The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Things can get complicated in a hurry.  There might be a severe thunderstorm approaching from over the Arkansas Delta.  You might be tired and hungry.  You might be angry for some reason.  You might have a person needing medical attention.  The sun might have set and darkness is following soon behind.  You might need to make a plane departure in three hours from the Memphis Airport.  Any number of factors can lead to disaster, but experts say that disaster often strikes when the combination of many parallel factors gather and add onto each other.  Any one of the factors taken alone would not lead to the disastrous result.  But taken together it was almost inevitable.  The lesson to learn here is to remove limiting factors.  Before making the big leap (which ultimately is the only factor you can’t control – you’ve got to get across the main channel).  Are you are hungry? stop and eat.  Thirsty? stop and drink.  Tired? stop and sleep.  Angry?  Figure out why and try to resolve.  Storm coming?  Let it pass.  Darkness fell?  Stop and camp.  Continue the next day.  Late for a flight?  Let it go.  Cold water?  Put on your wetsuit.  Choppy river?  Tighten your life jacket and secure your canoe.  Big Waves?  Seal your sprayskirt to your kayak.  Windy?  Secure the extra paddle on your Stand up Paddleboard.  Lastly, for God’s sake, put your smart phone away!  Read this well before you make your crossing!  Don’t be looking at Google maps or be reading these notes on your smart phone as you paddle!  Removing any 3 or 4, or maybe even as few as 1 or 2 of your limiting factors will ensure a safe passage, whether it’s here at the bottom of the Loosahatchie Bar or tomorrow morning crossing under the lower bridge and heading towards President’s Island or any number of places downstream on the river where you should have complete attention to the task at hand.


Look both ways before crossing.  If the coast is clear ease your way into the channel by following the long dike below the Loosahatchie Bar.  It will be exposed at medium water below 15MG and easily done since all of the water will be flowing outwards anyway.  Go with the flow and use the currents to your advantage.  Similarly you can use the power of the river at high water, this time by following below the dike.  Even though you can’t see it, there will be the tell-tale curve of water and maelstrom of boils below.  Point your canoe or kayak into the commotion and follow towards Memphis.  It takes a fairly strong paddler to do this, but the advantage is clear: the water is not moving downstream amongst these boils.  You will be pushed one way and then the other, but keep as best a line as you can, and after a while you will become familiar with the motion and work with it.  Follow the commotion outwards towards the end of the dike, which should be marked by buoy.  If the buoy has been blown out you can still see the end of the dike by the shape of it in the water, the end of the commotion of boils, and the smooth fast water beyond.  Usually this is where the strongest boils and resulting whirlpools explode upwards and outwards and then swirl away downstream.  So brace yourself, pick your best line, (it should be a ferry angle upwards into Mud Island) and paddle hard!


At low or medium water this should be a fairly easy crossing with a gentle ferry angle applied to efficiently cross over and get out of the way of traffic.  The angle will depend on river speed and wind direction.  In a north wind you will need to increase the angle.  Ditto for river speed.  At flood stage when the river might be moving 7 or 8 knots at this place, you will need a strong ferry angle, maybe 30 degrees, maybe a little more.  (Note: I am using “straight across” as the line of reference.  Straight across is 0 degrees.  Straight across means crossing perpendicular to the river flow.  Straight across is the fastest way across, but you will lose distance on your landing.  For more discussion of this practice and principals involved, go to [Link: Ferry Crossings]).  Try not to go make any angle above 45 degrees because it will turn your simple crossing into a very long ordeal.  Remember, the steeper the angle, the further you will have to paddle to get across.  At low water with no wind you might only need a 10 degree angle to make Mud Island safely above the bridge.   In medium water, maybe a 20 degree angle.  As suggested, high water might need a 30 degree angle.  You will be assisted in your crossing by any winds hitting you from downstream, here from out of the south, and can lessen angle.  Of course a head wind makes for a challenging crossing.  Fortunately east winds are rare.

Leave A Comment

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