The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Shelby Forest to Memphis

Hickman Bar Roundtrip

20 miles roundtrip (from Mud Island Upper)


Very strenuous 20 mile round trip from the Mud Island Upper Boat Ramp pioneered by Joe and Carol Lee Royer in training for kayak racing on the Mississippi (notably annual Outdoors Inc Canoe & Kayak Race which Joe founded in 1981).


From Mud Island Upper Boat Launch paddle up to mouth of Wolf River, eddy out and ferry across main channel to Loosahatchie Bar and continue upstream, stay close to woods for slowest water and crawl up bank to island top, ferry over to Redman, continue crawl until you’re well past the mouth of the Loosahatchie River (on opposite shore), make a strong ferry back over to Tennessee and recover along bank with crawl along and up east shoreline behind all of the Hickman Islands, six islands and nine dikes, using eddies and slackwater behind dikes to your advantage.  At Hickman top, roll out of topmost dike and return to main channel for long downstream back to Mud Island.  Here’s how the dikes appear in different water levels behind Hickman, according to expert kayaker Joe Royer: 10MG - rocks exposed.  10-11 dikes starting to go under.  13 completely under (except one dike which is higher than the rest).  15-20MG strong water and lots of boils & turbulence.  “Kind of scary,” says Joe!  By 20MG there is a strong flow behind all of Hickman with no dikes exposed anywhere.  By 30MG the river is bank full and by 34MG it’s at Flood Stage.


For expert paddlers only in excellent physical condition.  4-6 hours in ideal conditions, and longer in north wind or high water.   Must be well trained in self-rescue.  Also, the river must be above 15 on the Memphis Gauge to make all of the crossings over back channel dikes.  Wear wetsuit or drysuit in cold water (Nov - April) and stash phone and emergency gear in dry bag or dry box.  Difficult at medium water, extremely difficult at high water.  Do not attempt at flood stage.


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