by natural special about this remarkable route canopy, the quality of scenic and the people and places that can be views and natural, historic, and found along it.” cultural features easily accessible Bicycling, and the trails that confrom the trail. nect communities at such a one-onIn addition to such streetone and personal level, Reardon says, level research, the groups “encourages people’s appreciation of by R i c h a r d J. A l l e y interviewed stakeholders with an place, and for being good stewards interest in the trail, from recreational cyclists to bike shops to the City of of the natural and urban environment that they’re a Memphis’s bikeway/pedestrian coordinator, Kyle Wagenschutz. part of by helping remind them what’s special about Beyond that, three regional meetings were held to coordinate with it.” Cycling is also an arrow in the quiver for the onvarious groups along the trail including neighborhood associations, going fight against childhood obesity and the critical church leaders, elected officials, parks and recreation staff, small businessburden on the national health system that it creates. es and cultural institutions, and additional meetings where the citizenry When all is said and done, the Shelby County was engaged. Trail now runs over 50 miles. There are many ways With the planned extension of bike and pedestrian access across the to see what Shelby County has to offer, from rockHarahan Bridge over the Mississippi River and into Arkansas, the desire and-roll bus tours, to personal cars, to a riverside for accessible, designated pathways in downtown Memphis has grown view from a steamboat. But there may be no better to a fever pitch in the past year. Because the existing trail would ostenway, economically and healthwise, to explore what sibly end in Shelby County at I-55, much of Southwest Memphis was the area has to offer – geographically and culturally overlooked, a wrong righted by the study. Explains Reardon, “We were – than by bicycle. “The nice thing about greenways talking about the possibility of extending the trail south through Martin and landscape urbanism-oriented improvement Luther King Park, ultimately down to Walls, Mississippi, giving access for is that you can have a really dramatic impact for the first time to Southwest Memphis along this trail.” what, in many cases, is a modest amount of money,” An outcome of the many meetings, beyond heightened awareness Reardon says. “The fact is, this trail is mostly on city within the communities, included the decision to recommend an extenand county streets that are already constructed and sion of the trail through southwestern Memphis, which will ultimately in fairly good shape … we’re just spending a little bit connect the two state parks in the community, — Shelby Forest to the of money to connect the dots.” north and T.O. Fuller to the south — lengthening the trail by 18 miles. For more information on the Mississippi River Trail, Five natural, architectural, or cultural spurs off the main trail were also visit:



River Times 201 2 - 2 0 1 3


Photograph by Joe Royer

m s r


~ ~ ~



Reelfoot Lake Field Station

UT Martin operates the Environmental Field Station to provide educational opportunities.

At Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee, a visitor is likely to come across turtles, osprey, cottonmouth snakes, opossum, deer, or the American Bald Eagle. He is just as likely to cross paths with another curious and stealthy creature: the student researcher. About 80 yards from the water line in Samburg, Tennessee, is the Reelfoot Lake Environmental Field Station. Operated through the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences at the University of Tennessee-Martin, the station is home to laboratories and living quarters in two buildings that sit on nearly two acres of land. The mission of the station is to provide educational opportunities in the fields of sciences including ecology, geology and biology, among others. The lake and the field station offer students a singular opportunity to close the textbooks, step out of the classroom, slip on waders and get out into nature to touch and smell the world around them and the subject matter they’ll make a career of studying some day. Most courses are offered in two or three terms over the summer with students living and working at the station, collecting samples and data and studying in the labs. “The idea is for students to come out in their field-related courses, and so they come out and spend either three weeks or five weeks, depending on what course they take, at the field station while they’re taking these courses,” says Tom Blanchard, associate professor in the department of biological sciences at UT Martin, and director of the field station. Blanchard teaches classes on fish biology, amphibians and reptiles, and other ecologybased methods courses. In his course on aquatic macro-invertebrates, he “spends some time lecturing in the mornings and then we’ll go out in the fields – out on the lake itself or by R ichard J. some other wetlands nearby – we’ll make collections and then we come back to the laboratory and they learn skills necessary to identify those critters.” Reelfoot is a unique environment for research, says Jack Grubaugh, in his second year as the chair of biological sciences at UT Martin. “It’s a tectonic lake and pretty much all the lakes in this part of the country are oxbows or man-made, so there really isn’t anything like it, and that in itself is pretty fantastic.” He also points to the history and sociology of the area with whole communities based around hunting, fishing and, he laughs, some outlaws. The program is relatively new as far as coursework at the field station and this is the first year for a full summer program, but the potential for knowledge and hands-on experience in the field is as vast as the water system itself. Says Blanchard, “The opportunities that this provides for students will be extremely beneficial to their development in terms of professional skills and things that they’ll need to know how



