The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
In this lower portion of the Tennessee Rivergator Trail we are now leaving the Caruthersville gage and switching to the Memphis gage which we’ll denote as “MG”
Low Water = -5 to 15 MG
Medium Water = 15 to 25 MG
High Water = 25 to 34 MG
Flood Stage = 34 MG and above
MG = Memphis gage
Warning: above 34 MG paddlers are advised to stay off the river. Limited access. Most landings and approach roads will be underwater. Most islands will be gone. No easy camping. All sandbars will be covered. Fast waters with many hazards. All islands and landings will be surrounded by flooded forests full of snags, strainers, sawyers and all other dangerous conditions associated with floodwater moving through trees. Docks, wharves, dikes and any other man-made objects will create strong whirlpools, violent boils, and fast eddies. Towboats will create large waves. The Rivergator will not describe the river and its islands at any levels above flood stage.
Note: The Lower Mississippi and Ohio River Forecast is a fascinating document and will reveal many qualities of the river to the careful reader and interpreter of this gage. You can also jump from this page following its links to many associated NOAA pages full of useful information about the various Lower Mississippi River gages, as well as historical records, flood records, low water occurrences, observed precipitation throughout the valley, snowpack, ground saturation, rain forecasts, and other meteorologic and hydrologic aspects leading to current river conditions and accurate predictions. You can also follow links to the same for readings and predictions from the Ohio River Valley, the Middle Miss, Upper Miss and Missouri River Valleys, which all of course confluence and combine to form the big waters of the Lower Mississippi River.
Dikes and Water Levels
In the Memphis area you can use the following scale to gage water flowing over dikes, although some dikes vary in height. Also some have been “notched” in recent years as result there will be a middle notch that you can paddle through at much lower levels of water, some places down to 0 Memphis gage.
Using the Memphis gage:
1-10 – water flowing through notches only
10MG – rocks still exposed on all dikes
10-11 dikes starting to go under, some flow through breaks & low spots
13 dikes completely under, but little flow
15-20MG good flow and lots of boils & turbulence
20MG strong flow, turbulence, no dikes exposed anywhere
30MG river bank full
34MG Flood Stage.