The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Shelby Forest to Memphis

This landing makes for an good take out, if you ignore the smells.  It’s the easiest place to make a Memphis take-out because you the landing is easy to identify from the river, and it will be easy for your pick up party to meet you here.   Big Parking lot at edge of Greenbelt Park in front of Harbor Town.  But you will miss the excitement of paddling under the stately M Bridge, as well as the thrill of arriving in the big city with the unforgettable view of downtown Memphis from the Beale Street Harbor.   Please note that in extreme low water conditions the you might encounter the American Queen docked at Upper Mud Island Landing.  Unsuspecting canoes/kayaks might be surprised to find their once open landing to be covered by this monster of all steamboats!  Normally you can find a way to sneak under the prow of the docked American Queen, but do so with utmost care, and make sure she is firmly tied down, and there are no currents which might cause you trouble.

 

If you are continuing on into Memphis keep left bank descending and enjoy the long grassy Greenbelt Park with its stately cottonwoods, and the lively scene of families, kids, joggers, bicyclers, picnickers, people reading books and taking naps and people flying kites along the way.  Your best route is the same, stay river left (fastest water).  No tow will come in this close.  Keep to the same under bridge and read below for suggestions for final entry into the Memphis Mud Island Harbor.

 

740-737.5 Loosahatchie Bar

Loosahatchie Back Channel receives all of the water out of Redman Back Channel -- plus a much bigger flow that comes directly from the main channel of the big river.  There is a plug dike at the bottom of Redman Back Channel and a lower island.  You can go to either side of the island, but the easiest route is straight down and over the dike, past the little island, and jump into the Loosahatchie Back Channel.  Thanks to the above mentioned LMRCC the lower dike is also notched, so that there will be flow even at medium water when the rest of the dike is exposed.  When the river is 10-15MG point your canoe towards the v-line and paddle hard through the fast waters pouring through the notch and enjoy the thrill of the resulting waves!

 

Loosahatchie Back Channel cuts off in low water, now with notching around 5MG.  At low water giant sandbars are found top end with endless possibilities for picnicking, hiking and swimming.  At medium water there is ample flow through the back channel so that you can make it an easy hour long paddle top to bottom.  At high water you could cut that time in half, but why hurry?  The point is to enjoy it, not rush through it like you’re driving down Poplar Avenue to get to an appointment.  And there is plenty to enjoy.  A mile down on river right, the Arkansas bank opens up into an extensive flooded wetlands, open at 20MG, with large pools full of fish and amphibians, flooded grasslands and flooded forests at high water.  Publicly owned Loosahatchie Bar is uninhabited, so you can stop anywhere to explore the forests, which appear unbroken from the river, but once you walk anywhere you discover small prairies, narrow depressions where water runs at flood stage, deep woods, open woods, viney woods, willow forests, stands of cottonwoods, sycamores, sweetgums, and other mature hardwood.  Carry a compass and watch for poison ivy and wild boar.

 

The three mile long Loosahatchie Back Channel creates one of those urban river anomalies.  You know you’re near a city for all of the jets overhead and vague rumbling and humming from over the trees.  But you and the bald eagle you just witnessed snatching a soft-shell turtle off the sandbar could really care less.  You could spend all day here, not one mile from Harbor Town, not three miles from downtown Memphis, and not see anyone.  You could camp here, and certainly you’d see the glowing lights and smell the caustic smells, but otherwise you would have no idea that you’re camped amidst the tentacles of the biggest city along the last thousand miles of the biggest river on this continent!  I call this “the river illusion.”