The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

839 Caruthersville Bridge

The Caruthersville Bridge is the first span found on the Lower Mississippi downstream of the mouth of the Ohio at Cairo, Illinois.  Completed in December of 1976 it is purported to be the longest river span at 7,089 feet, although from the distance its clunky lopsided trusswork makes it seem small and ungainly.  Only until you float underneath its massive hulk do you appreciate its size.  This bridge replaced the Powell Ferry which made national news in 1946 when eleven people perished as result of a collision with a towboat only a hundred yards from the Missouri shore.


Paddlers can use any of the spans for downstream passage under the Caruthersville Bridge, but remember that downstream tows will favor the faster moving waters under the farthest span LBD (which is also the widest span) while upstreamers might stay in slower waters further inside the bend and opt for the next one over (depending on river level).  Paddlers should always defer right-of-way to tows in the vicinity of any bridge.  Bridges are almost always located in a narrow fast water sections of the river, and timing is everything.  When in doubt stop — or take out!  Find an eddy and take a break while that monstrous tow passes.  Imagine the perspective from the pilothouse of the tow: If pressed between hitting a bridge and running over some ill-informed paddler… well you can guess which option the captain might take!


The painted numbers center pier indicate clearance under bridge, not river depth.  At 60 feet cranes on barges need to lower their booms.  At 50 feet the American Queen will need to lower her smokestacks.   At 40 feet some towboats will be unable to pass under; small tows only.  At 30 feet major flood — small craft only — the levees will be over-topped.  At 20 feet catastrophic flood.  The entire landscape from the Kentucky hills to the Arkansas Ozarks will be underwater.


CAUTION: Downstream tows will favor the faster moving waters under the farthest span LBD (which is also the widest span) while upstreamers might stay in slower waters further inside the bend and opt for the next one over (depending on river level).  Paddlers should always defer right-of-way to tows in the vicinity of any bridge. 


Bridges & Mud: How deep is the Mississippi Mud? 

The Entire Lower Mississippi was once an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico.  Catastrophic flooding followed the melting of the continental glaciers.   After the last ice age the Mississippi was 20 times its present size, and the massive river deposited mud averaging 32 feet, with some places in the wide Yazoo-Mississippi Delta as deep as 350 feet.  But there is at least one place where the bottom was never found: you will paddle over the deepest mud ever plumbed — underneath the Caruthersville Bridge!  The following quote is adopted from Tidwell: Caruthersville, Missouri: 150 Years.


“One of the lasting effects of the New Madrid Earthquake 1811-12 was the changes it made in the earth.  When soil borings were taken for the bridge across the river in the late 1960s, drills went down more than six thousand feet and never hit rock.  The engineers had hoped to put the bridge pilings on a rock footing, but there was none there.  Apparently, the quake had separated any rock foundation that might have been under the river and filled the space with soil!”