River Times 201 2 - 2 0 1 3

to do if they’re interested in pursuing a career in field biology or biology in general.” While the main mission of the station is to provide educational opportunities, Blanchard says, “we also support research activities related to the Reelfoot Lake system.” These include teacher training workshops and hosting researchers studying subjects like sedimentation rates on the lake, amphibians and reptiles, and bird habitats, as well as hosting classes from nearby schools like Austin Peay State University, East Tennessee State University, and Freed-Hardeman. “We’re trying to support educational opportunities in a variety of ways,” says Blanchard. Grubaugh adds that another advantage is Reelfoot’s proximity to the university, noting that many schools have field stations, but they may be hundreds of miles away. “We can incorporate Reelfoot into our classes because we can get them out there in a very short period of time … and bring them back without upsetting anyone’s schedule too much.” The future for this watery classroom includes expansion as a new facility called the Hamilton Site is renovated and upgraded. While the Samburg location sits on land owned by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services and is leased by the college, the new site was purchased by the college and is about two miles A lley from the Samburg location, and on 20 acres of land including waterfront property. The new facility is expected to be completed in two years. “There’s a real lack of field stations and handson type research, so to have one on an extremely unique habitat like Reelfoot is very, very important,” says Grubaugh. “We’re lucky to have it.” Many of the students will go on to study science in graduate school and gain a masters or, eventually, a Ph.D. The lessons gained at Reelfoot will be a strong foundation for further studies. Blanchard says that nearly all of the students he’s worked with “have expressed to me that they enjoy the experience because it’s completely different than anything they’ve ever done before.”


Reelfoot Lake photograph by Gary L. Foreman, Bald Eagle by John Guider


Fishing Hunting Canoeing Hiking Bird Watching River Park Farmers Market

2000 Commerce Ave. Dyersburg, TN 38024


The Wolf River Conservancy –

More than a million people live within our watershed. That’s more than a million reasons to join us today. Learn more at or call 901.452.6500.

m s r i



~ ~ ~Hatters

Mike Moore of Buckaroo Hatters on the Covington town square in Tipton County, makes cowboy hats and fedoras with hometown pride.

~ by R ic h a r d J. A ll e y ~

Photograph by Richard Alley

In Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter presides over a tea party of unique characters. On the Covington town square in Tipton County, Mike Moore — the Buckaroo Hatter, — presides over an eclectic array of shops and restaurants. He is the happiest hatter in all of the Mississippi River Corridor – happy making cowboy hats and fedoras, and happy showing his customers around his workshop. With only about 120 hat makers in the country, Buckaroo Hatters is hometown pride you can wear on your head. Moore’s love of hat-making stems from his love of history and Civil War and Old West reenactments, and his demand for authenticity. While taking part in these activities, he noticed that many of the participants’ hats were wrong and, in looking around, found he couldn’t find the precise hats he was looking for. So he began taking modern hats apart, studying them, reshaping them, and building his own. “I’d wear it to an event,” he says, “and somebody would buy it off my head.” Moore knew he could make the hats from scratch and began a long process of finding suppliers within the close-knit, and somewhat secretive, community of hat makers. His first “factory,” nine years ago, was in the garage of his house where he found demand forcing him to expand. He found himself on the verge of taking over the dining room. “My wife said, ‘No you’re not.’” He found, instead, a home on the square and has never looked back. The two-story shop is like a museum of the Old

