October 14, 2011
Cliff rows his handmade cajun pirogue, Colors, cross Lake Pontchartrain to raise awareness about Kids Wanna Help. The trip takes 10 hours!
2009 Trip Information is Below:
This webpage was viewed
from the sendoff on 7/14/09
through the end of the trip on 7/27/09
by people in 33 different states, the U.K., Canada,
Trinidad & Tobago, the Netherlands and Iraq.
For daily highlights of the 13 DAY trip, scroll down
To view media coverage, scroll to the bottom
Highlights from Day 1: Tuesday, July 14th
The sendoff at the Forsythe Park Boat Landing in Monroe was wonderful! Lots of people; lots of kids. Also, lots of great coverage by the media. By clicking on the links below, you can watch the KNOE T.V. story, read the article in The News Star, and see 85 photos taken by The News Star at the sendoff.
Thanks to everyone who came out to the sendoff and to everyone else all along the river that came out over the course of the day to meet Cliff and Robert and sign the boat – they enjoyed your company!
As the day wore on, there was less and less of a current. Finally, none at all. So Cliff and Robert spent a lot of time rowing. At the end of the day, they stopped and made camp at a sandbar in a bend of the river just north of Bosco, Louisiana.
Highlights from Day 2: Wednesday, July 15th
Cliff and Robert shoved off at 0700 hrs. A fisherman stopped to talk to them before they left. He said that he recognized the boat from the KNOE news story. They ate breakfast before heading off but Cliff didn’t get any coffee. Robert said there was time to eat but not to make coffee.
They rowed all day today. No current and they faced a headwind which caused the pirogue to move backwards when they were not rowing.
The pirogue crew stopped mid-day when they came around the bend of the river at Hooter Road in Bosco, Louisiana and saw a group of kids with a big STOP HERE sign waving to them. It was Salli Perry’s four grandchildren(Camille, 10, Cassidy, 8, Bella Rose, 9, and Walker, 3). Salli and the girls were at the Forsythe Boat Dock for the sendoff but they wanted to see the pirogue ‘in action’ and give Walker an opportunity to sign the pirogue. So on Wednesday morning they headed south. Sallie’s son tracked the pirogue on the Kids Wanna Help® website and kept in cell phone contact with the kids to keep them posted on how close the pirogue was getting to them. Cliff and Robert stayed to visit, to let Walker sign the boat (with his grandmother’s help) and posed for lots of photos. They are very grateful for the fruit and frozen Gatorade. Sally says that it was “very exciting when they came around the bend. . . We continue to watch them every day . . . It has been a joy following this. Wish we could be there at the end.” Thanks, Sally, for e-mailing us!
Today the pirogue crew ran into a problem. While trying to get closer to the bank, so they would be in the shade, they hit a stump in the river. It broke the redeliver (a combination of a rudder and a stabilizer created by Cliff) and made it hard to steer. The Louisiana National Guard Support Team (Robert’s Daddy) met them using the tracking map and the redeliver was working well again after about an hour and a half of repairs. Most of that time was driving into Columbia for three clamps to fix the problem.
Tonight Robert and Cliff set up camp on the banks of the Ouachita River, just East of Cory, Louisiana. They washed their clothes in the river, built a campfire and put mosquito nets over their sleeping bags. They were both in very good spirits and say they will have a good day tomorrow.
According to several fishermen they met today, the current should pick up once they get below the locks and dam in Columbia.
Highlights from Day 3: Thursday, July 16th
Cliff and Robert had a really good night at their riverside camp.
It even got cold at night.
They shoved off at 0630 hrs and made it to the Columbia Locks and Dam just before noon.
This is 60 river miles from where they started their journey. The Locks and Dam Mechanic and the Army Corp of Engineer Park Ranger were awaiting their arrival. They had been tracking the pirogue’s progress on the website and had the lock filled and waiting. They also were prepared with tools to make a permanent fix on the redeliver. The temporary fix from yesterday was holding, but now it is back to new. Finally, the Ranger checked Robert’s chigger bites, gave him lotion to stop the itching, and let him charge his video camera and Cliff’s cell phone. The mechanic and the Park Ranger were OUTSTANDING!!!
After clearing the Columbia Locks and Dam, Cliff and Robert took a brief pause to talk with Clay Manly and his daughter, Hailey, who live near the river just north of the locks and dam. Their visit was close to the Union Pacific Rail Road Bridge, which is on the edge of the Manly property. Clay and Hailey, thanks for e-mailing!
