The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
Routes for the paddler around Tamm/Barfield Bends
Tamm and Barfield create a lovely loop-de-loop of meandering river that is replicated at a couple of different places, notably in the last 30 miles of the Middle Miss, and in the Bayou Goula Bends below Baton Rouge. These mirror-image river revolutions were common before modern man arrived and took many of them out with “cutoffs,” places where the yoke of the bend narrowed and only a short piece of forest had to be removed to connect the waters. Fortunately this was never done at Tamm/Barfield and the canoeist or the kayaker can enjoy the sensations of swirling around two gi-normous 180s with two great back channels to explore as alternate routes.
1) Main Channel
Stay mid channel below Island 21 and follow the strongest flow left bank towards the Tennessee shore, past the mouth of the Obion River and on around Tamm Bend. Upstream Tows tend to hug the inside of the bend, while downstreamers go outside for the fast water. Below Tamm edge back into middle channel and then slide back LBD towards Arkansas past the noisy Nucor steel plant, and then complete the bend staying right bank past Tomato and follow the fast tongue of water back into middle channel at the top of Island 25 which eventually slides back over to the Tennessee shore.
2) Back Channel Tamm Bend
During high water you have the option of cutting behind Wright’s Point through a mile-wide back channel that will slice 5 miles off your journey. As with all back channels the water flows slower behind Wright’s, but you will make up any lost speed with wildlife and peaceful flow, and of course less distance.
3) Obion River Round Trip
Paddle up the gently meandering Obion lined by fields of corn and soybeans four miles up to the junction of the Forked Deer. Follow the Obion left fork into Moss Island WMA for a possible round trip on a parallel lake just over the left side riverbank (this would involve 2 portages at most water levels).
4) Back Channel Barfield
After paddling past Nebraska Point, stay LBD along dikes the water flows strongly through an opening below 2nd major dike, during high water you have to move fast! (If you miss it go the next opening above 3rd dike) Follow left bank 180 degrees around the bend, behind one large island, and another low sandbar island (medium water) until you are paddling southeast, and then ease back over mid river to rejoin the Main Channel.