The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Jackson Cutoff

Sunflower Cutoff 

Less than a century ago the river swirled around two enormous loops of river each ten miles long one around jackson Point and one around Island 66 opposite Sunflower Landing.   In the early 1940s these loops were cut-off to straighten the river.  As result as you paddle downstream of Island 64 the river traveller experiences a reversal of state lines — for a short distance Mississippi is found on the right bank and Arkansas on the left!  This could be a geography lesson for all youth in the Mid South for there are many places that you find Mississippi on the Arkansas side of the river, and many places where Arkansas is found on the Mississippi side, but there is no other single location where there are reversed in the same place.  This reversal lasts several miles between the Jackson Cutoff Light (628) and the Mouth of Mellwood Lake (625.6).


The old rivers channels are today preserved in two giant oxbow lakes known as Mellwood and DeSoto, each of which circumnavigates extensive forests and are still connected to the main channel of the river through deep muddy trenches known as the mouth of Mellwood lake and the mouth of DeSoto Lake, and so the entire area is a paddler’s paradise with endless varieties of paddling dynamics for every level of paddler.  A good Beginner’s route would be to put-in at Hillhouse Landing into DeSoto Lake and paddle as far as the mouth of the river, view the powerful flowing waters, and then turn back to Hillhouse, a 6 mile round trip, you would return home having experienced paddling on the Mississippi without having to endure the violence and vagaries of the main channel.  Advanced paddlers will find all of powerful places already described in abundance, the big river is full of never-ending challenges for those who choose to pursue them.


Historians believe that De Soto Lake’s Sunflower Landing is where Hernando De Soto became the first white man to see and paddle on the Mississippi River.   Of course back then it was the main channel, and from De Soto’s journals it seems like they arrived in the middle of the Spring flooding, since they describe a frothy muddy main channel full of driftwood.  In 1541 he and his ragged army struggled across the swamps of the Mississippi Delta and became isolated on the banks of the river while armies of brightly colored native warriors made daily forays and shows of power from the river, paddling dugout canoes and raining the Spaniards with showers of arrows, some of the canoes carried 60-80 men each.  The size of these giant canoes is a testament to the big trees that were once common to the river floodplain but now have been entirely removed.  [CLICK HERE: for the one remaining old growth cypress tree].  The resourceful De Soto made camp on the banks of the river and spent several months building log rafts to ferry his men across the big river, as they called it, the Rio Grande.


RBD 625.6 Mouth of Mellwood Lake

[CLICK HERE: Map of Island 64, Mellwood Lake, DeSoto Lake]

Deep muddy slot (at low water) surrounded by an enchanting scene of overhanging willows, higher up the muddy flats are covered in a delightful forest of sycamores, cottonwoods and silver maples, many draped with flowering & fruiting vines.  Easy access to main channel, classic river pass, rich with wildlife and the aromas of the forest, deep woods at mouth.  Lake connects to river around 7HG, the low banks completely flood around 20HG opening the surrounding woods to paddlers.  Favorite haunt of the lovely pileated woodpecker, who you might hear chopping into nearby standing willows and laughing as you pass, its song resembling punctuated human laughter.  In the heat of a summer day enter Mellwood Pass for respite from the sun, on a blustery winter day do the same for respite from the cold wind.  Possible access via private boat ramp over levee from Mellwood, Arkansas.  Ron & Di’s Marina (870) 827-6498.


LBD 624-627 Sunflower Dikes

There is a series of sandbar islands that have grown up along the lower end of the Sunflower Dikes.  When the river is below 20HG you can make an easy picnic stop on the last of these but beware any approaching storms for there is no protection of any sort.  Not a good campsite, no vegetation, nothing but sand and mud.  Island completely disappears when the river rises above 25HG. 


Diving Duck

At the end of Sunflower Dike # 3

At medium and high water levels the outermost edge of the last dike forces a borad column of water laterally into the main channel of the river, at which junction a terrible commotion can be heard from far away as the two currents slam into each other and wrestle for dominance.  The comment often heard is where is that waterfall coming from?  The end of this dike is opposite the mouth of Mellwood Lake and is usually marked by red nun buoy, but the force of the water often discharges buoys and their one-ton anchor blocks from this locale.  Or even worse the current forces the buoy under water to become a diving duck — a buoy that charges along underwater pushed down by the unrelenting force of muddy waters — and then suddenly launches into view like a breaching whale.  The impact of a diving duck would surely cripple any canoe or kayak.  Your best bet is to be ever watchful downstream.  If you notice buoys that are there one minute and the next minute they disappear — that is your sign.  Mark the location mentally and keep away!  


I’ve personally witnessed the most powerful whirlpools I’ve ever seen at this locale, in high water winter 2011 one of our big 30 foot long canoes almost took a nose-dive into the mouth of a whirlpool that opened up underneath our line of direction, and we got swirled around so quickly that it shook up everyone on board like rags, and we were thrust out of the area going backwards at 10 knots.  This would have surely upset a smaller canoe.  No one aboard wanted to see another whirlpool the rest of the trip, and we were out for a week!

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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