The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Tides in Rivers

The tide reigning before a coast spreads upwards in rivers with identical periodicity, but the dissipation of the energy gradually reduces the amplitude and the tide ends up being imperceptible, with this being the boundary of the maritime part of the river.  On the Atchafalaya this boundary is normally found around 50 miles upstream, in the Myette Point area (On the Amazon River is over 600 miles!).

Tidal bore

In normal conditions, the Atchafalaya River does not experience tidal bores, although this phenomena might occur during hurricanes or periods of high southerly winds.  What is a tidal bore?  In an estuary and even more so in a river with a wide mouth, the high tide is of much shorter duration than the low tide; it may even be that the ascent of the water up-river is almost instantaneous, this is the moment of the tidal bore, breakwaters that enclose the whole bed of the river which in turn also surges quickly upwards.  In Brazil, the tidal bore of the Amazon River is known as the pororoca. It comes from the Tupi language and means “great destructive noise”. It occurs in spring tides, and waves of up to 12 feet in height are formed which are taken advantage of by surfers from around the world who come to the mouth of this river to surf tens of miles up the river with the waves.

Water Speed in the Passes

In general the water slows the further outwards you go down any one pass towards the Gulf. Just like the river, in high water it’s faster and in low water it’s slower.  Incoming and outgoing tides have their effect, as already described.  Paddlers used to enjoying 3-5 mph in the main channel of the Atchafalaya can expect the water speed to gradually diminish as the river approaches the open waters of the ocean, down to 2-3 mph in the main passes, and maybe 1-2 in the smaller passes, and then maybe 1mph arpound the final island, to final calm completely when you paddle into the deep water of the Gulf.  Not only is the water volume decreasing every time the river splinters into another pass, but it also reaches sea level, thereby losing all of the “pulling” effect of gravity.

Which Pass?

You are nearing the end of you expedition, and some fore-planning is in order.  Where exactly is the end of your long journey?  Which of the many passes you follow depends on personal judgement, stamina, and the weather forecast.  The strongest recommendation the Rivergator makes is to not rush the end of your expedition.  If the weather allows, enjoy the unique beauty and biota of the Gulf Coast.  Camp an extra night on a beach towards the end of the river, like the long beach found at Melanie Island (145RBD), or at one of the Atchafalaya Delta WMA campgrounds.  You could also paddle out the Wax Lake Delta, or return by the Wax Lake Delta.  Read below and study the maps.  With an extra day or two of paddling, and then add on a last day for an overnight camp, and a day for the return paddle, and you could be celebrating your successful odyssey on a sandy beach covered with seashells, and your joy would be magnified by the many crabs, fish and birds there to help celebrate!   What are an extra 2-3 days when you have been on the water 3 months already?

Wax Lake Outlet: Alternate Route to the Gulf

Most Paddlers will go through Morgan City to reach the Gulf, but please be aware that you could turn right at Myette Point 102 RBD and cross Sixmile Lake to access the Wax Lake Outlet.   Check the route on Google Earth.  Follow the Wax Lake Outlet to the Wax Lake Delta.  This could be a final Gulf Coast destination for long distance paddlers.  Your return route could be back up the same outlet, but a more interesting route would be to circle back up the Atchafalaya Delta and end in Morgan City (Intracoastal Waterway/Berwick Boat Ramp is the best location).  Or you could paddle west into Bayou Sale Bay and pull out at Burns Point Park (as several expeditions have done in recent years).

Shell Island Pass

Your first West Bank option down the main channel of the Atchafalaya would be the Shell Island Pass (137.8 RBD).  This is very first possible western exit into the Gulf of Mexico off the main channel of the Atchafalaya, and begins at the base of Shell Island (which is indeed a pile of shells – at least here at the mouth of the exit).  In 2015 we found the inflowing water speed to be 2-3 mph when the river was at 5 feet on the Morgan City Gage (MCG), and the banks of the pass were at bank full.  Expeditions could paddle out to the Gulf from the Atchafalaya and make a three-mile crossing over to the Wax Lake Delta for the return trip to Morgan City.  Check forecasts first before attempting this route.  You would not want to be be making an open bay crossing in high winds from any direction.  The Atchafalaya Delta WMA Campground is located at the top end of Camp Island in Crewboat Channel of the Campground Pass, in between Campground Pass and Main Pass.  The Wax Lake Delta Passes are (from West to East): Oryx Pass, Little Beach Pass, Fred Pass, Redhead Pass, Campground Pass, Shortcut Pass. Rookery Pass, Mallard Pass, Gadwell Pass, Main Pass, Greg Pass, Pintail Pass, East Pass.

