The Quapaw Canoe Co. offers a range of trips year-round that are customized, from guided trips for several days in which it supplies food and equipment to outfitting you for an expedition of your own. Its main compound is in Clarksdale, Miss., but it also has bases in Helena, Ark., and Natchez, Miss. Daily rental rates range from $35 a day for a 17-foot aluminum canoe up to $65 a day for a 21-foot Northshore from Bell Canoes. Guided trips on the Lower Mississippi (usually between Cairo, Ill., and the Gulf of Mexico) are priced based on a basic daily rate, plus a daily meal charge and a shuttle fee. The rate varies depending on the number of paddlers. For a group of four, for example, it would cost each person $145 a day ($95 for the base rate and $50 for meals), plus the shuttle fee.

Whether you go with Quapaw or on your own, all overnight trips involve primitive camping. The accommodations are only as good as what you bring. On the other hand, the Quapaws ensure that you are well fed and never short on something to drink (booze excepted). Quapaw Canoe Co. (Clarksdale store): 1-662-627-4070;

To paddle the Lower Mississippi on your own, consult the Rivergator guide for help with logistics, such as where to camp and resupply, and advice on troublesome bends and ports. Many people have little difficulty paddling on the Lower Mississippi, but it's not a place for beginning paddlers. Rivergator Guide:

Dean Klinkenberg