The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

RBD 599 Mouth of the White River

Like most Mississippi River tributaries and passes, the mouth of the White River angles downstream pushed by the implacable power of the big river.  Even though this is the biggest right bank tributary between St. Louis and the Arkansas, it’s difficult to see the White River confluence as you approach from upstream, and unless you’re looking for it you may not notice the opening until you have paddled by and look back.  In a mile wide river it might be too late to turn in if this was your intention!  Looking back upstream from below the White River confluence grins wide open like the Cheshire Cat and the new lock and dam can be seen a few hundred yards upstream.   If you are planning on turning up into the White for a paddler’s visit to the wilderness upstream, be sure to stay RBD as you come around Scrubgrass Bend.  Make you crossing somewhere below Smith Point and paddle over the boiling waters to the Arkansas shore to gain entry.


The White River 

The 722-mile long White River creates a wonderland of endless possibilities for the adventurous paddler.  Upstream of its mouth lies the largest roadless bottomland hardwood forest in the center of the country, a sprawling morass of thick forests, caney bottoms, cypress bayous & swamps and the meandering channel of the White River itself.  Not many paddlers will opt to paddle upstream and into such wild haunts, but its fun to dream about.  Open up a map and let your imagination follow the maze of waterways and globs of land in between.  Just thinking about the possibilities is enough to keep the armchair paddler amused for many long winter nights and maybe make plans for a summertime foray.  You could paddle up the White and reach any number of upstream tributaries such as the the Bayou Des Arc, the Little Red River, the Black River, James River and Roaring River.  The Cache River is one of the first big tributaries you’ll encounter.  It recently made world news when the Oh-My-God! Ivory Billed Woodpecker was thought to have been rediscovered.  The fabulous Buffalo River, the first designated Wild & Scenic River in the nation is one of the White River tributaries. 


On the other hand you could reach points westward, all the way up to the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains beyond, by paddling ten miles up the White, lock over to the Arkansas and paddle the Arkansas River up to Little Rock and from there to all points upstream through Oklahoma & Kansas & finally Colorado.  This was once once a common trade & migratory route to reach the civilizations of the Great Plains, and the dugout canoe was the preferred means of travel.


Viewed from above using topo maps or from google earth the approximately ten-mile wide floodplain of the White River reminds one of the middle section of the famous Atchafalaya River Basin, the river of trees, being another very wide bottomland hardwood forest in which the primary river splits into a myriad of braided channels, back channels, bayous, and isolated lakes.  The above mentioned Ivory-Billed Woodpecker was never definitely confirmed, but if it is to be found anywhere, it will be somewhere in this region.  The forests and swamps so loved by this shy feathered giant run contiguously for hundreds of miles out of central Arkansas down to this confluence — and beyond, over the forested bottoms of Big Island and the Lower Arkansas River.


Montgomery Point Lock & Dam

At the mouth of the White River

N33.945278 W91.083333 

Any travel up the White or the Arkansas requires passing through the White River Lock and Dam.  This newly constructed monstrosity is a lowhead installation, meaning it is necessary to lock through only in times of low water.  If you’ve never done this before it can be quite the thrill for someone in a canoe or kayak or stand up paddleboard.  You will have to await your turn to lock through, of course.  Commercial vessels take priority over pleasure craft such as yours.  The usual sequence is first come first served, although this selection is entirely up to the judgement of the lock master.  Don’t be intimidated by your relative size when compared to the tows.  You have as much right as any vessel to lock through, although pleasure craft such as canoes & kayaks are last in the list of preference, behind official US vessels, passenger vessels, and towboats.  Regardless of order US Maritime Law requires free & complete passage to any canoe or kayak on a river (or navigable waterway) has been blocked.  Make sure you have a long rope (50 feet is the law) and your life jacket on or at least accessible on deck.  (Note: there is some uncertainty about the legality of Stand Up Paddleboards getting through Locks & Dams).


[CLICK HERE: Paddling Through a Lock & Dam]

Here’s the procedure: paddle up to the retaining wall of the lock and dam (below the tall control tower left bank ascending).  The retaining wall is the long concrete wall abutting perpendicular the dam proper.  Locate red pull rope and give it a yank.  If the lock master hasn’t already seen you, he will now.  If you have a VHF marine radio you might want to radio the lockmaster on channel 16, or if you can get reception with a cell phone you could call (870) 548-3400.  You will see a signal light.   Red means the lock is busy, yellow means its getting ready for passage, green means proceed.  If the traffic light is green the giant gates will of course be open and you can paddle into lock chamber.  In addition to the traffic lights the lock operator will signal you with an air horn, one long blast (4 to 6 seconds) means you can paddle into the lock. You are required to have 50 feet of rope on board  to tie loosely onto the side of the lock chamber at one of the mooring bitts built into the wall.  Best attachment for paddlers is to run your rope around bit and keep the end of the rope with your vessel in case you need to quickly untie and get away from wall.  Now the fun part.  The free ride up a water elevator.  Actually you will feel like you are a leaf stuck in a toilet bowl as the water level rises.  Change in height depends on river levels.  Await the water change.  The doors will open.  The light turns green.  Listen for one short whistle blast (1 second) which means its okay to leave the lock.   Easy, right?  Paddle on out and continue your journey upstream into the hinterlands of the American West.