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Middle Mississippi & Bluegrass Hills / Bootheel 195-0, 954-850 ST. LOUIS TO CARUTHERSVILLE
Chickasaw Bluffs 850 – 737 CARUTHERSVILLE TO MEMPHIS
Caruthersville to Osceola
850 – 737 LBD Options for Paddlers in the Caruthersville Stretch
Above Caruthersville  
Below Caruthersville  
850 RBD Caruthersville Harbor Boat Ramp (1/2 Mile Up Harbor)
849 RBD Mouth of the Carutherville Harbor
849 RBD Trinity Barge Fabrication Plant
847 RBD Blaker Towhead
846.5 Caruthersville
846 RBD Isle of Capri/Lady Luck Casino and Casino Inn Suites
845 – 840 LBD Caruthersville – Linwood Bend
850 RBD – 840 LBD Day Trip: Caruthersville to Booth’s Point
840 LBD Linwood Bend Boat Ramp
839 Caruthersville Bridge
Bridges and Mud: How Deep is the Mississippi Mud  
Several Routes Around Islands 18, 20 and 21  
838 – 835 LBD Island 18 Towhead
829 – 832 RBD Island 20 Dikes and Towhead
823 – 829 LBD Island 21
Routes for the Paddler Around Tamm/Barfield Bends  
820 – 815 RBD Wright’s Point – Tamm Bend
819.3 LBD Mouth of the Obion River
Moss Island WMA  
817.7 LBD Tamm’s Landing and Ed Jones Boat Ramp
817.7 – 801.8 LBD Chickasaw National Wildlife Refuge
No Levee?  
814 LBD Nebraska Landing
815 – 805 LBD Barfield Bend
809.3 RBD Barfield Boat Ramp
806 RBD Tomato Arkansas
805 – 801 RBD Island 25
Paddler’s Options in the Island 30 – Osceola Area  
800 – 796.5 RBD Island 26 and Forked Deer Island 27
803 – 787 RBD Ashport-Keyes Gold Dust
796 – 791 RBD Ashport Gold Dust Dikes
797 LBD Shoaf Landing
797 LBD Lower Forked Deer River
796 LBD Ashport-Keyes Boat Ramp
793 – 785 RBD Island 30
796 LBD Ashport-Keyes Boat Ramp
Neark (Jacksonville) Landing  
786.5 LBD Back Channel Island 30
785 RBD Osceola Arkansas
783.5 RBD Sans Souci Boat Ramp
Osceola to Shelby Forest
785 RBD Osceola Arkansas
783.5 RBD Sans Souci Boat Ramp
782 LBD Driver Island
779.8 LBD Old Mouth of the Forked Deer
779 – 778 LBD First Chickasaw Bluff
Alternate Paddler’s Route Around Hatchie River & 2nd Chickasaw Bluff  
778 – 773 RBD Sunrise Towhead – Island 34
777 – 773.5 LBD Hatchie Towhead
773.5 LBD Mouth of the Hatchie River
773.5 LBD Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refugee
771 – 772 LBD Angelo Towhead
771 LBD Randolph Landing
771 – 769 LBD The Second Chickasaw Bluff (Richardson Bluff)
768.9 LBD Richardson’s Landing
768 LBD Randolph’s Landing/Duvall’s Boat Ramp
766 – 763 LBD Below Richardson’s Landing Dikes and Bar
Dyess Arkansas, Birthplace of Johnny Cash’s Five Feet High and Rising  
Five Feet High and Rising  
767.6 – 761.5 RBD Island 35
767 RBD Island 35 Boat Ramp
Back Channels of Island 35  
767.6 RBD Entrance
761.5 RBD Exit Behind Dean Isand
Memphis Gage  
Dikes and Water Levels  
Reading Google Maps  
761.5 – 757 RBD Dean Isand
761.5 – 757 RBD Back Channel of Dean Isand
Third Chickasaw Bluff  
758 – 754 LBD Denseford Bar and Dikes/Hen and Chicks
752.7 LBD Shelby Forest Boat Ramp
Shelby Forest to Memphis
Memphis Gage  
Dikes and Water Levels  
752.7 LBD Shelby Forest Boat Ramp
Hen & Chicks Round Trip  
754 – 745 LBD Meeman Shelby Forest State Park
754 – 747.5 RBD Back Channel of Brandywine Island
Buoys and Dikes  
Paddling Into Memphis: Three Distinct Routes  
749 – 742 LBD Hickman Bar
Picknicking and Camping on Hickman  
746 LBD Upper Hickman
745 LBD Middle Hickman
744 LBD Lower Hickman
743 LBD Below Lower Hickman
740.6 LBD Loosahatchie River
743.5 – 740 LBD Redman Point Bar
Memphis Upper Waswater Treatment Plant  
M.C. Stiles Waterwater Treatment Facility  
739 LBD Conoco Lucy-Woodstock Memphis Chemical Terminal Dock
740.6 LBD Wolf River
738.4 LBD Mud Island Upper Boat Ramp
740 – 737.5 Loosahatchie Bar
737.5 Ferry Crossing to Memphis From the Bottom of Loosahatchie Bar
737 Memphis “M” Bridge (Hernando De Soto Bridge)
736 LBD 4th Chickasaw Bluff: Memphis
736 LBD Memphis Mud Island Harbor
Mud Island Riverpark & Museum  
Memphis Yatch Club Marina & Boat Ramp  
Coast Guard Boat Ramp  
Memphis Conveniences Useful to Paddlers  
Several Challenging Round-trips From Memphis  
The Lossahatchie Redman Figure-Eight  
The Loosahatchie Roundtrip  
Hickman Bar Roundtrip  
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