The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Rivergator Appendix 6
Baton Rouge to Gulf of Mexico
Dean Klinkenberg:
Beauty at the Far End of the River

Beauty at the Far End of the River

Some fifty miles downriver of New Orleans, Bohemia Beach comes into view like Brigadoon, an oasis of sandy beach between piles of rip rap. When I met the Rivergator expedition on the west bank of the Mississippi River at Algiers, downtown New Orleans looming behind us, I knew I was in for surprises in the coming week-long paddle, but I had no idea there would be so many that would move me.

At Bohemia Beach, uncooperative weather turned a single-night stopover into a three-night vacation. A few of us went for a swim in one of the willow-lined coves. The scavengers in our crew built a playground from refuse. I sipped ginger tea and watched the world’s commerce flow by—busy deck hands keeping watch on stacks of containers or cruise directors tending to exuberant vacationers.

During a break in the weather, four of us paddled about a mile downriver from Bohemia Beach to Mardi Gras Pass. The Mississippi River carved a new opening a few years ago that connects the main channel to a rich labyrinth of waterways and wetlands alive with birds, oyster beds, wild pigs, and boats speeding by with men carrying rifles. Deep in the maze, we pulled up to a coastal marsh where I felt like I was floating across the landscape (waterscape?), my weight supported by the densely packed root systems of the grasses.

Down at the far end of the river, humanity’s structures crumble, get rebuilt, and crumble again. A concrete boardwalk at Pilottown makes a convenient platform to spy swamp rabbits and cottonmouths, but it would quickly disappear into the marsh without the persistent efforts of people armed with weed whackers. Buildings that went up after Nixon went down are battered and at the end of their lifespan, their age perhaps better measured by the number of big storms they’ve endured than the number of years they’ve stood.

Closer to the Gulf, the original Pilottown—a place known as The Balize—has long since been reclaimed by the marsh. In 1832, the hard-to-impress English writer Frances Trollpe described The Balize as “…a cluster of huts…by far the most miserable station that I ever saw made the dwelling of man…” There are no signs today of those huts where river pilots once waited to board ships and steer them to New Orleans. But while it may have been a miserable place for humans to live, it makes a fine home for herons, gar, and a host of other animals better adapted to the bayou.

Down where the river ends, where the scent of salt picks up and Southeast Pass dumps bits of Montana and the Great Plains into the Gulf of Mexico, a thick line of roseau cane marks the boundary between land and sea. A low barrier island that may or may not have a name rises gently from a broad mud flat, a popular spot for pelicans and gulls to hang out and fish. We set up camp along the highest point on the island, which, by most standards, would barely register as a slight incline. Still, it was elevated enough to keep us dry at high tide.

No; I won’t soon forget Bohemia Beach or sleeping among moonflowers across from Venice or camping on an island at the end of the river. I suppose you might catch a glimpse of these areas if you pass by in a boat with a higher top speed than a canoe, but I doubt you would really notice them, much less experience their beauty.

Dean Klinkenberg
The Mississippi Valley Traveler
P.O. Box 15146
St. Louis, MO 63110-5146
(314) 497-3741
Partner, Mississippi River Network
Author of Rock Island Lines (Frank Dodge Mystery #1)

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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
Louisiana Delta 229 – 10 BATON ROUGE TO VENICE
Birdsfoot Delta 10 – 0 VENICE TO GULF OF MEXICO
Venice to the Gulf
Water Levels According To The Venice Gage (VG):  
Flood Stage Warning:  
11.5 LBD Sandbars At Mouth Of Baptiste Collette Bayou – North Side
11.4 LBD Shell Beaches At Mouth Of Baptiste Collette Bayou – South Side
11.5 LBD Baptiste Colette Bayou
-1.9 RBD Emeline Pass
-2.5 RBD Fimbel Pass
-6 To -8 Baptiste Collette Jetty
10.5 The Jump: Entrance to the Venice Harbor
Directions To The Marinas In Tiger Pass  
Cypress Cove Marina  
Venice Marina  
10.4 RBD Grand Pass
Grand Pass  
Tiger Pass  
The Wagon Wheel – Venice Salt Dome  
10.2 RBD Grand Pass Island
10.2 To 9.8 RBD WARNING: Iron Pilings In River
9.6 – 8 LBD Lower Venice Anchorage
4.9 LBD Mary Bower’s Pass
4.8 RBD New Pass
4.8 RBD New Pass Cypress Beach
3.5 – 2.9 LBD Cubit’s Gap
Cubit’s Gap/Main Pass Camp  
Octave Pass North  
Cubit’s Gap: Octave Pass  
Cubit’s Gap: Brant Bayou  
Cubit’s Gap: Raphael Pass  
Delta National Wildlife Refuge  
2.4 LBD Shell Pipeline Co., Pilottown Wharf
1.9 LBD Pilottown
0 RBD Mile Zero (SW Pass) Camp  
Head of Passes -0- Mile Zero
Southwest Pass  
River Levels Down SW Pass  
-4.5 LBD Burrwood Bayou (Top Entrance)
-8.9 LBD Pogo Producing Co., E-3 Boat Landing
-14.5 LBD Burrwood Bayou (Bottom Entrance)
-14.5 RBD Dredge Piles
-14.5 LBD Burrwood Bayou Closure
-18.0 LBD Associated Branch Pilots, Southwest Pass Station Wharf
-20.2 LBD End Of The Jetty/End Of The River
South Pass  
-3.4 LBD Picnic/Camping Spot
-4 To -10 RBD East Bay Bayou Openings
-10 RBD Picayune Bayou
-11 RBD Port Eads
-11 RBD High Adventure Marina, Port Eads
-11.8 LBD Bayou Opening (To Backside Of Upper South Pass Island)
-12.1 LBD Tiny Bayou Opening
-12.2 LBD Opening In Jetty Along Ocean Side Of Upper South Pass Island
Upper South Pass Island West Jetty End
-13.5 RBD  
Best End Place: Lower South Pass Island  
-14.2 LBD East Jetty End
Pass A Loutre  
-0.5 RBD Upper Shallow Island
-1.5 RBD Lower Shallow Island
-2 RBD Cheniere Pass
-2.5 RBD Willow Clump
-4 To -5 RBD Wetlands
-6 LBD Muddy Shallows
-11 LBD Disappearing Banks
-12.8 LBD North Pass Island
-15 North Pass Island Beaches
Southeast Pass  
-5.5 RBD Mouth Of Southeast Pass
-7 RBD Pass A Loutre State WMA Picnic Area
-12.5 Channel Splits
-12.5 Southeast Pass Island
Pass A Loutre State Wildlife Wildlife Management Area  
Balize, The Oldest City The Delta Ate  
Getting Back  
Upstream Paddling  
What Do You Do Now With Your Vessel?  
LiNKS = Leave No Kid On Shore