The biggest group that Cliff and Robert have encountered on the riverbank so far was at the Columbia Army Corps of Engineers Park boat landing today. It started with the Houston family (Gerald, Tammy and 11 year old Tracer) and over three hours later Cliff and Robert had visited with more than 50 people who wanted to sign the pirogue and offer food and drink. During this stop a Corp of Engineers barge from Vicksburg, Mississippi pulled over so its crew could sign the pirogue and meet Robert. They heard about the pirogue trip and were hoping to see the pirogue on the river. The Captain of the barge took Robert on a private tour of the barge and allowed him to blow the horn. The crew then sent ice cream bars out to all the children who were present. We received an e-mail from Preston (8), Madalyn (5), and Braxton (1), who said that it was very hot but it was the highlight of their day! Robert met a new friend at this stop, Tracer Houston, who drove to Monroe for the sendoff and has been following every newspaper report of the pirogue trip. Tracer hopes to be in New Orleans at the end of the trip when Cliff and Robert reach the Aquarium of the Americas at the foot of Canal Street. During all of this, Mrs. Emma Jean Richardson, the owner of a local bed and breakfast, offered her “Captain’s Room ” to Cliff and Robert for the night. Robert decided to stay at the river’s edge so the pirogue would not be left unattended. Cliff and Robert spent the night in Robert’s parent’s motor home by the river. Thank you Mrs. Richardson for such a kind offer! Finally, Kids Wanna Help® wants to thank Rhonda Roberts who was at the Columbia Boat Ramp today. She made a generous donation on our website and e-mailed us to say that Cliff and Robert “were wonderful and so nice. I brought my kids to see what a difference that each person could make. Great job guys. ” Thanks so much!
Highlights from Day 4: Friday, July 17th
Cliff and Robert shoved off around 7 a.m. and were flagged down about an hour later by a group of people who were waiting there to sign the pirogue. The Kids Wanna Help® home team flagged them down in the late afternoon for a quick visit and to replenish their water supply. Today was a long day of rowing. They rowed without much of a current until around 8:00 pm when they stopped to make camp. They couldn’t find a good sandbar but did find a clear area. Although it was a little muddy, Cliff and Robert slept great once they got their mosquito nets set up over their sleeping bags. They ate pot roast MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and Cliff said that they sure have changed a lot since his C-Ration days in the Navy. They enjoyed dinner very much.
Highlights from Day 5: Saturday, July 18th
Cliff and Robert had a good day today. They started off before 7:00 a.m. and saw their first group of people at about 8:00 a.m. But the bank was too steep for the group to come down and sign their names to the pirogue. The group lowered down some Gatorade and water and then later when the pirogue made it to the Ferry in Duty, LA a sack was waiting for them filled with venison sausage sandwiches, chips and more cold drinks. The group on the riverbank this morning gave the sack to the Ferry Operator with instructions to pass it along to Robert and Cliff. The Ferry Operator, who was also waiting for pirogue, dutifully delivered the sack with a note that said, “Good Luck, The McGuffee Family. ” Thanks McGuffees for going the extra mile!
Today was a day for great food. Lunch was provided by Sergeant First Class Dane Guidry of the Louisiana National Guard. He caught up with the pirogue at the horse farm of Sean and Peggy Poole near Enterprise, LA (next to the New Ouachita Baptist Church). He brought chicken dinners, Powerade and water. The Pooles were very hospitable and were sorry that their daughter, Lorin Coldiron, was not there to sign the pirogue. She was in Arkansas but had been tracking the story. At this stop, Julie Moon finally caught up with the pirogue. She said that she had been looking for them for two days and today she and her husband stopped at four different boat landings with their boat before they found one open so they could put-in. Tomorrow she is planning to bring her kids and meet the pirogue when it stops in Jonesville. Cliff and Robert ate lunch, rested for about an hour and then headed out again.
