The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Indeed this is the earth in motion, from the top of the two-mile long bluff to the shoreline below.  The river has slowly but steadily been eating away the bottom of the bluff through the millennia and the bluff has been responding like some recoiling but ultimately helpless creature.  It’s a land in flux, the feast grounds at the edge of the biggest river in North America, full of muddy leftovers that one day are seen and the next day are gone.  As such you will need to be vigilant for slabs of falling mud, falling trees, quick mud, and mud slips, especially towards the downstream end of the bluff where the cliffs rise in a clean vertical leap several hundred feet high directly above the river’s edge.  Almost no one save the bald eagle dares to make a landing here.  If you do so your journey would be best protected by a safety rope, like a party of climbers on a Swiss Glacier, stay roped together as you walk anywhere along the base of the bluff or risk falling into one of the deep cracks or fissures.  The responsible explorer would wear a climbing helmet and tote a 2nd safety rope and an emergency kit with food and water in case of the worst.  Poisonous snakes, spiders and other creatures abound in the blanket of kudzu, which is sometimes chest deep, and sometimes over your head, and impedes any progress within its thick tangle.  A machete could be useful, although it might make things worse when the loosened tangle falls on your head. 


Camping or picnicking is unthinkable.  For one thing there is no level place anywhere to make a camp, and for another nothing but gooey mud is found.  There are flat looking places that when you make a step you discover they are actually pools of mud with seemingly no bottom (another good reason to rope up).  What looks like rocks crumbles in your hand.  What seems like sandstone is really sandy mud.  What looks like slate is simply layers of gray loess which dissolves in the next rainstorm and falls in VW Beetle sized chunks from the heights above.  Those needing a landing should do so above the sandy bluffs at Morgan Point (RBD 771-769) or continue downstream to Duvall’s Boat Ramp (LBD 768) or the sandbars around Reverie Landing/Cedar Point (LBD 766-763).


To be sure, the beauty of the Second Chickasaw Bluff is best enjoyed from the cockpit of your kayak or seat of your canoe (or even better standing on your paddleboard) as you slide along its base buoyed by the never tiring boils and eddies of the big river.  In fact you will be enjoying a natural phenomena that no on on land can ever appreciate because there is no way to get there.  The adage “you can’t get there from here” definitely applies!  Stay on your vessel as you float along the base of the bluff.  In places there are enormous boils and strong eddies that reach out a hundred yards, but you can easily skirt along all of these and enjoy the view.  


If there are any upstream tows be ready for the big waves that pile up here, expounded by the wall of mud and turbulent waters.  Paddler’s beware: deferring to large downstream tows, upstream tows sometimes hug the bank at bluff bottom (below the powerlines) and sometimes dive into the giant eddy a mile downstream (below Randolph Bluff Foot Light LBD 768.9).  When they come upstream don’t get trapped against the jagged cliffs at bluff base bottom!  Watch for tows and monitor VHF Channel 13 for any activity.  Go to shore far above this location and let them pass, or paddle far RBD towards the Arkansas shore in advance of their passage and maintain a healthy 500 yards distance.  You might miss close-ups scenic views along the base of the bluff, but you will gain the incomparable scenic view of the largest towboat/barge packages on earth dwarfed by the colossal mass of the Second Chickasaw Bluff!


The Second Chickasaw Bluff runs on a SE diagonal (opposite the angle of the First Chickasaw Bluff), hence it is best viewed (and photographed) in the morning light.  For this reason, you can ideally experience the best light on both Chickasaw Bluffs leaving Sans Souci Landing or environs in the afternoon, passing by the 1st Bluff sometime late afternoon/evening and camping somewhere below, if it’s low water try the Hatchie Towhead, and arise the next day for the morning light on the 2nd Bluff.  In particular, the winter time low angle sun occludes much of the bluff by noon.  During cold spells ice can accumulate on the cliff seeps, icicles can form, and any rare snowfall will remain here longer than surrounding places where the sun reaches.  Ice hastens the collapse of the muddy cliffs, so be especially careful of falling mud boulders and mud avalanches with any winter time visits.

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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