The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

How does a lock work? 

A lock can be thought of as an elevator to carry a vessel up or down from one pool to the next. The lock has massive fixed concrete sides and large movable metal miter gates at each end which are closed to create the equivalent of an elevator car which carries the vessel up or down using the water enclosed in the lock.  To move up the waterway from a lower elevation pool to a higher one, a vessel enters the lock chamber at the lower level with the upstream gate closed; the downstream gate closes behind the vessel after it has entered the lock.  To raise the level of the water in the lock and the vessel with it, water from the upper pool is allowed to flow by gravity into the lock through valves until it fills the lock to the same level as the upper pool. The upstream miter gate is then swung open and the vessel moves out into the upper pool.


To move a vessel from a higher elevation pool to a lower one, the procedure is reversed. With the downstream gate closed, the vessel moves into the lock chamber filled to the upper pool level, the upstream gate is closed behind the vessel, the water is permitted to drain out of the lock through valves, and the vessel is lowered with the level of the water. When the level of  water in the lock reaches that of the lower pool, the downstream miter gate is opened to allow the vessel to move out into the pool.


Contrary to what many people think, no pumps are used to fill or empty a lock; the water simply flows by gravity.  It takes about 15 minutes to fill or empty a lock chamber.  (Source: US Army Corps of Engineers)


Arkansas River: Little Rock, Fort Smith, Tulsa 

Paddlers continuing up the Arkansas will be confronted with another lock and dam ten miles upstream — to get into the Arkansas Post Canal, and then another one three miles beyond to get into the first pool of the Arkansas River.  Continuing up the Arkansas is a series of eighteen locks & dams which make possible towboat travel all the way upstream to Tulsa, Oklahoma .  You might not have previously considered Okie towns Catoosa, Muskogee or Tulsa as port cities, but they are due to the so-called McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System.  Paddlers on the Arkansas can access free maps by going to


White River National Wildlife Refuge 

At the downstream end of its 722-mile journey the White River flows 90 miles through White River National Wildlife Refuge, with many streams, bayous, and sloughs scattered across the refuge during high water connected to the river.  As noted above, this area looks & feels like a miniature version of the Atchafalaya River Swamp.  But there’s nothing small about it.  Over 150,000 acres of protected wetlands are found here!


From their website: There are over 300 lakes and ponds located throughout White River National Wildlife Refuge. Lakes and ponds are a welcoming oasis to many animals from all types of habitats, which supply drinking water, food, a breeding place, underwater escape, and a break from insects. Wildlife you may see around this habitat are salamanders, frogs, turtles, water snakes, beavers, ducks, bald-eagles, white-tailed deer, and American black bear.  Best time for viewing is in the early morning or late afternoon, also when the weather clears after a storm.  Spring bird migration usually goes from mid-March through mid-May.  Fall migration is from September through December.


The website continues: Bottomland hardwood forests are the south’s most productive living communities. In their humid, tangled depth, more than 70 species of trees grow and more kinds of flowering plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians grow here than anywhere else in the south.  Some type of food source is always available for wildlife because bottomland hardwood forests produce acorns, berries, and seeds on differing schedules.


You can obtain a refuge map, permit, and other information by calling NWR headquarters at 870-282-8200 or visit

Leave A Comment

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