Clark Lake Spirit Navigates the Mississippi

Growing up most people read Mark Twain’s tale of Huckleberry Finn on the Mississippi River. For some, the story continued to inspire long after school days. 

It was 1996, and a group of intrepid Clark Lakers had become driven by an idea–to relive Huck’s travels.  Greg Kerr shared his love of the story with others at the lake until a tipping point occurred.  It evolved into a modern day adventure.  Greg, Bill Tuttle, Jim Schultz and Jim Swain hatched a plan–to navigate the Mississippi River.  According to Bill Tuttle, the original idea was to put together a raft and float it down the Mississippi just like Huck.  But as the adventure took form, the group decided the trip should be done Clark Lake style–on a raft, but on the kind of raft the rest world knows as a pontoon boat! 

The plan developed momentum.  The community came together to support it.  Fundraisers were held at the Beach Bar. A raft was purchased and other needs for the trip were supplied. 

Three of the four adventurers were good to go.  Jim Swain ran into a hitch.  When he asked his employer for time off, he was turned down.  So he quit his job!

The group acquired the use of a motor home, and the Reverend Roy Roark drove the crew to the point of demarcation.  Boosting their spirits in the motor home were Tucker Boyers and Denny Negus.  “It was quite rig,” says Bill Tuttle.  “A motor home towing a 28-foot monstrosity behind it.” At the completion of the trip, Tom Collins and Tucker met the group in New Orleans to tow the raft back to Clark Lake.

An excellent adventure deserves a name, and so this moniker stuck–the Clark Lake Spirit.  Out of this nexus bloomed the motivation, community action, and organization for other projects.  It was an exciting time at Clark Lake.  The Graziani cottage floated down the lake to become the Community Center.  The Spirit Trail broke ground and established a means for walkers, runners and cyclists to circumvent the lake.  None of that happened by accident.  It was the work of dedicated members of the community who invested heavily in the future of Clark Lake.  

Jim Schultz memorialized the trip down the Mississippi in VHS video and 35 mm slides.  With his career in museum education and management, he was well suited for that task.  His career began with preservation and program development at the Walker Tavern in the Irish Hills and concluded with a management role at the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing (see below where you’ll find a link to his website). Jim’s time at Clark Lake included a Hobie Cat, two pontoon rafts and the Beach Bar scene. At the time of the Mississippi trip, the event attracted media attention. Jim wrote an article, but what of the hours of video and the many photos that he took?  Over the last four years, Jim focused on turning this assorted content into an updated video format story. Click on this video, sit back, and for 28 minutes relive the adventure of these Clark Lakers.    

Read more at Jim Schultz’s website.  You’ll learn about his work at the Michigan Historical Museum for over thirty years, his administering interpretation at seven historical sites, and role as a professor in Central Michigan University’s Museum Studies program for eight years.  

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