The Mississippi River: Two Swimmers, Two Trips, Two Videos

Jay Platt, former Marine, finishing his swim across the Mississippi River blindfolded, handcuffed and shackled.

Jay Platt, former Marine, finishing his swim across the Mississippi River blindfolded, handcuffed and shackled.


“May the river be with you!” —  Driftwood Johnnie

Long heralded as one of the greatest natural resources in the world, the Mississippi River is finally coming into its own as a non-combustion-engine recreational source for swimmers, canoeist, paddleboarders, and a host of others on the lower Mississippi who use muscles and wind power to navigate the Father of Waters, the Muddy Mamajama, the Ole Man River.

Flowing over 2,350 miles from Lake Itasca, Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River borders 10 states, provides a migration corridor for 40% of North America’s waterfowl, is home to over 240 species of fish (including alligators and the occasional bull shark) and it provides millions of folks in the central United States with drinking water, while serving as a transportation thoroughfare for over 300 million tons of cargo yearly.

Most folks fear it, and with good reason. The often-idyllic drainer of parts of 31 states, two Canadian provinces and over 40 percent of the United States has taken many a life when not respected. However, it is barely tapped as a recreational source on the lower Mississippi River, but Clarksdale’s own John “Driftwood Johnnie” Ruskey, owner and operator of Quapaw Canoe Company, is changing that one trip and one contact at a time.

When someone wants to swim the river, paddleboard the entire length of it, or do a major photo shoot and article on the 2011 flood, Ruskey is the “go to” guy. Spending more time on the river in one week than most Deltans spend in a lifetime, he is often sought out by famous and not-so-famous adventurers in search of breaking a record or just having a fine day spent on the water.

Over the past couple of weeks two adventurers contacted Ruskey and swam the Mississippi River near Friars Point, Mississippi, just northwest of Clarksdale. The first was Don Bentley from Phoenix, Arizona and the second was South Carolina resident Jay Platt, a former marine and water survival combat instructor. Both men also swam in the Pacific Ocean from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco. Two men, two independent swims, one mighty river!

Bentley swam the river in about 15 minutes on a beautiful fall day. Platt swam the river on a cold, windy, white-capping kind of day, and did so blindfolded, feet shackled, with his hands handcuffed behind his back. The marine, who has a rare disease that caused him to go blind in one eye 25 years ago, has also survived kidney cancer, spinal tumors, four brain tumors, and has one malignant tumor still in his head, made the swim in approximately 40 minutes.

Platt is still married to a marine and does what he does in order to draw attention to and support wounded warriors. He had a large entourage of family and friends accompany him on the river. His brother swam beside him giving him instructions and encouragement as he swam completely blindfolded and shackled.

The Delta Bohemian, along with Mr. Lil John, was thrilled to be invited to attend both events and we hope you will be encouraged by both men’s feats.

For more information on Platt’s reasons for his swim and why he does what he does, go to:


2. Blind, Shackled and ‘Unstoppable’

3. A short Veterans Day swim

May the river be with you!


VIDEO of DON BENTLEY swimming across the Mississippi River

VIDEO of FORMER MARINE JAY PLATT swimming across the Mississippi River
shackled, handcuffed and blindfolded



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Friends of the Delta Bohemian®


  1. This is a super video of Jay Platt’s swim across the Mississippi river. Great job including the family and friends who were also there to support his swim.

  2. Alberto Rios says:

    Elegance comes in many guises, and Don Bentley’s swim is a fine example. The movement through the water isn’t just any swim–it’s the Mississippi, which is even hard to spell, so that this particular swim is through water and history both. It’s a short swim through a long time. Nicely done.–AR

    • @Alberto – I agree. He made it look effortless how he moved through the water. It blows my mind to imagine swimming across the Mississippi River. I do love being on the river in a canoe and swimming in it but swimming across it… way! I’m so glad we were able to document both swims by Don and Jay.

      A friend of ours who works for the Yazoo MS Delta Levee Board has told us that Navy Seals swim across it and back in the middle of winter with no wet suits. Once they reach shore they must then run back to where they originally started, which could be miles! He is going to let us know when this happens again so we can cover it.

      I love our Mississippi River and cherish our friendship with John Ruskey who shares such special occasions like the swims of Don and Jay with us…otherwise we would never know about it. We are pleased to share it with our readers.

      Thank you for watching and reading.

  3. Joni Gilsdorf says:

    Don Bentley – You did it in 15 minutes, what a great accomplishment! They did a really nice job documenting your crossing. I liked how they ended with Paul playing the banjo.
    >How does it feel to be a Delta Bohemian celebrity?

  4. Wow, Don that is very impressive. How long does it take other people who do this?

  5. Thanks for the great video. It really captures the essence of my swim, and I appreciate it so much.

    • Jay, we appreciate your allowing us to be there to cover your important swim. I never tire of watching it on the video. I cannot imagine how it makes you feel when you watch it. There is much poetry in your swim with your brother and Ruskey by your side. Amazing to witness.

      Thank you for sharing the video with your friends, too. The DB appreciates the recognition.

  6. Billy, showed these to Big’Don. My Untimate Marine Gunny Sarg and all around hard ass to this day. Understand, this is the same man I also showed a video of a Marine sniper squad taking out a Taliban mortar team in Afganistan. After seeing all the protocal thay had to endure before receiving the OK to shoot from HQ, Dad commented “Hell, if we had to do all of that shit in The Second World War, we would still be fighting the Son’s A Bitches”.

    After watching the swim video’s in amazement , he responded simply with “That is what Marines do” ‘Simper Fi’. He was not only amazed but clearly proud. Thanks for the video.

    FYI-Only Sailors and Marines are allowed into the Seal program.

  7. Paul Williams says:

    Billy, you and Madge did a great job on putting together the videos. Now let her go get some sleep!

    It was great meeting ya’ll, hope to get over there again sometime soon. Maybe John and I can jam a bit the next time.

  8. Debi Anderson says:

    Way to go Don! Glad to hear you made it with no alligator encounters………

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