West with memorabilia, movie posters, Western paraphernalia and, of course, hats anywhere the eye lands. And then there is equipment like something out of a Jules Verne story. There are two Singer sewing machines — which haven’t been built in close to 60 years — used to sew the sweat bands into the hats. There’s a brim press, a sand bagger (used to put a snap brim on dress hats), boilers, steamers and hand tools. Moore is always on the look for vintage equipment and has wooden hat molds that are over 100 years old lining a wall. Moore makes all kinds of hats, from men’s dress hats styled from the 1930s and ’40s to modern Western hats. His specialty, of course, are hats of the Old West. All are custom made to three grades – Ultimate (made from pure beaver), 50x (50-percent beaver, 50-percent Belgium hare), and the 10x (100-percent Belgium hare) – and are priced from $205 to $1,000. Says Moore, “You’d be surprised at how many working cowboys — who only make about $1,200 a month — will buy a $500 hat. When they get up at 4:30 in the morning, six days a week, they don’t know if it’s going to be sleet, snow, or hot sun, but they do know that pure beaver hat is going to withstand the conditions day in and day out.” As much as the process of making hats is a throwback to a bygone era, the act of selling hats has found a home in the 21st century, with orders coming in via the Internet from Germany, Italy, Spain, and all across the United States. It’s those customers Moore gets to meet eye to eye, though, that he cherishes. Putting the material in hand and walking the wearer through the process is where the satisfaction is found. Once asked by a local newspaper reporter if he’d had any famous customers, Moore answered with an excitable “Yes!” and went on to explain that “every customer that walks in that door is a special customer for me and famous … I’m honored that he or she has chosen me to make them a new hat.”

Buckaroo Hatters, (901) 907-7436 Covington, TN 24

River Times 201 2 - 2 0 1 3

0206-TDT_RivrTmes_Hlfpg.indd 1

7/2/12 9:31 AM

Tennessee Canoeing and Paddling Laws * Must have an approved, wearable life jacket for each person readily accessible. * Anyone under 13 years old must wear a life jacket at all times. * Must exhibit a white light or lantern after sunset or during times of restricted visibility. WEAR YOUR LIFE JACKET! — 85% of drowning victims in boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket.

m s r i


AGENCY: White | Thompson Output: 4-color

AD TITLE: TN Trails & Byways PUBLICATION: River Times

Visit to start planning your Tennessee Road Trip.

AD SIZE: 7.375 x 4.875”

Explore West Tennessee on one of three self-guided driving trails: Great River Road National Scenic Byway & Trail, Walking Tall: Rockabilly, Rails & Legendary Tales or Cotton Junction: Teapots to Sweet Spots. You’ll uncover stunning natural areas brimming with wildlife, musical heritage, and hidden gems you won’t find anywhere else.

The Mississippi River Corridor in Tennessee is known for its fine fishing and hunting, bird watching, boating and hiking, and there are a number of winding rivers and cool lakes for such activities. But if it’s a meal you’re hunting for, Chisholm Lake Store in Lauderdale County is feeding the entire corridor. Owner Raymond Simpson will be happy to sit with you and talk about fishing or the current water levels, explaining why it is you feel as if you’re rising and lowering. “It’s a pretty unique thing because the restaurant is built on stilts and floats, and when the Mississippi River stage hits 32 feet in Memphis, this building will just start floating,” he says. The late spring flooding of last year proved to be too much, however, and Simpson was forced to close down a total of six months. But a little water couldn’t stop Simpson and his wife Michelle. They opened back up and their regulars — coming from as far south as Shelby County and as far north as Missouri — flocked back. The store itself sells cold beer, Coca-Cola, snacks and

Chisholm Lake Store ~

~ ~

Photographs by Glenn Cox

~ by R i c h a r d J. A l l e y ~


River Times 201 2 - 2 0 1 3

such, but it’s the dinners of steaks, crab legs, baked potatoes and salad that lures people from surrounding counties. “We have a lot of regulars who come to eat at least twice a month with us,” says Simpson. The 120-seat restaurant has been serving meals since the early 1990s when J.R. Wade – known to everyone as “Bones” – first fired up the grill. When it became available in 2008, Simpson, who is from the area, jumped at the chance to run the gastronomic mainstay. It is now a familyrun operation with Simpson’s nephew, two sisters-in-law, and Michelle helping out around the restaurant. Chisholm Lake is about 10 miles from the historic Lauderdale County Courthouse in downtown Ripley. A thin crescent of water, it skirts the eastern edge of the Anderson-Tully State Wildlife Management Area and is a draw for anglers and kayakers, and Simpson will let any customer put in from his ramp free of charge. He considers his customers “a big family” and it’s this hospitality that makes the restaurant such a draw and keeps regulars coming back again and again. “If it wasn’t for my out-of-town business, I don’t know what I’d do,” Simpson says. So if you find yourself in the area, be sure to drive in or tie off your boat on the back deck, and get a heaping helping of supper and hospitality.

