The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Lake Providence to Vicksburg

foot long voyageur canoes out of the river and made a voyageur shelter by leaning them against some paddles and attaching lean-to tarps out from the belly.  This became our shelter for the next three days as the winds and the storms thrashed relentlessly us from all sides.  All seventeen of us huddling under our river storm shelter.  Eleven inches of rain fell in four days.  The teacher on board thought he had set his tent under a waterfall.  But no, it was just the torrential rainfall of the Mississippi Valley.  The high school kids had a blast, and why not?  They were missing an additional four days of school and getting to play in the rain.  They saw more rain that week than parts of Colorado receive in a year!  Eventually the storms passed, and a strong cold front swept across the valley and we were able to leave our storm camp.  I still hear from some of those students from time to time, and the teacher and I have become friends for life.  Oh, and one of the students ended up marrying one of my guides.  But that’s another story for another time.

 

449-445 Marshall Cut-Off

 

Below Milliken Bend, the river flows through Marshal Cutoff (Sparta is on RBD).  Marshall (and 15 other cutoffs) were authorized and constructed following the 1927 flood to speed flow and reduce flooding of the Mississippi River.  Prior to this 1934 cutoff the river flowed east and then made a wide bend to the southwest before turning around again at Brown’s Point and return towards the big bluffs at Vicksburg.  This bend and an old high water river chute to the west of this bend (which is now the current river channel) delineated Paw Paw Island.  The old river bend is now called Paw Paw Chute, and remains accessible by canoe or kayak at all but the lowest river stages. 

 

LBD 446.5 Paw Paw Chute

 

Paw Paw Chute provides a spectacular tour of the primeval Delta bottomlands found just over the big trees lining the main channel of the river.  It could also provide an alternate route for downstream paddlers headed to Vicksburg.  Recommended water level for this: 20VG or higher. But be forewarned: regardless of water level you might be doing some bushwhacking along the way!  Also, be ready for portages, falling spiders, flying spiders, giant golden orb spiders, snakes in the trees, snakes on piles of driftwood, swimming snakes, getting lost, getting found, getting stuck in the mud, reaching dead ends, and other fun and exciting challenges along the way.  A GPS might be helpful, but a knife and good sense and dead reckoning will be your best allies.  If you are the kind that gets easily lost or confused in the deep woods, don’t enter.  See below for a detailed description from big river expert and biologist extraordinnaire Paul Hartfield, in what he calls his “Heart of Darkness” Tour: 

 

The “Heart of Darkness” Tour:

 

First, a note on flows:  When the Mississippi River is rising, currents may be strong running up Paw Paw and through the Old Yazoo to the “New” Yazoo.  This current will