• Leon Pantenburg | Survival Common Sense


Big River Wild Adventures: Learn wilderness skills at this Mississippi River outdoors school

big river wild adventures
600 300 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

I co-host an eco-adventure with Quapaw Outfitters. It’s part vacation, part wilderness survival training, and part everything you ever wanted in a grand adventure. 

With Big River Wild Adventures, you’ll learn basic survival skills while canoeing on America’s largest river, on big water through big wilderness country, with experienced, and safe guides. It’s a trip of a lifetime and whole lot of fun!

by Leon Pantenburg

Survival Common Sense is operated by me and I am the Director of Instruction for Big River Wild Adventures. You can check out my history and info on my website and You Tube channel which I’ve been operating for more than 14 years. (Facebook, Pinterest,  and Instagram.)

I’m also the author of “Bushcraft Basics: A Common Sense Wilderness Survival Guide.” The book came out during the height of the pandemic, but it still remained on the Amazon.com bestseller list for well over a year. (Get a signed copy here.)

headnet Leon Pantenburg Mugshot

Leon Pantenburg


Big River Wild Adventures (BRWA) is a partnership between Survival Common Sense and the Quapaw Canoe Company (QCC).  SCS provides instruction and teaching materials and QCC takes care of the outfitting (in beautiful hand-crafted, voyageur-style canoes that are up to 30 feet long), and they’ll provide expert guiding on the largest river in North America.


Quapaw Canoe Company has guided thousands of visitors over its 24-year-old history (Layne Logue photo)

QCC has been in operation for 25 years and has guided approximately 40,000 people on the big river, with about half of those being youth from schools, youth groups, church groups etc.  QCC can provide tents and sleeping bags as needed, as well as wet suits and other necessary gear in cold weather seasons. Here is the pricing list.

I am a retired Central Oregon Community College instructor and my career was spent as a newspaperman, journalist and educator. But as a kid, I became a hardcore river rat after reading “Huckleberry Finn” and “Life on the Mississippi”.

In 1980, taking a break from graduate school, I canoed the Mississippi from Lake Itasca, Minnesota to Venice, Louisiana. (You can read about it here.)

big river wild adventures

I canoed the length of the Mississippi in 1980. I’ve always been a river rat.

During my five-month voyage, I met hundreds of people. Many commented: “I wish I could do something like that.”

Long after my Mississippi River voyage was over, there was always a desire to someday, somehow, combine the big river with a wilderness skills school. I wanted to teach practical, common sense skills and techniques that the average person could quickly learn. Big River Wild Adventures is the fulfillment of those dreams.

I don’t claim to be one of those “TV survival experts”. But I have been living with the outdoors as long as I can remember. I have done extended wilderness backpacking and canoeing trips in very remote and potentially dangerous areas. These include solo hiking the 225-mile John Muir Trail (Read my trail journal) in California, the southern loop of Yellowstone, Death Valley, California and extended hikes in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Oregon.

I’ve also canoed the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota and the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, plus hundreds of miles on smaller rivers throughout the United States. I have been a Boy Scout wilderness skills trainer for 17 years.



Firemaking: The ability to make a fire can save your life. The inability can cost it.

flint and steel

Flint and steel firemaking is a reliable method of starting a fire under extreme conditions.

You’ll learn flint and steel firemaking, as well as how to use other methods that assure you can start a fire under any conditions. Plus, you’ll put together a firemaking kit that guarantees success. I have made thousands of fires with flint and steel, and have helped teach thousands how to do it.

Knowing how to make a basic A-Frame tarp shelter is part of any camping experience.

Shelter: This portion of the course focuses on tarp shelters, since they are the lightest, most effective way to make a quick shelter. You’ll learn simple knots that can be tied quickly and easily under extreme conditions, as well as how to adapt a tarp to survival conditions.

We’ll use whatever the river provides to make comfortable shelters.

Land navigation: Most survival situations start when someone gets lost, and we’ll start with the basics. You’ll learn map and compass skills to assure that you always stay found. In addition to compass skills, you’ll learn methods to orient yourself in the outdoors without navigation tools.

Class is in session.

We don’t teach GPS, because the individual types and models vary so widely. Besides, ANY GPS is as reliable as its batteries.

Wilderness survival skills: Many skills needed to survive don’t fit neatly into a category, so we’ll start by discussing what you want to learn. But some of these skills will include knife selection, handling and sharpening; making a personal survival kit, and how to create your own individual survival mindset.

There will be plenty of time to practice skills, explore and absorb the peacefulness of being outside. When you get home, you can use our You Tube videos to fine tune the skills you learned. Or to get a head start, watch some of them before you get out on the river.


Quapaw Canoe Company, Quapaw

River travel is done in handcrafted wooden canoes.

Book your adventure through Quapaw Canoe Company. REGISTER HERE.

Cost: Equipment rental and guided tours are tailored to individual needs (so feel free to mix and match your options, and call QCC with questions or to tailor your trip). Here are the COSTS.

Survival Skills training: The standard rate for Survival Common Sense training is total $300 per day for a class of up to 10 participants. I’ll take out a single person, a couple, or a whole group – just give us a call.

The price is divided among the total participants. All teaching materials on the river are included in that price, with the exception of knives. BRWA can provide you with a loaner knife, or you can buy one from our list of recommended knives. When you book the trip, we’ll send you a list of clothing and supplies you can bring, or rent from QCC.

Scout troops, non-profits and/or charitable groups may qualify for a substantial wilderness skills discounts. Contact me to discuss this further.

For More Information Contact:

Leon Pantenburg



John Ruskey

Quapaw Canoe Company

291 Sunflower Avenue

Clarksdale, MS 38614




If you’re ready for a eco-adventure/vacation that you’ll never forget, contact us. We hope to see you on the river!

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