The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
LBD 773.5 Mouth of the Hatchie River
The Hatchie River is the biggest volume river of all West Tennessee tributaries, partly due to the fact that it alone was never dredged, straightened, or otherwise channelized. The Wolf, The Loosahatchie, the Obion, and the Forked Deer – all are suffering from the overzealous engineering of the last century with poor water quality and lower levels of water flow. The lesson is crystal clear: take a river away from its wetlands and the water quality and quantity will be diminished. Not surprisingly, the Hatchie is also the only West Tennessee river designated as a wild & scenic river under the Tennessee Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
Hatchie literally means “river” in the Chickasaw tongue, as well as Cherokee, which explains its reoccurrence throughout the Southeast, in famous rivers like Billy Joe McAllister’s Tallahatchie, and less famous ones such as the Loosahatchie.
The Hatchie River springs out of northern Mississippi and meanders northerly, then northwesterly and then finally westerly to the mother river, the Mississippi, through extensive bottomland wetlands several miles wide. There is always good water flow on the lower Hatchie, especially in the last 30 miles or so below the Highway 51 Bridge.
As such, canoeists and kayakers are afforded a fantastic opportunity to paddle out of this tree-lined, narrow, wild & scenic river full of fish, amphibians, birds, other wildlife and deep woods, through its bottomland hardwood forests, alongside many of its swamps and adjacent wetlands, right through its final willow/cottonwood forests and into its confluence with the Mississippi. Put in at either the 51 Bridge (Hatchie River mile 30) or the Club Road Landing (Hatchie River mile 7). Paddle downstream to the mouth of the Mississippi, and then continue downstream for takeout at Duvall Landing (5 miles on the Mississippi), Meeman Shelby State Park (21 miles) or Mud Island Memphis (38 miles).
A first time paddler on the Mississippi leaving the Hatchie described it as follows, with the delightful fresh language of a newbie:
“I was expecting a fast moving and turbulent river, but what I saw was as smooth as glass. My heart was pounding, but I didn’t know why. I felt very small and that I was entering something very big. As I eased out into the smooth water, it seemed to be breathing, rising and falling with a motion that I could plainly feel, yet I could not really see any motion on the surface of the water. There was no barge traffic in sight, and I knew I needed to cross immediately to carry out my plan of keep to the sandy side. There was nothing to do but paddle like hell for the other side. The surface before me stayed glassy, yet I could plainly see water was rising to the surface from below, which caused circular tables to form and then immediately fade away. My heart would not stop pounding, and it was not from the exertion. My paddle strokes were strong from adrenaline and very soon I landed on the far shore…”
(from the Iconoclast: Drive By Life)