My first exposure to the Mississippi River came from Mark Twain. I’m not sure when I first read Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, but I have a vivid memory of seeing the 1973 movie version of Tom Sawyer at a movie theater in suburban Kansas City. My friend and I had so much fun that we stuck around and watched it a second time.
I don’t remember what I learned about the Mississippi River from that movie, but I’m sure it imprinted images of rafts and maybe pirates. Fast forward a decade or so and I had moved to La Crosse, Wisconsin, to start college. La Crosse is about as good a river town as you’ll find, although I was drawn there by the cheap tuition and the chance to join the college bowling team.
Still, the river hooked me during those years. I regularly hiked the bluffs for the expansive views of the river valley and spent many hours sitting by the river thinking about life. (That’s what we did before Facebook and Instagram.) While I didn’t get to raft on the river (or run from pirates), I first put a canoe in the Mississippi at La Crosse.
So when I try to figure out how I ended up writing about the Mississippi, I credit (or blame) Tom Sawyer and La Crosse, Wisconsin. I’ve been writing about the Mississippi since 2008. I’ve learned a lot in that time, like most people don’t really understand my obsession with the Mississippi.
I’ve also learned a lot about the river, and—surprise—there’s so much more to it than a nineteenth century novel. I’m busy spreading that message now, telling stories about the amazing people and places of today’s Mississippi River.
I’m getting that message out in different ways. I write guidebooks about the Mississippi River, six of them as of 2017. Some of that information is also on the website you are reading now. Scroll through the section on Mississippi River Towns to find a new favorite place to hang out in (or move to).
I write mysteries set along the Mississippi River, too. Writer Frank Dodge has a knack for getting in trouble as he travels along the river, so he keeps me busy. (It’s also a sneaky way of proselytizing about the wonders of the Mississippi Valley.)
Besides books, I also write for magazines and newspapers, and regularly speak about Mississippi River history and attractions. It keeps me busy.
I hope you’ll stick around and explore this site. And feel free to get in touch with me. I love hearing from you!
See you on the river!
A few years ago I had the pleasure of talking with Cheryl Fusco-Johnson of KRUU radio in Fairfield, Iowa (the station is completely powered by solar energy!). We spent a delightful hour talking about the Mississippi River and writing.
How’s the Mississippi River doing these days? Listen to the discussion Chuck Marohn and I had on the Strong Towns Podcast in 2013.
Other media appearances:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (March 28, 2010):
Chicago Tribune (January 4, 2011)
If you like the content at the Mississippi Valley Traveler, please consider showing your support by making a one-time contribution or by subscribing through Patreon. Book sales don’t fully cover my costs, and I don’t have deep corporate pockets bankrolling my work. I’m a freelance writer bringing you stories about life along the Mississippi River. I need your help to keep this going. Every dollar you contribute makes it possible for me to continue sharing stories about America’s Greatest River!