The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
Originally settled in 1794 as the town of La Petite Prairie by Fench fur trapper Joseph Le Sieur, Caruthersville survived the 1811/12 New Madrid Earthquake, the floods of 1927 and 1937, the depression, and the Civil Rights era. Even though it was threatened by its highest waters ever during the great flood of 2011, its sturdy sea-wall held. To this day it remains a sho-nuff river town. By the result hard work and a lot of luck the charming city is still located directly on the main channel of the big river, a distinction not shared by other unlucky river towns where the river stayed for a while and then left town dry (or worse, was eaten by flood and destroyed completely).
Canoeists, Kayakers and surfers (stand-up-paddleboarders) should make a stop. Caruthersville might be the most paddler-friendly resupply and the best rest stop in between Cape Girardeau and Memphis. Not far downstream the river leaves the Missouri Bootheel and your right bank becomes Arkansas.
Look for the tall grey Bunge Grain elevator which towers above the center of the city. The S.P. Reynolds Park and boat launch is directly below downstream of Bunge. You can easily pull your canoe or kayak up to a small delightful river park and enjoy the grassy field punctuated with park benches and large cottonwoods, elms, mulberries and other shady trees. Thanks to a stubby sea-wall built in 1917 downtown restaurants and businesses are a short walk away. Main street (Ward Avenue) ends at the wall opening. As you walk through the gates you will see a painted plaque. The highest river stages are recorded from 1913 to 1997, including what used to be the record high 46.0 in 1937. 2011 shattered that record when the great river rose seven-tenths of a foot higher, to 46.7, on April 16th. At Rivergator publication date this record has not been added to the sea-wall.
Secure your vessel or portage it into town with you. Several blocks down Ward Ave you’ll find a pizza place, a BBQ joint, a sporting goods store (Grizzly Jig Co), a drug store, banks, the post office and office supplies. The library is a mile further (limited hours) and grocery stores even further. Refill water bottles at the closest business you encounter to avoid lugging around town. Caruthersville is a classic good-feeling river town full of friendly residents and interesting architecture. Those needing groceries might try catching a ride with someone, or be prepared for a several mile walk round trip. If you want to read more about the history of the town locate a copy of Caruthersville, Missouri: 150 Years (2007, Teresa Tidwell) which can be found at the library, or purchased from the writer’s son, who operates the Office Supply across from the historic Post Office building. (A lively read. Much of the information about the town presented here was gleaned from this book.)
If staying overnight you might want to make the half-mile walk to the Round Restaurant at 820 W 3rd Street, a popular eatery in a perfectly round building which one google reviewer rated 5 stars “Best fried chicken tenders EVER. Food was home-cooked, served hot and fresh, wonderful staff, would definitely go there again…”