The early summer breeze is rolling through, cooling off the warmth of the late evening sun. Ahead of us is the reflection of the vast, multicolored sky in the water. We sit in our 30-foot canoe with crafted wooden paddles, gliding in unison through calm waters. Then, right when I start to forget where I am, I turn around and see the striking Memphis skyline lit up by the setting sun.
Memphis is renowned as the heart of the Mississippi River, yet Memphians are inundated with stories of its danger, uncleanliness, and inaccessibility. Matthew Burdine is making it his mission to change this narrative. “There is a difference between fearing the river and respecting the river,” he explains. “I want Memphians to respect and enjoy this majestic river right before us.”
Matthew is the essence of a Mississippi River guide. He wears a cowboy hat and sunglasses and has a deep tan and long, golden hair with a beard to match. It is immediately apparent that this man is doing what he loves – his passion for the Delta and the Mississippi River is striking. He is captivating and charismatic, and the moment we meet him, I know I will be in good hands and having a blast.
We rode to the drop point on Mud Island and headed off into the calm and relaxed waters of the Mississippi River. Each canoe has its own experienced guide. Halfway through our sunset ride, we stopped at a small island in the river where Matthew and his team set out folding chairs and refreshments and chatted with our group.
Matthew was born in Greenville, Mississippi, but spent years growing up in Colorado. He returned to Mississippi to attend The University of Mississippi and study finance and business. However, after graduating and getting opportunities in finance, he realized his heart was not in it and decided to move back to the Colorado mountains. Matthew spent the next five years becoming a well-rounded outdoorsman, working as a river guide in Buena Vista and a ski instructor in Vail. He developed a passion for living this active lifestyle and found that he enjoyed engaging with his community through guiding and teaching, sharing his love of the outdoors with others. In 2015, Matthew embarked on a one-man trip to paddle down the Mississippi River, passing through Memphis on April 14, 2016. Five years later, after partnering with John Ruskey and his company Quapaw Canoes, Matthew opened Mississippi River Expeditions.
Moving back to the Delta and bringing this opportunity to Memphis was a no-brainer for Matthew. He says, “Memphis is a cultural capital with an active community, and no other community I’ve seen celebrates each other as Memphians do.” He recognizes that the fitness community in Memphis is strong, but the possibilities for water sports and adventures were limited, and he felt the treasure that is the Mississippi River had been overlooked.
Mississippi River Expeditions offers options suitable for anyone looking for adventure, regardless of experience. Trips can span from a couple of hours to a full day, or even overnight or weekend camping trips, all led by Matthew and his team of experienced outdoorsmen. When wind conditions and group size are appropriate, their canoes can be fitted with sails for a unique experience.
While paddling on the river is a fun physical activity, there are even more abundant mental health benefits. The rhythmic strokes of the paddle give a chance to disconnect from daily stresses and reconnect with nature. Matthew says, “Being on the river is a way to find the connection between the mind, body, and spirit. It brings perspective to the mind, gets the body active, and rejuvenates the spirit.”
Through talking with Matthew and experiencing a canoe adventure myself, it is clear that there are endless possibilities for Mississippi River Expeditions. He already has plans for future workshops, corporate retreats, and other exciting options to engage with the Memphis fitness community.
“Something happens when you put yourself in a big world like the Mississippi River. You feel humbled, yet part of something powerful,” Matthew says. “I want everyone to have the opportunity to experience that sensation.”
Are you ready to find your inner adventurer and experience a Mississippi River Expedition? Explore their trip options at Canoememphis.com or contact Matthew Burdine at 901.820.6136 or Matthew@canoememphis.com.
By Zoe Harrison
Photo by Laramie Renae