River angel helps out travelers

Published 10:24 am Friday, August 14, 2015

Itay Nakash of Israel is the latest outdoorsman to arrive in Vicksburg on his way to traveling the Mississippi River from source to sea.

Nakash and others making the months-long journey often couldn’t do it without the help of river angels like Vicksburg’s Layne Logue. Logue picked up Nakash Wednesday evening and helped him run errands and gave him a place to stay before seeing him off Friday. Nakash is just one of many who have been helped by Logue.

“I’ve been a river angel for three years,” he said. “I started off the first year and only did about seven or eight people, and last year I did 36. This year I’m already up to 26.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Logue, a civil engineer with the Mississippi Department of Transportation, said people would still be journeying the Mississippi River in September, so they won’t arrive in Vicksburg until October or November.

“It started with just falling in love with the Mississippi River,” he said. “I was born in New Orleans — Chalmette — but we moved up to Vicksburg when I was 3 or 4 years old, so Vicksburg has been my home ever since.”

Logue said he first got into kayaking three years ago.

“One of my friends had a bunch of kayaks, and I’d been bugging him saying ‘dude, you’ve got to take me out on the Mississippi River,’ and he did,” he said. “Two months later I bought a kayak. I fell in love with the Mississippi River.”

Logue said once he got in the paddling community competed in the Bluz Cruz race and started getting in touch with other paddlers.

“I’m a part of the Bluz Cruz committee now,” he said. “Then I started finding paddle groups on Facebook. I started seeing people coming down. I’m meeting these people out there and finding out who they are, and during that time I met John Ruskey out of Clarksdale.”

Ruskey has been paddling on the river for 30 years, Logue said.

“He’s the best paddler on the Mississippi River in my opinion,” he said. “I met him and instantly fell in love with what he was doing. He’s river guiding, he’s camping out on the river, he’s helping paddlers and he’s a river angel in Helena by Clarksdale.”

Logue has since been on 200- and 300-mile expeditions with Ruskey.

“I have real empathy – heck, I really love talking to the paddlers, just meeting them and hearing their stories about the river,” he said. “I know what it’s like out there on the river when you’ve been out there all day and someone comes up and brings you a cold bottle of water or just anything showing generosity. I want to treat these paddlers like I’d like to be treated.”

Logue said they come in the Facebook group and tell their plans and he and another group member keep track of all the paddlers coming down the river.

“Some people ask ‘you’re letting these people stay in your house and you don’t even know them,’” he said. “Well, that’s not true, I’ve been watching them for two months on Facebook. People post all the time, ‘Wow, this guy is a fine young gentleman and he was a joy to have,’ so you already have an idea of what his character is before you meet him.”

In his work with travellers, Logue has met people from around the world: England, Australia and now Israel.

“The first group down from Lake Itasca didn’t want food or water or somewhere to stay, they just wanted advice,” he said. “I met them down by the river, and they asked about what to do and hazards, and I told them about some things coming up.”

Logue said one of the big tools he uses is rivergator.org.

“I make sure that when they come in they understand that it’s a free paddler’s trail guide,” he said. “It talks about in low, medium and high waters campsites, hazards, stories, histories — it has everything. I make sure they know it exists.”

Logue said sometimes they just want water because the towns in the lower Mississippi are very spaced out along the river.

“Sometimes they need to go to the grocery store, so I’ll pick them up,” he said. “Sometimes they want to go by McDonalds and get a cheeseburger and a Coke.”

Logue said most of the long-distance paddlers don’t have a way to keep cold goods. “Lastly they’re looking to be hosted and to spend the night and have a hot shower and hot food and to sleep in a bed and air conditioning,” he said.

Logue said one day he plans to be on the other side of the

“I’m going to paddle the whole river I think whenever I retire,” he said. “I want to do it in one shot; I want to experience the whole thing.”