A little after 7:00 p.m. the pirogue made it to Williams Landing Campground and Store between Harrisonburg and Enterprise. About six kids signed the boat at Williams Landing and two Game Wardens, James Parish and Joey Tarver, came to look at the pirogue. They signed it and were very helpful with information about river conditions and the distances along the river. They also gave Robert a t-shirt when they “caught ” him wearing his life vest. That should make his mother very happy. Mr. and Mrs. Williams were absolutely GREAT! They had an air conditioned cabin waiting for Cliff and Robert. When Robert learned about the cabin, he was only interested in one thing. He said to Cliff, “We can bathe in the river. Does it have an air conditioner? ” It did! There is no denying that Cliff was also pretty happy about the A/C. In addition to the cabin, Mrs. Williams cooked them a homemade meal of meatloaf and fried chicken. If any of you are ever between Harrisonburg and Enterprise, please be sure to stop by Williams Landing Campground and Store. Their website is www.williamslandingcampground.com
Tomorrow Cliff and Robert hope to make it to Jonesville, which is quite a way down the river. There are lots of people who are planning to be there, including a newspaper reporter. Everyone interested in meeting up with the pirogue in Jonesville should keep an eye on the pirogue’s progress through the online tracking system.
Highlights from Day 6: Sunday, July 19th
The Crew of Two pulled away from Williams Landing just after 7:00 a.m. At their morning stop they met two very nice ladies who gave them two gallons of fresh water. Cliff and Robert stopped for lunch at the Recreational Park in Harrisonburg, LA and met Emmilee Green and Virginia Netherland who provided iced water and fresh blueberries picked the day before from Merideth Poole’s Blueberry Farm in the Aimwell Hills near Harrisonburg. They all took a walk to Emmilee Green’s house, which is adjacent to the park, so Cliff and Robert could stretch their legs. Emmilee tells us that “They both were doing great and enjoying their trip. Robert told us of the party that will greet them in New Orleans. After we bid our farewells and watched them continue on their trip, Virginia and I both marveled at the priceless memories for Robert and his Grandfather. My Very Best Wishes from Harrisonburg, LA, Emmilee Green. “
Thirteen hours after they began their day, they made it to Jonesville, LA and stopped for the night. When they reached the bridge in Jonesville there was a small crowd of children waiting on them and two Game Wardens, Trey Mayo and James Parish, were there to make sure all of the children were safe around the river. James brought along his wife, Angie, and their two children, Truman (4) and Abby (6), to sign the boat. Angie’s family has a guest house near the river and offered it to Robert and Cliff for the night. The location was fantastic but Captain Robert had already accepted an offer from Noah Reeves and his family to stay in their old family home, the Elmly Plantation House (yes, Elmly, like Elm tree). Noah’s nephew, Jacques Lossin, along with Maggie Lossin (3), Sydney Lossin (12) and Jakin Rutledge (10) came down to sign the pirogue and lead the way to the Elmly House. Before they left, Julie Moon came to visit with her three children, Katie (10), Lane (6) and Trey (4), and they all signed the pirogue.
Robert was very impressed with his room at the Elmly Plantation House. There was a full sized mounted alligator on the floor at the foot of his antique bed. As tired as he was, he got out his video camera to film the house. Well, he actually got it out to film the alligator but with a little encouragement he decided to film the entire house.
Message today from a soldier in Iraq following the story: “Pretty cool, I canoed from Monroe to my camp in Columbia a few times back in the 90s but this is really an adventure. Greetings from Iraq, and if I ever get out of here I may go and find my own stretch of river somewhere. “
Highlights from Day 7: Monday, July 20th
They had a good rest last night at the Elmly Plantation Home. Many thanks to the Reeves and Lossin families for their hospitality.
Cliff and Robert pushed off from Jonesville at about 7:00 a.m. Will Clifton, the publisher of the Catahoula News Booster was there (thanks for sending the photos, Mr. Clifton!) along with a small crowd of people who wanted to sign the boat. The crowd included George and Rachael Gray and their son, Edward (11). Edward wanted to check on his cousin Robert and make sure that he did not need anything.
Cliff and Robert had a fun day today. They fished and swam and floated for a big portion of the day. Robert caught two fish but they released them because they did not feel like stopping to cook them. They also found a spot where there was a rope hanging from a tree so they stopped and took turns swinging out into the river. Just before they pulled over for the night they ran into a big storm and paddled through lots of wind and rain.
Cliff’s sister, Erma Paulk, met them at the Jonesville Lock tonight and provided an RV with air conditioning and hot showers. She also prepared a big home cooked meal that included apple cobbler and plenty of coffee for Cliff. Robert reports that today was the best day yet.
In Jonesville, the Tensas River, the Ouachita River and the Little River converge to form the Black River so Cliff and Robert’s journey tomorrow begins on the Black River. From the Jonesville Lock it will be about 24 more river miles to the Red River.