Location Island Pass

Your second choice would be the Location Island Pass (140.2 LBD) which is the first East Bank Pass option to the Gulf, and is short and sweet.  You could paddle two miles down this pass and make a landing on the beautiful beaches of Plumb Island Point.  Check route on Google Earth.  If the weather is good camp one night on the beaches of Plumb Island Point and then turn around and paddle back to Morgan City.

Amerada Pass

Third Choice: Amerada Pass (144.2 RBD) would be a good choice for paddlers to reach the Gulf, then turn around and camp at a designated Campground.  The Atchafalaya Delta Wildlife Management Area maintains a boat-access only campground approximately one mile down Amerada Pass on Willow Island.  You could paddle down, check in with the ranger at Park Headquarters, and then paddle out to the Gulf.  Break open your bottle of champagne, celebrate your successful  expedition, and then paddle back to camp.  This would be an excellent way to end your great adventure.  The only drawback is that there are no views of the open Gulf from here.  On the other hand, you would be in good company in a safe place.  And you would get a first hand look at the Atchafalaya Delta flora and fauna, along with possible interpretation from WMA staff.  Amerada Pass continues on to Catfish Pass and Arrowhead Island.

Main Channel: Melanie Island

We’re saving the best for the last: Melanie Island.  Imagine paddling around God’s Island, and reaching the open waters of the Gulf.  You celebrate the completion of your adventure in the middle of the main channel of the Atchafalaya as it flows towards towards South America.  Then you cut back to the West Bank, right back descending and make landing on a sparkling white beach running as far as the eye can see.  Welcome to Melanie Island!  Excellent location to turnaround, Melanie Island is also the very last island of any size on the main channel of the Atchafalaya with safe dry ground suitable for camping and celebrating your successful expedition.  It is also wild, primitive, and full of bird and animal life.  Best of all, Melanie Island features the longest beach on the entire Atchafalaya Delta!  There is a full half mile of beautiful sun-filled shell beaches on Melanie Island, with endless campsites to chose from.   As such, the Rivergator recommends not going beyond this point.  Melanie island would make an excellent choice as a turnaround place for your expedition down the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River systems.  The beach is mostly shells at bottom end, but becomes more sandy towards top end.  Walk the whole thing and savor your great adventure, and then pick out the best spot for your final camp.