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Middle Mississippi & Bluegrass Hills / Bootheel 195-0, 954-850 ST. LOUIS TO CARUTHERSVILLE
Chickasaw Bluffs 850 – 737 CARUTHERSVILLE TO MEMPHIS
Upper Delta 737 – 663 MEMPHIS TO HELENA
Middle Delta 663 – 537 HELENA TO GREENVILLE
St. Francis to Helena
652.5 LBD Friars Point Landing (Unimproved)
652 – 650 LBD Friars Point Island
671 – 673 LBD St. Francis Bar
670 LBD St. Francis Dikes
669 LBD Flower Lake Dikes
668 RBD (A View Of) Crowley’s Ridge
668 – 663 RBD Buck Island (Prairie Point Towhead)
665.5 LBD Trotter’s Pass
663 RBD Helena Harbor
Helena Boat Ramps  
663 RBD Helena-West Helena
Quapaw Canoe Company – Helena Outpost  
661 Helena Bridge (Hernando De Soto Bridge – US HWY 49)
657 Yazoo Pass
Helena to Island 63
663 LBD Leaving Helena Harbor
Fleeted Barges  
Small Towns in Harbors  
Buoys and Other Stationary Objects  
Highlights of Civilizations  
Wild Miles  
Pollution Within the Helena Industrial Reach  
661.6 Helena Bridge (Hernando De Soto Bridge – US HWY 49)
657 LBD Yazoo Pass
How to Get Into the Old Entrance of the Yazoo Pass  
LBD Alternate Route to Vicksburg: Yazoo Pass
Yazoo Pass Mileage  
Rivers & Robert Johnson  
656 LBD East Motezuma Bar
657 – 654 RBD Montezuma Towhead
654.7 LBD Montezuma Landing
Shuttle Route Montezuma to Clarksdale  
652 LBD Friars Point
652.5 LBD Friars Point Landing (Unimproved)
652 – 650 LBD Friars Point Island
Beavers on the Lower Mississippi River  
652.2 RBD Kangaroo Point
648 LBD Horseshoe
646 – 649 RBD Dewberry Island 61
646 – 642 Old Town Bend
641 – 635 LBD Island 62
640.5 – 637 LBD Island 63
640.5 LBD Entrance to Top End of Island 63 Chute
637.5 LBD Entrance Into Bottom End of Island 63 Chute
637 LBD Back Channel Island 63
Quapaw Landing  
Island 63 to Hurricane
Muddy Waters Wilderness  
637 LBD Back Channel Island 63
Quapaw Landing  
Old Levee at Quapaw  
Levee Break Below Quapaw Landing  
Great Flood of 2011  
637.5 LBD Island 63 Chute
636 LBD Burke’s Point
The Flanking Maneuver  
634 RBD Modoc Old River Lake
632 LBD Robson Towhead
632.5 RBD Fair Landing
Jackson Cutoff  
Sunflower Cutoff  
625.6 RBD Mouth of the Mellwood Lake
624 – 627 LBD Sunflower Dikes
Diving Duck  
624.5 LBD Mouth of De Soto Lake
621 – 624 LBD Jug Harris Towhead
620.8 RBD Mouth of the Chute of Island 68
619 – 621 LBD Island 68
619 – 621 LBD Island 67
619.6 BD Wood Cottage
620 – 617 RBD Old Levee at Knowlton
616 LBD Knowlton Crevasse
619 – 609 RBD Island 69
615.5 RBD Island 69 Old Back Channel
616 – 614 LBD Cession’s Towhead
610 LBD Hurricane Pint (Dennis Landing)
Hurricane to Rosedale
605 – 610 LBD Island 70
The River Mirage Effect  
604 – 601 LBD Henrico Sandbar
603 – 597 Scrubgrass Bend
601.5 – 598 LBD Smith Point Sandbar
600.5 LBD Entrance
598 LBD Exit
Secret Channel Behind Smith Point Sandbar  
599 RBD Mouth of the White River
The White River  
Montgomery Point Lock & Dam  
At the Mouth of the White River  
How Does a Lock Work?  
Arkansas River: Little Rock, Fort Smith, Tulsa  
White River National Wildlife Refuge  
597.5 – 580 RBD Big Island
596 – 594 Victoria Bend
592.1 LBD Terrence Landing
597.5 RBD Entrance
591 LBD Exit
RBD Near Mile 3 of the Old Channel of the White  
Wreck of the Victor?  
Old Channel of the White  
Arkansas City Gage (AG)  
591 – 587 LBD Great River Road State Park
587 – 584.5 LBD Malone Field (Barge Fleeting Area)
594.5 LBD Mouth of the Rosedale Harbor
Rosedale Harbor  
Rosedale, Mississippi  
Rosedale to Arkansas City
Arkansas City Gage  
585 – 580 RBD Arkansas Bar
580 RBD Arkansas River
Paddling Past the Mouth of the Arkansas  
A Detour Up & Down the Arkansas  
Island Hopping  
The Floating Sensation  
Circumnavigation of the Big Island (52 Miles; 5-7 Days)  
Below the Arkansas Confluence  
581 – 576 LBD Prentiss Sandbar
578.4 RBD Napoleon Light
574.5 LBD Mouth of Lake Whittington
575.8 RBD Caulk Eddy
575 – 572.5 RBD Caulk Neck Bar
576 – 572 Caulk Neck Cutoff
572 – 567 Cypress Bend
Cypress Bend – Pallid Sturgeon  
571 – 567 Catfish Point Bar
568 RBD Chicot Landing
Reading Google Maps  
Approaching Choctaw Island  
Choctaw Island Geomorphology  
564 – 558 Chocktaw Bar Island
Note on Low-Water Camping  
Arkansas City Boat Ramp  
561.7 LBD Easton Landing – Mounds Boat Ramp
560.5 LBD Mounds Landing
Addendum: Take-Out in Greenville or Lake Village  
Best Campsites Along the Lower Mississippi Water Trail  
End of Trail  
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