Books You May Have Missed
By Kathy Kehrli
Mississippi Odyssey by Chris Markham
Published on: April 1, 2001 Mississippi Odyssey
by Chris Markham
"The Mississippi is well worth reading about. It is not a commonplace river, but on the contrary is in all ways remarkable."
--Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi
Do you recall your first experience with a large body of water? Do you remember the excitement and fascination it held? There’s just something about water that draws people in, taking them captive in its mesmerizing power. For some, the attraction is overwhelming. Chris Markham is one such person.
Enchanted by tales of the Mississippi since his early childhood, Chris could never quite shake the urge to become one with this mighty river. Armed with a camera, a backpack and his able-bodied legs, he decided once and for all to live out his longtime dream: to sail the entire length of the Mississippi. There was only one thing standing in his way – how to go about it. The solution: hitchhiking.
The Mississippi River spans over 2,350 miles, extending from Lake Itasca, MN in the North to the Gulf of Mexico in the South. Determined not to miss a single inch of the river’s main course, Chris began his adventure in Lake Itasca. Early on, the going was tough, but slowly Chris worked his way south where he finally landed a ride aboard a towboat, the Harriet M, which would take him all the way to his coveted destination.
The Upper Mississippi is comprised of 29 locks and dams and, as can be imagined, traversing the river can be a tricky proposition at best, especially for a heavily laden towboat. Chris Markham takes us into this sometimes dangerous, often times solitary, but always rewarding existence where he introduces us to some of the select few who call this river home.
Throughout this amazing journey, nature and wildlife abound. The Mississippi River shares a border with ten different states and is a migration corridor for 40% of North America’s ducks, geese, swan, and other wading birds. Wildlife is at its peak in the Louisiana swamplands surrounding the Mississippi. This is definitely the trip of a lifetime for the nature enthusiast.
Much has been written about the Mississippi but nothing like Chris Markham’s first-hand account. Mississippi Odyssey blends a bit of history, a sprinkling of friendship, a touch of mystique and a lot of luck into a must-read adventure.
In his book, Markham combines the history of the river--starting with the discovery and early exploration--with human interest--the people, in particular the men working the towboats on which he hitched rides.And the author describes the towns that are part of the river's history: "As the Harriet M's propellers churned up the river behind us, we passed small, sleeping river towns. The light from an occasional riverfront house or building would spill out onto the river, and the reflection of red and green traffic lights danced their spectrum on the water flowing toward the menacing shadows of the bridges. To the east, on the Wisconsin side of the river, slept the towns of Alma, Cochrane, Fountain City, Bluff Siding and Trenpealeau; hidden in the darkness to the west, on the Minnesota side, were Wabasha, Minneiska, Minnesota City and the city of Winona.
Winona Daily News
Copyright 2017 Chris Markham
All rights reserved.
Contact: Chris Markham
"History and humor color his [Chris's] view of the river, almost as seen through the eyes of the towboat captains."
La Crosse Tribune
"Fix this here honorary riverman a cup of pilothouse coffee…"
Capt. Kenny Hanks, river pilot.
"This is one of the best books I read about the real river, and one of the finest men I've met in twenty-five years on the river."
Capt. Buddy Howell, river pilot
". . .at first he was regarded as merely an "eastern Yankee," [Chris]was even made an honorary riverman outside Muscotine, Iowa."
Blytheville Courier News
"Chris Markham's Mississippi Odyssey is a must. Written in a direct and friendly style, it is a novel treatment of the great Mississippi River, the Father of Waters. . . . At first regarded with some suspicion, he was soon welcome in pilot-houses and engines rooms, where he talked with captains, pilots and crew members and learned from them about the skills and perils involved in navigating a great, and sometimes dangerous, river. . . . Chris has an ear for dialect and a sense of humor."
"Essentially, he [Chris] writes about the rivermen who work on the towboats. He captures their conversations over seemingly endless cups of coffee in the wheelhouse. He also throws in bits of history about the river and the towns that dot its banks. It is a pleasant book . . . and it is a good choice for the public libraries of the region."
"Chris became known as the "river hiker" when he thumbed rides down the navigable stretch of this great river. He tells an engaging story of his experience. I recommend it to anyone with wanderlust in his blood."