The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
Several Routes around Islands 18, 20 and 21
Paddlers can stay main channel along Islands 18, 20 and 21. Or at medium-high water levels enjoy the pleasures of the back channel by diving behind all three islands. It would require two crossings necessary to do all. Pick and choose whichever works for your time schedule. If you had to choose only one, Island 21 is the most secluded and wild, but you might have a whitewater ride awaiting you bottom end over a solid dike.
1) Main Channel:
Follow the fast water under the I-155 Bridge avoiding tow traffic as necessary, go middle channel over Is. 18 and then right bank towards Arkansas around the bend past the base of Is. 18 and then slide back left bank descending around the long series of islands & dikes of Is. 20. Follow the buoy line mid-river and then go right bank around Island 21, but be careful to maintain a buffer distance as paddling by the busy port of Nucor Yamamato. Go mid channel again into Tamm Bend toward the mouth of the Obion River. Map line shows approximate route. Adjust as necessary for towboats, wind and any inclement weather.
2) Mid-Channel Is. 18:
At medium water or above (around 15 on the CuG – Caruthersville Gauge) a mid-island channel opens up behind the shallow bar of Island 18. At high water (above 25 CuG) the bar disappears and you can hug left bank with good flow along the big trees of Island 18.
3) Everett Lake (Back Channel Island 18)
High Water route only (above 25 Caruthersville Gauge). Expert paddlers only. Requires fast paddling, quick decisions and turns, and many hazards including snags and strainers. Fast water flowing through trees. Follow strong water flow through narrow opening cluttered with clumps of trees. Channels open and then close several hundred yards through several lines of trees bordered by high-flung gravel bars until opening up one mile from river into Everett Lake. Current eventually disappears into flat water lake. Three mile paddle across lake. Exit chute opens up left bank past gravel aggregate docks & facility LBD. Everett Lake Chute opens around 7 on the Caruthersville Gauge.
4) Back Channel Island 20:
Stay RBD below Cottonwood Point (RBD 832.5) and over dike, and then dive into topmost of the islands for a long 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.
5) Back Channel of Island 21:
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. A hidden sandbar with beautiful blue holes forms at lower water levels LBD at the bottom of the back channel.
WARNING: a solid cross-channel dike near the bottom end of Island 21 Back Channel that could produce sizable waves and turbulence at medium water levels. If the water seems to drop a level as you approach and you hear the commotion of a waterfall with whitewater beyond, proceed cautiously. Stop and scout if uncertain.