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Middle Mississippi & Bluegrass Hills / Bootheel 195-0, 954-850 ST. LOUIS TO CARUTHERSVILLE
Chickasaw Bluffs 850 – 737 CARUTHERSVILLE TO MEMPHIS
Upper Delta 737 – 663 MEMPHIS TO HELENA
Middle Delta 663 – 537 HELENA TO GREENVILLE
Loess Bluffs 437 – 225 VICKSBURG TO BATON ROUGE
Atchafalaya River 159 – 0 SIMMESPORT TO MORGAN CITY
Atchafalaya Upper
Consider The Atchafalaya  
The Atchafalaya  
Alternate Route To The Gulf Of Mexico: The Atchafalaya River  
Big Geography Geography  
Atchafalaya Exit  
Intro: Atchafalaya River  
The Atchafalaya River: Best Route To The Gulf  
Best Water Levels To Paddle To The Gulf  
Traffic And Industry On The Atchafalaya  
Who Is The Rivergator Written For?  
Reading The Rivergator:  
Panel Of Experts:  
Wild Miles:  
Warning: Stay Away From Intake Canals!  
What Are The Wild Miles?  
Big Trees And Floodplain:  
Important Note To Paddlers:  
Your Route: Main Channel Vs. Back Channel  
The Atchafalaya Split  
Maps And Mileage  
USACE 2012 Atchafalaya River And Outlets To Gulf Of Mexico  
Louisiana Geological Survey Atchafalaya Basin Map  
Maps Of The Atchafalaya Delta  
River Speed and Trip Duration  
Dangers Of Paddling Through Morgan City  
Expert Paddlers Only!  
Wind Direction And Speed  
Atchafalaya Delta Tides  
Tidal Influence:  
Estimate Your Camp Height  
Tidal Coefficient  
Tides In Rivers  
Tidal Bore  
Water Speed In The Passes  
Which Pass?  
Wax Lake Outlet: Alternate Route To The Gulf  
Shell Island Pass  
Location Island Pass  
Amerada Pass  
Main Channel: Melanie Island  
The Joy Of Reaching The Gulf  
Camping On The Gulf At The End Of The River  
The Best Gulf Beaches  
Open Water Of The Gulf?  
Some Helpful Hints:  
Getting Back To Land  
Getting Back  
Upstream Paddling  
What Do You Do Now With Your Vessel?  
LiNKS = Leave No Kid On Shore  
Atchafalaya Basinkeeper  
Bayou Teche Experience  
Bayou Sara kayak Rental  
Pack & Paddle  
Services For Lower Mississippi River Paddlers  
Lower Mississippi And Ohio River Forecast  
Reading Google Maps  
Lower Mississippi River Mileage  
Towboat Protocol  
What To Pack:  
Atchafalaya Swamp Pack List:  
Primitive Camping In The Marshes & Swamps  
Biting Bugs  
Poison Ivy  
Can You Drink The Water?  
Where Do You Go? (To The Bathroom?)  
Water Quality  
The Atchafalaya Basinkeeper  
The Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper  
Environmental Reporting Phone Numbers:  
Maps And Mileage  
Louisiana Geological Survey Atchafalaya Basin Map  
Atchafalaya River Boat Ramps (Functional Jan 2016)  
River Gages  
Best Water Levels To Paddle To The Gulf  
What Do You Do Now With Your Vessel?  
LiNKS = Leave No Kid On Shore  
Left Bank And Right Bank  
Towboats And Buoys  
VHF Marine Radio  
Cajun Culture And The Atchafalaya Wilderness  
SOLA Coffee Companies  
How To Brew A Great-Tasting Pot Of River-Rat Coffee  
The Atchafalaya  
A Note On Mileage  
A Note On Pronunciation  
Where To Start Your Atchafalaya River Expedition  
Leaving The Mississippi River  
Mississippi River Maps And Mileage  
Three Inflow Openings At Old River  
Old River Control Structure: 3 Inflow Channels  
316.3 RBD Hydro Inflow Channel
313.7 RBD Knox Landing
311.7 RBD Auxiliary Intake — Old River Control Structure
316.3 RBD Hydro Intake — Old River Control Structure
Short History Of The Old River Control Structure  
314.6 RBD Main Intake — Old River Control Structure
313 LBD Buffalo River
Clark Creek Natural Area  
311.7 LBD Clark Creek
311.7 – 310 LBD Tunica Hills Below Clark Creek (Mississippi Loess Bluffs ##6)
311 – 309 RBD Point Breeze
310.2 LBD Wilkinson Creek
306 LBD Welcome To Louisiana!
306 – 294 LBD Angola State Penitentiary
306 LBD Angola Ferry
304.5 – 303 LBD Shreve’s Bar
306 – 302 Back Channel Of Shreve’s Bar
306 – 302 Main Channel Of Shreve’s Bar