Highlights from Day 8: Tuesday, July 21st
Cliff and Robert planned to get a late start, but it got even later when they had to wait on a few tugboats to clear the lock before them. While they waited they got a tour of the Jonesville Lock and Dam. Once they were underway, the rain hit. It was raining so hard they couldn’t see so they pulled over in a small cove they found and waited until the rain stopped. Their ponchos kept both them and their supplies fairly dry.
Robert saw five alligators today – two babies and three very large ones.
Tonight they plan to pull over and make camp at a grain elevator just north of Book, LA, which is in lower Catahoula Parish and just across the river from Concordia Parish.
Weather permitting, they should make it to the Red River tomorrow. The Red River will take them to the Old River Lock and Dam where they will enter the Mississippi. If they have a little current and good weather, they should be able to make the lock sometime Thursday. If they get to the lock in the evening, they plan to stay the night at the Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Area at the lock. If you are interested in meeting Cliff and Robert there, the address of the Recreation Area is 21412 La Hwy 15, Lettsworth, LA 70753. Lettsworth is located in the extreme northern tip of Pointe Coupee Parish.
Highlights from Day 9: Wednesday, July 22nd
Today was a very restful day for the travelers. It was still raining when Cliff and Robert woke up. They had rowed through the rain yesterday and decided not to do it again today. They took the day off and slept a lot, ate, washed their clothes, emptied the water out of the pirogue and repacked it for the continuation of their journey. Rested and rejuvenated, they are planning an early morning shove off. They will be traveling the Red River tomorrow and plan to reach the locks that will take them into the Mississippi River by Friday.
Highlights from Day 10: Thursday, July 23rd
The crew is getting close to the Mississippi River. Still on the Red River – but only 15 miles up river from the Old River Lock and Dam. They plan to get through the lock tomorrow and, hopefully, make a few miles on the Mississippi before they make camp tomorrow night.
Tonight Cliff and Robert are staying at a camp on Red River Landing Road in lower Concordia Parish. They were flagged down at about 4:30 p.m. and offered a really nice camp house right on the river.
Highlights from Day 11: Friday, July 24th
THEY’RE IN THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER!
Today Cliff and Robert went from the Atchafalaya River into the Mississippi River through the Old River Lock and Dam in Ledsworth, LA. When they got to the lock Raymond Harrison with the Corps of Engineers was waiting for the pirogue. He had been tracking it on the website. The pirogue was third in line to go through the lock. Two barges went through before them and this gave Cliff and Robert plenty of time to rest and have something to eat before they continued their journey on the Mississippi. Mr. Harrison was very helpful to the travelers and suggested a great sandbar for camping about two miles down the river. Cliff and Robert stopped there to make camp tonight and will head toward Baton Rouge in the morning. Depending on the current, they will reach Baton Rouge either late tomorrow (Saturday) or sometime in the morning on Sunday. We’ll keep you posted.
Their planned stop in Baton Rouge is at the steps down to the river by the casino.
Highlights from Day 12: Saturday, July 25th
Cliff and Robert are very proud of the way their pirogue is handling all of the waves in the Mississippi River. Cliff says, “Colors is riding the waves out like a champ. The ruderlizer is doing just what it was designed to do and Captain Robert is steering straight and true over the white waters. ” Not only have they had waves from barges (sometimes several passing at the same time), they rode over a small waterfall created by rock jetties.
They covered a little over 40 river miles today (their best distance yet) and camped at another sandbar. Tomorrow they will reach Baton Rouge and it will be 125 river miles from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. It will probably take them three days from Baton Rouge to reach their destination – the Aquarium in New Orleans.
Highlights from Day 13: Sunday, July 26th
After 13 days of rowing down 5 different rivers in a handmade 16€² pirogue, Cliff and Robert made it to Baton Rouge on Sunday, July 26th. They have decided to end their journey there because of the dangerous conditions on the Mississippi River caused by heavy river traffic that began in Baton Rouge and would continue down the river to New Orleans. With barges and tug boats lining both sides of the river, Cliff and Robert don’t have the access to the riverbanks that they need to ensure that their small watercraft is not on the open river during thunderstorms and when ships and barges pass.
The pair covered almost 300 miles of Louisiana rivers and saw beautiful parts of our state that aren’t visible except by river. Their adventurous journey was followed by thousands of people in many different states and countries. Thank you all for your support and many, many thanks to all of the people along the riverbanks who flagged down the pirogue and offered food, drink and lots of encouragement to Cliff and Robert!