The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
lbd 838-835 Island 18 Towhead
After sliding under the bridge and past the Boothspoint Bunge Grain elevator continue on downstream westward and the southwestward around Island 18 where possible sandy high water campsites (up to 30 CuG) are found a high hump mid-channel near 836, at higher water levels keep going for higher sites. At low water a giant sandbar forms with unlimited camping and picnicking possibilities.
The low water road and land bridge of Island 18 was blown out in the 2011 flood. Expert paddlers only through the opening which is full of snags, strainers and turbulent waters! If the river is above 30 CuG the expert paddler could possibly find a tree-choked opening with ample flow diving straight through the woods at 838 which continue through a convoluted gravel & forest landscape and eventually open up into the expansive Robert E. Everett Lake. Re-enter main channel at bottom of lake, which closes off around 7 on the Caruthersville Gauge. Everett Lake Boat Launch: Crude concrete ramp best at medium level, muddy at low water, disappears at high water. Inquire locally for parking.
rbd 829-832 Island 20 Dikes & Towhead
Archipelago of Islands accumulating along the dikes of Island 20. Canoeists and kayakers in higher water levels can stay RBD below Cottonwood Point (RBD 832.5) and float behind a series of three prominent clumpy islands which have grown up along the wing dams of island 20 and go completely under at flood stage 32 CuG. At low water Island 20 transforms into a 5-mile long sandbar full of turtles, terns and swim holes. Watch for nesting least terns during their May-July season, and try not to disturb their sandy nests which they form as small shallow bowls right on the surface of the sandbar.
LBD 823-829 Island 21
During low water you will make a five-mile semi circle to get around the sprawling sandbars of Island 21, and you will want to be alert around the industrious hubbub surrounding Nucor Arkansas Steel & Power Plant found RBD near 824 where coal and iron ore barges dock and smaller tows hustle barges back and forth. Back channel opens up in medium water through large opening below fifth big dike (near LBD 828.5) During higher water levels you can duck into any one of many back channels disappearing into the main body of this island and find yourself in a watery wilderness of islands and sloughs. The primary inflow is the 2nd opening above the wing dam at LBD 828. Paddle quietly and you might enjoy close encounters with beavers, river otters, deer, coyotes and bald eagles. There is a primitive landing LBD just off Chic Road near the top of the back channel (36.189635,-89.651018). Island 21 has five miles of back channel north to south, and a solid cross-channel dike near the bottom end that could produce sizable waves and turbulence at medium water levels. If the water seems to drop a level and you hear the commotion of a waterfall proceed cautiously. Stop and scout if uncertain. A hidden sandbar with beautiful blue holes forms at lower water levels LBD at the bottom of the back channel.
Best camping in the entire area could be found along the multilayered Island 21, one of the biggest islands in this stretch of river. Island 21 is lacerated by numerous channels interwoven with deep forests, wetlands, blue holes and extensive sandbars. There is a high sandy bluff found along the outside edge which could offer safe respite in all water stages.
Unfortunately any main channel travel, picnicking or camping will be spoiled by the monstrous Nucor Arkansas with its tiresome bells and sirens, and the endless roar of its power plant and giant coal trucks. After dark the night sky is ruined by its lights and the intrusive sounds seem to get louder. If industry doesn’t bother you, no problem. Find your place and endure. But if your seeking peace and quiet, you won’t find it here. Keep heading downstream to Wright’s Point or below.