Guest Speaker: Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers

In addition to performing concerts in the Twin Cities area, JoAnn travels the Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers as a Guest Speaker and Performing Artist for American Cruise Lines. 

Her popular daily talks onboard are enriched by her biology background, captivating speaking style, natural curiosity, love of history and her experiences growing up on and in the Upper Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She is the daughter of Fred Funk, noted Upper Mississippi  river conservationist. “I learned so much about all aspects of the river from him, ” says JoAnn.

“My childhood was spent exploring the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in my flatboat: camping, canoeing, birding, sailing, hunting, dreaming, fishing and waterskiing. In the winter we'd  skate and cross country ski on the frozen backwaters."

In writing and presenting talks, she enjoys finding the personal stories that make history come alive.   

In over a decade of river travel, JoAnn has logged thousands of river miles and experienced firsthand the sights, sounds and stories of our great American Rivers, as she travels  from St. Paul to New Orleans, Pittsburgh to St Louis, up the Cumberland River to Nashville,  and on the Tennessee up to Chattanooga.

JoAnn's Talks

The Pearl Button Boom: The Mussel Industry on the Mississippi River

with JoAnn Funk

Did you know that in the early 1900’s one third of the world’s buttons were made from mussels in the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers? This short lived but profitable business of making buttons from Mississippi mussels was worth 23 million dollars to our economy! This is a riveting tale of mussels, automation, industry, greed, fashion, ecology, and murder!  

Rave Reviews
"If you are looking for a great speaker on an unusual topic, we highly recommend JoAnn's "Pearl Button Boom", an interesting and little known piece of history. She is not only warm and articulate but a pleasure to meet. You won't be disappointed." ... Jan Wolff, Program Committee Member, MN UU Fellowship

"Thanks! As a seamstress I so appreciated your talk. I was reminded of a Nancy Drew book where she and her boyfriend found an underground stream filled with shells with holes in them.  A former button factory!" ... Kathy Fischer-Eagle 

Livin' On the river

with JoAnn Funk

Whether they are rugged individualists, dreamers, survivors or a combination thereof, many people have, and still do, make the river their home. JoAnn gives you fascinating insight into the lives of some of these most interesting people: shantyboaters, people who dream of kayaking the entire river and those who work on the river, and organizations that support and train them.


Meet the Mississippi

with JoAnn Funk

The Mississippi River is one of the wonders of the world! It is the third longest river in the world - 2320 miles. Its watershed drains 41% of the United States. It is a major bird migration route. 

Home to civilization for at least 10,000 years, It has captured the imagination of everyone from Lewis and Clark to Mark Twain. 

JoAnn's Meet the Mississippi is a wonderful way to get an overview of the river: glacial origins, early exploring, commercial navigation, recreational use, the incredible story of the building of our locks and dams, differences in the the Upper and Lower Mississippi, migration, wildlife and more! 

The Golden Age of Steamboats

with JoAnn Funk

Between 1811 and 1900 there were 4000 steamboats on these rivers! What happened to all them?

Learn about the history of  this uniquely American form of river transportation and how it helped build our country.

Then settle in for a bit of expounding on the subject by Mark Twain!

The Western Rivers and The Civil War

with JoAnn Funk

When you think of the Civil War, do you think of the eastern United States? Think again! Learn why control of the Ohio River and the Mississippi River was so crucial to the Union’s victory in the Civil war. Hear the fascinating story of how this played out between the Union and Confederates and why Vicksburg, Mississippi was “the key”.

The Grand Excursion

with JoAnn Funk

Hear the marvelous tale of the greatest six day party ever on the Upper Mississippi river! The Grand Excursion of 1854, the Fashionable Tour!

1200 guests took the very first east west train from the Atlantic to Rock Island, Illinois, (across from Davenport!) where they boarded a flotilla of seven steamboats for an unheard of adventure up to the exotic frozen tundra - the Minnesota Territory!