Volunteer Spotlight: Mike Watson


Mike Watson has been an active river guide for Wolf River Conservancy since the guide program began with the original First Saturday Paddle in 2010. He has been the Lead Guide for the Fall Colors Trip and the Birding Paddle and a valued member of trail blazing expeditions, wielding a chainsaw like a pro. Mike is also an invaluable asset to WRC off the river: his expert mapping and computer skills have provided us with our most important paddling maps.

Mike’s favorite section of the Wolf River is the Lost Swamp Trail, which he helped to develop right from the beginning. Mike charted the original GPS coordinates of the first known descent by WRC through this section of the river, and after assisting with the hard work needed to make the trail ready for use by paddlers, he also participated in its naming contest. Just two years after its opening, the Lost Swamp Water Trail has become the second most paddled section on the entire Wolf River.

A new trail between Michigan City, MS, and LaGrange, TN, was opened just last year thanks to the efforts of Mike Watson and others. On several of the original trail blazing trips, Mike could be seen lopping, axing, hand-sawing and chain-sawing through limbs and logs, which ultimately made it possible for WRC to formally open this section of the Wolf River to the public.

In addition to Mike’s skill as a paddler, WRC River Guide, and trail-blazer, he is an expert maker of maps. It is Mike Watson who designed and developed the Wolf River Boat Access Map and the Wolf River Watershed Map, both available on our website. Most recently, he has been creating an interactive Wolf River map using Google Maps, which is now live on the Conservancy’s website. This newest digital map will enable anyone to understand where the river sections are within a familiar context of Google Maps.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the work Mike has done behind the scenes, both on and off the river, has helped make it possible for WRC to offer the current paddling program which members now enjoy.

Mike is past president of the Bluff City Canoe Club, where he recently turned over the gavel to the current president, Richard Sojourner. He has coordinated a number of club trips on rivers both local and distant, from Tennessee to states out west. His most talked-about trips are right here in our own backyard, on the Mississippi River between Shelby Forest and Memphis. Yes, it’s a short trip, but a challenging one under certain conditions. On several occasions, Mike’s engineering background and paddling skills saved the day. These overnight excursions on the Big River are among the most popular programs available to Bluff City Canoe Club members.

Mike grew up in Memphis but moved around to all parts, spending time in his early years in Panama. He has an engineering degree from UT Knoxville and is a volunteer at heart. Mike’s two daughters paddled, hiked and played basketball when they were growing up, and he is very proud of what they have accomplished. He currently lives in Shelby Forest with his wife Ellen Powell and lots of interesting critters from the neighboring forest.

Posted by Cathy Justis at 2:53 PM