303.8 Old River Lock And Dam: Entrance To The Atchafalaya River
Leaving The Mississippi Towards Lock & Dam  
The Atchafalaya River: Best Route To The Gulf  
How Does A Lock & Dam Work?  
Contact Lockmaster  
Safe Paddling Through A Lock & Dam  
Lock Signals  
Inside The Lock Chamber  
Order Of Locking Through  
Mileage Down Lower Old River Channel  
6.9 RBD Three Rivers Junction
Red River  
Three Rivers WMA And Red River NWR  
Atchafalaya – A Modern History  
Atchafalaya Lower
Atchafalaya River Basin Biotas  
A Lived-In Landscape  
Atchafalaya Mileage  
RBD = Right Bank Descending, LBD = Left Bank Descending  
Gas Pipelines  
Simmesport Gage (SG)  
Water Levels According To The Simmesport Gage  
Maps And Mileage  
USACE 2012 Atchafalaya River And Outlets To Gulf Of Mexico  
Louisiana Geological Survey Atchafalaya Basin Map  
0.1 LBD Three Rivers Landing
1.4 LBD Small Dune
1.9 RBD Coville Bayou
3.4 LBD Bayou Coteau
4.5 Simmesport KCS Railroad Bridge
4.6 LBD Simmesport Sand Dune
4.8 LBD Kuhlman Bayou
5.5 Simmesport River Park
Simmesport, Louisiana  
Canadaville, Louisana  
9 – 11 RBD Odenburg Island Dikes
12.5 LBD Marine Bayou
13 – 20 Atchafalaya Squiggles
13.2 RBD Porcupine Point
14.5 LBD Cypress Point
14.5 RBD  
14.7 RBD Small Dunes
15.5 Primitive Boat Ramp (Private)
16 RBD Eddy Dune
16.5 RBD Trash Site
17 – 18 RBD Hick’s Landing/Gordon Point
18 – 20 LBD Bayou Point
Borrow Pits And Blue Holes  
20.5 LBD Small Sandy Shelves
20 – 25 Bayou Current To Elba Landing
22 RBD Cell Tower
22.2 LBD Small Hump Of Sand
23.4 RBD Barberton Landing
25.1 RBD Elba Landing
26.1 RBD Small Bluff Of Sand
26.2 LBD Broad Sandy Shelf
26.3 RBD Old Channel Of Bayou Rouge
27.1 LBD Point Coupee/Bayou Latenache Pumping Station
27.1 Morganza Floodway – North End
28.1 Underwater Pipeline Crossings
28.2 Aerial Pipeline Crossing
29.6 Melville Union Pacific Railroad Bridge
29.7 RBD Melville Boat Ramp (Primitive)
29.8 LBD Melville Ferry Barge East Bank Landing
30 – 40 Melville To Krotz Springs
31 LBD Broad Bay
31.5 LBD Cross Bayou
31.7 LBD Open Field Cow Pasture
32.5 LBD Cross Bayou Point (Owl Hoot)
35.6 LBD Small Sandbar
36 – 37 RBD Sandy Landings
37.1 RBD Cell Tower
39.7 LBD Bayou Sherman Point
Atchafalaya Basin Pack List For Swampy/Marshy Camp Sites  
Switching To The KROTZ SPRINGS GAGE (KG)  
Water Levels According To The Krotz Springs Gage  
38.5 – 42.7 Krotz Springs Utility Crossings
39.3 Water Drainage Structure: Origins Of The Teche River
39.5 RBD Cell Tower
39.6 LBD High Sand Dune
40.3 RBD Gravel Landing
40.3 Wire Suspension Bridge For Pipeline
41 Krotz Springs US Hwy 190 And 71 (2 Bridges)
41.5 Krotz Springs Union Pacific Railroad Bridge
42.3 RBD Krotz Springs Boat Ramp
Krotz Springs History  
42.5 RBD Port Of Krotz Springs
Krotz Springs To The Split  
Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge  
44 Sherburne Bend
44.5 RBD Frank Diesl Point
44.9 LBD Small Sand Dune
46.1 RBD Bayou Big Graw Boat Ramp
49.3 RBD Bayou Courtableau
49.7 LBD Coswell Point
51 RBD Courtableau Point
54.2 LBD End Of The East Bank Levee
55 LBD Atchafalaya NWR Boat Ramp
55.1 Two Blue Holes
55.4 LBD Alabama Point
56.4 RBD Old Atchafalaya Point
56.4 The Atchafalaya Split
Whiskey Bay Pilot Channel  
59.8 I-10 The Atchafalaya Basin Bridge
60 RBD Sand Dune
60.5 Union Texas Petrochemical Aerial Crossing
61.7 LBD Bayou Des Glaises Boat Ramp (Primitive)
62.3 LBD Bayou Des Glaises
66.4 RBD Splice Lake
66.7 LBD Pat’s Throat
68 RBD Willow Point
68.5 LBD Blue Heron Point
70.9 LBD Upper Grand River
73.4 LBD Little Tensas Bayou
75.3 LBD Texaco Resources Dock
75.5 RBD Splice Island (Bottom End)
Primitive Camping In The Marshes & Swamps  
75.7 LBD Jake’s Bayou
75.8 Three Major Pipelines
76.4 LBD Lake Mongoulois Point
77.2 RBD Bayou Chene
79.9 Tarleton Bayou
81.2 LBD Bayou Sorrel
81.2 LBD Bayou Sorrell: Alternate Route Down The Atchafalaya
