The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

The Flanking Maneuver 

During low water periods heavily laden towboats often slow their engines, then cut them off completely and then sometimes put them in reverse and execute slow-moving gymnastics at tight bends like the one found at Hughey.   First-time paddlers might get confused, especially when a nervous pilot shakes the earth with blasts from the warning horn, and then impatiently stomps on all three engines turning the river into a chaotic piling of waves and waters.  Best policy: stay as far as possible from any tow in a tight bend and make your intended route well downstream of their intended route.  When possible pass behind the tow, not in front of the tow.  Watch carefully for the moment the pilot restarts engines and charges out of the bend.  First warning will be the clouds of black diesel smoke filling the air above tow smokestacks.  Second warning will be the whitewater erupting from behind the tow.  Finally the tow begins to move slow & ponderous.  Be equally vigilant down river for upstream pilots who want to continue the journey up the river as quickly as possible and as they power up add even more waves & confusion to the already upset channel. 


The pilots of these downstream behemoths call this the flanking maneuver.  Only the most experienced pilots will attempt the flanking maneuver.  Here the subtle power of the river is observed and taken advantage of.  The method is similar to how canoes & kayaks follow the boil line around a bend in a head wind.  The tow pilot uses the river to make the turn.  It works like this: the approaching down streamer slows their massive tows down to river speed well above the crux of the bend.  They might start slowing down miles upstream as they approach a known tight bend like Burkes.  They float at river speed into the bend at a slight angle so that the nose of the tow gently enters the boil line typically found around the outside edges of all bends.  As the tow floats downstream with the river these big boils gently ease the front of the tow away from the river bank (and certain disaster) and in slow dinosaur speed the entire tow is repositioned by the river as it continues downstream until the tow is perfectly positioned for exit, at which point the pilot restarts the engines and exits the bend, often at the highest speeds possible, leaving big waves rolling outwards directly behind.  (the pilots call these waves the outwash).   Upstream tows meanwhile must pull up somewhere below this bend and await the passage of the downstreamers. 


Running at normal speed would be disastrous for the big tows during low water when the channel sometimes narrows down to a mere 300 yards.  For the towboat pilot pushing a 6×5 fleet of tows, 6 barges wide 5 barges long = 200 feet wide and 1250 feet long, this is as difficult as threading a needle with a barge rope.  The biggest downstream tow might be pushing 100,000 tons of rocks, grains or coal in its barges.  The overwhelming momentum of this weight would push the entire flotilla into the banks if run at normal speed into a bend.


At right angle bends like Hughey negotiating the narrow channel is further challenged by sliding shoals which typically are emanating outwards from the inside of the bend outwards into the navigation channel.  At Burke’s Point this shoaling area encroaches the remaining channel with the sands & gravels being washed downstream with the flow of the water and spreading outwards and threatening to choke the navigation channel  as it slides off the point at LBD 636 and spreads outwards towards Fair Landing at RBD 632.5. 


Paddlers should be aware of other bends where the flanking maneuver might be used. These include: Buck Island Lower (above Topper’s Landing), Island 69 (above Dennis Landing), Victoria Bend, and Arkansas Bar.

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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