Chisholm Lake Store (731) 221-5999 23 Chisholm Lake Camp Rd. Ripley, TN 38063

People come from miles around for Raymond and Michelle Simpson’s good food and warm hospitality.

The Next Big Project for the Mississippi River Corridor – TN!

~ A New Bridge Over ~

The LoosahaTchie RiveR In partnership with the successful Harahan Bridge Project, the MRCT is seeking your support for a new Pedestrian/Bike Bridge to be constructed north of downtown Memphis that will allow greater access and a safer route to Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park‌..and beyond!

Visit our Facebook page: Mississippi River Corridor Tennessee and express your support! m s r i


Current Partners, Supporters & Sponsors A2H – Askew Hargraves Harcourt & Associates, Inc.

Mississippi River Parkway Commission

Aerobic Cruiser Hybrid Cycles

Mississippi River Trail Inc.

American Land Conservancy

MRCT Board of Directors & Advisory Council (6 counties)

ANF Architects Center for Historic Preservation (MTSU) Chambers of Commerce (8) Memphis, Bartlett, Covington-Tipton, South Tipton, Lauderdale, Dyersburg/Dyer, Reelfoot Area, Obion City of Dyersburg City of Memphis Community Foundation of Greater Memphis

Nature Conservancy Quapaw Canoe Company Rhodes College Ritchie Smith Associates, ASLA Shelby County Conservation Board Shelby Farms Park Conservancy

County Governments: Shelby, Tipton, Dyer, Lauderdale, Lake and Obion

State of Tennessee Conservation Commission

Discovery Park of America

State of Tennessee – Governor’s Office

Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP

Sustainable Shelby

Dyersburg State Community College

Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area

FedEx Corporation

Tennessee Concrete Association

FHWA National Scenic Byways

Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

First Citizens Bank


National Audubon Society

Friends of the Mississippi River Corridor - TN

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC)

Graphic Systems Inc.

Tennessee Department of Tourist Development

Harahan Bridge Project

Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT)

Hyde Family Foundations

Tennessee Historical Commission

Land Trust for Tennessee

Tennessee Parks & Greenways Foundation

Lower Mississippi Conservation Committee

Tennessee Valley Authority

Lower Mississippi River Resource Assessment

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA)

The McKnight Foundation

The University of Memphis

McLean & Spivey, PLLC

The University of Tennessee at Martin

Magnetic SEO

US Army Corps of Engineers

Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau

U.S. Department of the Interior – National Park Service

Memphis Heritage Inc.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Memphis Regional Design Center

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Memphis Riverfront Development Corporation

Walton Family Foundation

Mid South Greenways

West Tennessee River Basin Authority

Mississippi River Network

Wolf River Conservancy

River Times 2012 - 2 0 1 3

State Parks in the Corridor For more information and reservations go to:

Graphic Systems, Inc. is a proud sponsor and the official printer for the Mississippi River Corridor-Tennessee.

Fort Pillow Henning, TN 731-738-5581 Meeman-Shelby Millington, TN 901-876-5215 Reelfoot Lake Tiptonville, TN 731-253-8003

Give us a call at


T.O. Fuller Memphis, TN 901-543-7581

to see how we can handle all of your marketing needs.

Friends of the

MRCT Annual Membership Categories Navigators $1,000 and up River Dreamers $500 - $999 Paddlewheelers $250 - $499 m s r i v e r t n . o r g Mentor $100 - $249 Family Fun $50 River Friend $30

More than just

Number Crunching. Experience the peace of mind that comes with the versatility of strategic thinking, proficiency and integrity. A holistic approach to accounting to achieve better profitability and growth. Visit or call (901) 347-0352 to learn more today.


We invite you to learn more about the Mississippi River in Tennessee by joining our volunteer support group today! The MRCT is a 501 (C)(3) nonprofit organization and your donation is tax- deductible. Your contribution will help further our mission to identify, conserve and interpret the region’s natural, cultural and scenic resources to improve the quality of life and prosperity in West Tennessee.

Please visit to donate today, or mail a check to: MRCT – PO Box 42061 – Memphis, TN 38174 or call Diana Threadgill at (901) 278-8459 for more information. Thank you! S H E L B Y | T I P T O N | L A U D E R D A L E | D Y E R | L A K E | O B I O N

River Times ~ ~ A publication of the Mississippi River Corridor ~ Tennessee

3211 Kirby Whitten Rd. - Bartlett, TN 38134

Advertise in the next issue of River Times!



