The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Memphis Landing & Shuttling considerations:

You are still many days away from the big city, maybe even a week depending on your ambitions, weather and the river levels.  But I am sharing this information now so you can begin to make plans with whoever is picking you up in the big city.  If you are meeting someone Mud Island Upper Landing LBD 738.5 is probably the easiest location, but not the most romantic.  It’s stinky, and you will miss the thrill of going under the bridge and into the spectacular Beale Street Harbor entrance downtown.  For landings in the Mud Island Harbor LBD 736: continue three miles further under the M Bridge to the Memphis Yacht Club Marina, which is about a half mile up the Memphis, or the Coast Guard Boat Ramp which is about a mile up the Harbor.  An advance warning: the mouth of the harbor opens up river left just beyond the first Bridge, the elegant M Bridge.  When you can look down Beale Street turn left and paddle hard!   Don’t go past the Harbor.  There is no public landing for Memphis further downstream.


Your route: Main Channel vs. Back Channel

Rivergator will detail Main Channel which is almost always the fastest route on the water, but full or traffic, and Back Channel, which is slower but is full of wildlife and big trees.  Main Channel is always open regardless of river level, but back channel is dependent upon river levels.  Most back channels are closed in low water, open with slow flow in medium water, and full of strong flowing currents in high water.  Main channel hazards are buoys and towboats.  (Avoid both!)  In the back channel your main hazards are waterfalls over dikes (dependent on river level), snags, strainers and channel blockages (driftwood piling against trees or low bridge).   Rivergator will detail all known waterfalls and blockages.  But on the river things are in constant flux.  What one year is a uninterrupted flowing back channel might next year be blocked by a pile of logs and tree removal dropped by some logging operation.  Two things: 1) be a smart paddler and use you own best judgement about what’s safe to paddle and what isn’t.  And 2) let us know if you discover something of importance not listed in the Rivergator, like a dangerous waterfall or a blocked channel.  That way we can update Rivergator descriptions and keep other paddlers informed about these difficulties and possible hazards!  Dikes present special challenges to the back channel paddler.  At low water they are exposed, and you can paddle around any dike, but you will often discover strong eddies with ripping cross currents and whirlpools.   At medium water you can paddle over most dikes, but that is when the waters are at their most turbulent.  You may not see any solid evidence, but you will know they are there by the exploding boils boils, whipping currents, whirlpools and agitated turbulence.  In high water most dikes get swamped over by smooth flow and you hardly notice their influence.  In medium water back channels waterfalls sometimes form over a dike, with significant drops (2-3 feet), strong v-line tongues, standing waves, and turbulent side waters.  If you hear the sound of rushing water and see the plane of the back channel disappear and drop a level, and see leaping whitewater beyond -- Be especially cautious!   Remember the paddler’s mantra: when in doubt, stop and scout!.