The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Great Flood of 2011 

During the late Spring 2011 the Lower Mississippi Valley was submerged by the highest volume flood since the high waters of the flood of 1937 (which was higher than the 1927, but not as catastrophic, since higher levees had been built).  Water levels in this section of river approached but did not top previous records, but further downstream below the mouth of the Arkansas in places where the Mississippi gets squeezed they did.  The levels at Natchez, for instance, were a full two feet higher!  Why didn’t the waters climb higher in this section?  Partly because of the wide floodplain in the Delta, where the extensive forests of the batture, the land between the levees, absorbed some of the flow so that the river spread out as it gradually rose.   And partly because of the extra flooding water that was being carried by the Arkansas River which enters further downstream.


LBD 637.5 Island 63 Chute

Mark Twain relates an amusing tale set in this channel in his 1883 Life on the Mississippi concerning the steamboat the Skylark.  At that time this was the main channel of the river.  See chapter XXX Sketches by the Way.


Mississippi River Paddlers often wonder where all the wildlife is.  It’s difficult (if not impossible) to see deer, coyote, armadillos, beaver and all the other forms of wildlife common to the mid-South from the middle of the main channel. The best opportunities for viewing birds & amphibians & other animals is when paddling through the back channel.  If you practice quiet paddling, feathering your paddle and curtailing conversation, most likely you will encounter something.  Be vigilant and keep your eyes keen on distant points, depressions in the muddy banks and openings through the forests.  Commonly seen in this area are small herds of white-tailed deer, wild turkey, beaver, and turtles.  Turtles enjoy sunning themselves on the slopes of muddy banks, on snags, or perched atop floating driftwood.  In warmer months they’re sometimes joined by snakes.  Hint: turn off your cell phone.  You shouldn’t paddle & talk on the cell phone anyway.  Its hazardous to your health and will ruin any attempt to get away from the rat race.


As you float out of the Chute of Island 63 you will be greeted by a large area of boiling and whirlpooling water where the back channel rejoins the main channel.  Across the main channel are remains of the bottom end of Island 62.  Twenty years ago this was a forested island bottom, but today only a thin sliver of rip-rap remains to be seen, and then only visible below medium water levels (20HG and below).  The forested bottoms have been completely removed by the forever roaming and unpredictable appetite of the river.  Further off towards the Arkansas forests a large sandbar emerges at low water, and if you are ready for lunch or a rest stop paddle across the main channel one mile and choose your spot.  As always, look both ways before crossing!


LBD 636 Burke’s Point

Continuing downstream the force of the entire river is propelled outwards and piles against the left bank and is forced Westward, and then slightly North-Westward, gathering speed and momentum as it does, and several miles downstream is forced further outward in a vigorous tongue of water several thousand feet wide and jets back towards the Arkansas shore near Modoc Old River Lake, at a place the tow pilots refer to as Hughey but is marked on the Army Corps maps as Fair Landing Bend.  As you slide along you will notice a line of finely-crafted mansions on stilts lining the LBD, this is an exclusive hunting camp called Burke’s, the owners of these places pay big money for their views, and are not often found at residence, but are cut off from the rest of the world during high water.  If there are no towboats in the vicinity you can follow the powerful charge of water exploding off Burke’s Point for an easy channel crossing over towards Fair Landing 632.5 and the Arkansas shore, where most of the water — and hence most of the river flow — is headed.  However if there are any approaching tows your best route is to stay with the slower waters of LBD: during low water maintain a line inside of the red cone buoys until rounding the corner and then continue on downstream until there is a lull in traffic before crossing.  If a downstream tow seems to be standing still it is probably going into the flanking maneuver (see below).  Keep your distance and get to the far shore as expediently as possible, preferably behind the tow.  During higher water levels you will find good flow tight against LBD with interesting cut-bank scenery and good possibilities for viewing wildlife and of course the advantage of less distance to travel.

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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