Diana Threadgill:

m s r i


Board of Directors, Advisory Council & Staff Board of Directors Lee Hinson - Chairman Executive Director - Shelby County Conservation Board Jeff Huffman – Immediate Past Chair County Executive/Mayor - Tipton County Margaret Shoemake – Treasurer Lauderdale County - Community Leader John Threadgill – Secretary President and Executive Director – Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce John Sheahan - Chairman Emeritus Shelby County Norfleet Anthony, Jr. Partner - S N Anthony, Inc. - Lauderdale County Regena Bearden Vice President – Marketing, Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau Jim Bondurant Vice President - First State Bank - Obion County Rosemary Bridges President - South Tipton County Chamber of Commerce Dr. Peter Brown, PhD Dyer County - Community Leader Ed Carter Director - Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency – Nashville B. Taylor Gray Attorney - Bass, Berry & Sims PLC - Shelby County John Lannom Attorney - Dyer County Jimmy Ogle Community Engagement Manager – Memphis Riverfront Development Corporation Dr. Carroll Van West, PhD Director - Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area Center for Historic Preservation – MTSU – Murfreesboro Kathleen Williams President - Tennessee Parks & Greenways Foundation


River Times 2012 - 2 0 1 3

Fred Wortman, Jr. CPA - Lake County

Advisory Council Members Lee Askew FAIA Partner - ANF Architects - Memphis Alison Bullock Community Planner - National Park Service – U.S. Department of the Interior Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program - Chattanooga Dr. Karen Bowyer, PhD President - Dyersburg State Community College Janet Boscarino Executive Director - Clean Memphis Harriet Cannon Area Director – USDA – Rural Development – Obion County Tim Churchill Reservoir Program Coordinator/Fisheries Management – TWRA – Nashville Dr. Michael Collins, PhD Professor – Department of Biology Rhodes College – Memphis Randy Cook Refuge Manager – U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – West Tennessee Craig Fitzhugh TN State Representative - House District 82 – Lauderdale County Dr. Cheryl Goudie, PhD Program Coordinator - Ecological Research Center - The University of Memphis Dr. Jack Grubaugh, PhD Chairman and Associate Professor - Department of Biological Sciences - UT Martin John Guider Photographer and Author – Nashville Steve Guttery Director – Downtown Development, Dyersburg/Dyer County Chamber of Commerce Paul Hamm Supervisory Project Manager - Ground Water Team - U.S. Corps of Engineers – Memphis

Andy Hays ASLA Landscape Architect - Ritchie Smith Associates – Memphis Randy Hedgepath State Naturalist - TN Dept. of Environment & Conservation - Tennessee State Parks Laura Holder Manager - Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area – MTSU Marty Marbry Regional Marketing & Public Relations - TN Department of Tourist Development Pamela Marshall Executive Director - Memphis Area Association of Governments (MAAG) Greg Maxted Executive Director - The Harahan Bridge Project – Memphis Marcia Mills Executive Director - Chamber of Commerce – Tiptonville – Lake County Pam Monjar State Coordinator - Scenic Byways - TDOT – Beautification Office – Nashville Mark Norris TN State Senator – Senate District 32 – Shelby County Jane Polansky Scenic Rivers Administrator - TN Department of Environment & Conservation Bob Richards Greenways & Trails Coordinator - TN Department of Environment & Conservation Jim Stark River Consultant - Dyer County Community Leader Denise Watts Regional Manager – Tennessee Valley Authority - Memphis

MRCT Staff: Diana Threadgill President, (901) 278-8459 E-mail: Glenn Cox Vice President, (901) 628-3527 E-mail: Elle Perry Marketing Intern

E Calling all Paddlers,

Wildlife Watchers, Birders, River Fishers, Educators

and Outdoor Enthusiasts!



Dyersburg Blueway ~ Boat Launch Dock Is open and ready for your next float‌. Dyersburg River Park on the Forked Deer River

Opening in the Fall of 2012

The DyeRsBuRg/DyeR CounTy RIveR CenTeR visit for more information or Call sTeve guTTeRy, Dyersburg/Dyer County Chamber of Commerce

(731) 285-3433

River Times 2012  

Explore the highways and byways of Tennessee's Mississippi River region.

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you