The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Entrance: RBD 597.5

Exit: LBD 591

The Old Channel of the White River

Note: I have created a google map at the above below to view and use as reference for better comprehension while reading this section of the river through the Old Channel of the White.

[CLICK HERE: Map of the Old Channel of the White River]


Although its approximately 10 miles long as opposed to 6.5 miles on the main channel, this channel is highly recommended for paddlers continuing downstream.  (Note: if you are planning a landing at Terene stay main channel).  This wild channel separates 4,000 acre LBD Montgomery Island from 20,000 RBD acre Big Island, as you paddle along you will experience the river as it existed before man’s meddling.


The broad mouth of the Old Channel of the White yawns open right bank descending as you exit Scrubgrass Bend approximately one mile downstream of the Confluence of the White in its modern location, just past a small sandbar RBD.  Water pours out of the White, as noted above, and shortly downstream it is seemingly divined back out of the river and retreats back into the Arkansas mainland.


The quick explanation for this situation is found in the big river’s appetite for new landscapes.  Looking at map while reading the below geo-history will help your comprehension.  Historically the mouth of the White was located ten miles downstream, near the location where this old channel today returns to the main river.   The Mississippi used to cut south from near Henrico across Concordia, while the White meandered alongside parallel to the main channel.  There was a high ground known as Victoria that reportedly has never gone under water, now located deep in the woods behind Smith Point.  Several hundred years ago the river changed channels as it is wont to do and cut right across one of the bends of the White, severing its pulse, and then charged eastward and then southward around present day Victoria Bend to rejoin the Old mouth of the White as its present location opposite and below Terrene Landing RBD at mile 591.  The modern day results of this open heart bypass surgery is an isolated piece of the White River that paddlers can enjoy as a thriving back channel that always remains open regardless of river level, from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. 


Below 4HG only a thin sliver of water enters the Old White so be ready for a slow slog through pools of almost deadwater and some shoals and shallows to negotiate.  There is a narrow gravel bar adjacent the back channel just below the opening where you can pull over at low water and see the strange things exposed from the depths of the river since the last high water.  Around 10HG the flow gets noticeably better, and by 20 its a full-running channel, you can count on at least 3mph.  By 35 HG this channel is bank full is most places, which means its running along at forest level even with the top of the river bank.  At bank full you can count on 5 mph current.  When the river reaches flood stage most of the forest will be covered with muddy waters.


As you are rounding the first big bend of the Old White the current pushes outward with centrifugal force and piles up along a tall embankment left bank descending, along a hairy snag field that might require some quick maneuvering. Trees are falling from the forest into the river, or sliding down the muddy banks as the earth collapses around their root balls.  This creates new snags throughout the year.  Along the cut bank you might notice some distinct horizontal banding in the mud.  Look for lighter yellow/orange layers alternating with darker brown layers in the cross-cut sectioning of the steep muddy bank.  The layering you see is evidence of various epochs in the flooding of the big rivers, the lighter yellow layers indicating flood water carried by the yellower waters of the Arkansas, and the darker layers indicating flood waters of the Mississippi.


This is a living breathing dynamic place full of movement and change.  I once witnessed a shuddering tree atop the collapsing bank in bend #2.  I was with a group of paddlers on a winter expedition.  We could see the leaves shaking in the distance.  Hmm, that’s funny, we thought, there’s no wind.  What’s this all about?   We approached and then pulled over to watch as it became apparent that a tree was about to depart the earth and become one with the river.  It was a medium sized hackberry.  Ever so slowly it leaned over and then finally gave way and hit the water with a smack.  Amazingly it was connected to another tree behind by a thick wild grape vine.  As the hackberry fell it pulled the second tree over behind it, which later joined the first in the muddy cold waters.  If before there was any doubt where these snags came from, we now had visual proof.


As you continue downstream through the Old Channel at medium water levels (or lower) you will pass by several prominent sandbars of yellowish sand, the first at mile 2 LBD below the first big bend, another one a mile so below it also mile 3 LBD, the third and most predictable is located at the top of the next bend below mile 5 RBD, and the fourth at the end of the last bend RBD near mile 7 (see map).  There is a a fifth bar that becomes exposed at low waters below 10HG in the West channel around the island at the base of the channel.  Of course other bars become exposed as the river drops lower and lower, and some of them become connected.  All of these bars were regenerated from the Great Flood of 2011.   Interestingly, after this flood the usually best sandbar (number 3 at mile 5) became more muddy and number 3 at mile 7 became much sandier and taller.  At higher water levels most of these Bars go under except for number three.  This bar, which is situated at the northernmost point in the giant north running bend of the old channel, stands tall above the water up to 37HG, when it is reduced to a sliver of sand with room for the landing of maybe three canoes.  At 40HG it will be nowhere to be found.   Above 40HG you might as well keep going on and out of the Old Channel of the White if you’re looking for a place to make a landing.  Great River Road State Park (10 miles downstream on the Mississippi side of the river) is a good option to aim for.

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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