3 Days On Dean’s Route  
East Grand Lake  
82.4 LBD Bee Bayou
82 – 99 Chicot Pass
83 Pipeline Tailings
83.2 Philip’s Canal
85.7 RBD Danbury Management Corp Dock
86.2 RBD Canal Entrance
86.8 RBD Canal Entrance
88.1 RBD Canal Entrance
89.7 RBD Pipeline Canal
91.2 Texas Gas Transmission Co. 12″ Gas Pipeline
Attakapas Island Wildlife Management Area  
95.4 LBD Blue Hole
96.1 Texas Gas Transmission Co. 12″ Gas Pipeline
96.7 Old Pipeline Canal
97.3 Louisiana Intrastate Gas Corp 4″ Gas Pipeline
98.2 RBD Myette Point
Water Levels According To The Morgan City Gage  
Tidal Influence  
Estimate Your Camp Height  
100.2 LBD Blue Hole Landing
102 RBD Sixmile Lake: Access To Wax Lake Outlet
Wax Lake Outlet: Alternate Route To The Gulf  
Paradise Regained: The Wax Lake Delta  
103.8 LBD Narrow Bayou Leading To East Grand Lake
105 LBD Blue Point Chute: Shortcut To Cypress Wonderland
107.9 Exxon Gas Transmission Company 20″ Gas Pipeline
108.3 RBD Shortcut To Sixmile Lake
109 RBD Cypress Pass Back Channel
109.5 Duck Lake Channel
Duck Lake  
Many Rivers To Follow  
111.7 RBD Lower Atchafalaya River
111.7 RBD Riverside Pass
112.5 RBD Three Island Pass
113 RBD Little Island Pass
Main Channel Atchafalaya River  
115.1 American Pass
115.8 LBD Pipeline Canal To Dog Island Pass And Flat Lake
Flat Lake  
115.8 – 119.8 LBD Drew’s Island
117 RBD Stouts Point
119 Drew’s Pass
Dangers Of Paddling Through Morgan City  
Small Tows In Harbors  
Towboats Vs. Tugboats  
Stay Off The River In Fog  
Fleeted Barges  
Buoys And Other Hazardous Stationary Objects  
119 LBD Swiftships Boat Yard
119.5 RBD Bayou Teche (Berwick) Lock & Dam
119.5 RBD Bayou Teche Water Trail
121 Morgan City US Hwy 90 Bridge
121.2 LBD Morgan City Downtown Landing
Morgan City  
121.3 Morgan City Texas And New Orleans Railroad Bridge
121.4 RBD Berwick Public Boat Ramp
121.4 LBD Mr. Charlie: The International Petroleum Museum
Intro: Morgan City To The Gulf Of Mexico  
Maps Of The Atchafalaya Delta  
Best Water Levels To Paddle To The Gulf  
Morgan City Gage (MCG)  
Water Levels According To The Morgan City Gage  
Flood Stage Warning:  
Weather And Tides  
Check The Winds And Weather  
Tidal Influence:  
Estimate Your Camp Height  
121.5 LBD Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (East)
121.7 – 130.3 Bateman Island
Pipelines And Electrical Lines  
124.2 RBD Berwick Intracoastal Waterway Boat Launch
124.2 RBD Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (West)
124.5 RBD Gulf Intracoastal Waterway Point (South Side)
Atchafalaya Delta Navigation Channel Buoys  
126-127 LBD Outside Bend Highground
127.4 Bateman Island Point And Bend
127.5 – 128 RBD Cypress Forests
128 – 131 LBD Sweetbay Lake
131 LBD Access To Bayou Shaffer Via Sweetbay Lake
131 RBD Glass Island
Night-Time Sky In The Atchafalaya Delta  
131.8 – 132 LBD Stands Of Young Cypress Trees
134 RBD Sandy Willow Spit
134 LBD Avoca Island Cutoff
135-136 LBD New Dike Wall
135-138 LBD New Navigation Channel Around He Avoca Island Bend
136 – 137 Sandy Marsh Island
137.8 RBD Shell Island Pass
Gulf Route: Crossing Over To The Wax Lake Delta  
Atchafalaya Delta Wildlife Management Area  
138.5 LBD Low Lying Muddy/Sandy Beach With Willows
139.1 LBD Small Shell Beach
140 LBD Deer Island
140.5 RBD Breaux’s Pass
140.2 LBD Location Island Pass
142.2 LBD East Pass
144.2 RBD Amerada Pass
144.2 RBD Willow Island
144.3 LBD God’s Island
144.3 LBD God’s Island
144.8 RBD Log Island Pass
145.4 RBD Yvette Island
146 RBD Melanie Island
148.5 RBD Donna Island
150.5 RBD Eugene Island
151.5 LBD Bird Island East
Pount Au Fer/Raqet Pass  
Getting Back To Land  
Atchafalaya Delta WMA Campground  
Wax Lake Delta Passes  
Getting Back  
Upstream Paddling  
What Do You Do Now With Your Vessel?  
LiNKS = Leave No Kid On Shore  
Louisiana Delta 229 – 10 BATON ROUGE TO VENICE
Birdsfoot Delta 10 – 0 VENICE TO GULF OF MEXICO