The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

RBD 620-617 Old Levee at Knowlton

Not surprisingly the river is forever trying to break through its banks at Wood Cottage and below.  In the twenty years of paddling this area I have seen countless bank stabilization projects and watched the river swallow up everything left by man, one season removed, the next season replaced by big Corps Boats and machines, the next season again removed by high water, such is the constant see-saw relationship between man and the river.


An interesting landscape is found along the river here, the muddy flats scoured and sculpted by the water which frequently overflows the banks, in places looking like the muddy plateaus above Utah’s Desolation Canyon.  A blue hole was carved into the thick black sediment just over the rip rap near mile 618 one year, and if you hit it at the right river level you will find a pool of clear water with the freshest swimming in the deep south, it’s reminiscent of a Florida spring water pool when the water is just right.  At other times, however, it will be submerged in muddy water or left a rank pool covered with slime.  The Mississippi River is all about timing.


Hardwoods stand tall along the remnants of the old levee, and smooth mounds which imply ancient Native American earthworks underneath.  The old levee has been broken many times, but you can see pieces of its dark muddy shape underneath the foliage, look for the tallest stands of trees and there it will be seen.  As you round the bend past Keith’s Landing the old levee merges with the river at a place that has been broken in two big floods.  Keep reading below…


RBD 616 Knowlton Crevasse

The Mississippi River broke the levee here on the Arkansas side in 1912 and then again during the great flood of 1927 and a blue hole survives as reminder to the power of water overtopping an obstruction.  A blue hole can be created anywhere flowing water is made to climb over something and roll down the other side, such as a pile of heavy driftwood, or a wrecked barge, or a dike or a pile of rip-rap — or by the levee itself as it did at Mound’s Crevasse (1927) and here at Knowlton.  As it comes rolling down the other side it falls and digs in deep into the mud & sand and scoops it all out.  After the water level recedes a hole is left behind which clears out with blue water.  At Knowlton the blue hole created a small oxbow shaped lake, probably in the shape of the levee at the time.  2,000 people were left homeless in this area in 1927 and at least 18 perished before the waters finally drained away.


Today there is a high bluff of big-grained creamy yellow sand and gravel piled up between the river and the oxbow blue hole.  Its the highest ground in the region, not going under water until well above flood stage, which means it was created in a much higher water event, most likely by the flood of 1927 itself.  (Note: the flood of 2011 submerged everything between the levees along this entire section of river).  You won’t want to camp here, because its private property and there is frequent travel & hunting due to easy land access from the nearby Arkansas levee for 4WD.  Regardless its an interesting place to stop and get a view of the river from a high place.  This used to be the best rock-hounding in the area but recent high waters have been submerging the gravel bars in sand.  In the past twenty years we’ve seen conch fossils, bison antiquus bones, other mega-fauna long bones, chrinoids, geods, coral, and rocks of origin from everywhere upstream such as Rocky Mountain marble, Great Plains granites and Appalachian shales — as well as strange globs of petrified river mud (not found anywhere else but the Lower Mississippi Valley).  This gravel bar used to extend from the Knowlton high point mile 617 all the way down to the top end of Island 69, but in recent years the gravel has been disappearing.


RBD 616-609 Island 69

[CLICK HERE: Map of Paddling Past Island 69]

[CLICK HERE: Map of Island 69 Circumnavigation]

Island 69 is an archipelago of Islands which inhabits the inside a long bend of the river, its pieces running seven river miles downstream of Knowlton, Cessions Towhead on one side, the bottomland fields and farms Arkansas’ Snow Lake on the other.  There is a large back channel behind Island 69 that has some flow around 15HG but opens full throttle around 25HG.  This Back Channel further splinters into a Secret Old Back Channel (see below) and then also flows through several sandy islands below its lower dikes, and then finally ducks behind a lower splinter island (opposite Dennis Landing)which becomes the furthest extension of the whole.


Island 69 is a low-slung island which goes completely underwater around 35HG.  Excellent Low Water or High Water Camping around outside edge near forested tops, but also along inside channel wherever you see a sandy dune.  At low water there are endless choices for campsites along miles of beaches, make the usual precautions for any changes of weather or river level.  At medium water level you can approach the top of the island and then go with the flow down either side to find the sandy tops of a large dune that extends down the middle of the whole.


As you continue around 69 into the right-angle bend below, watch for unusual towboat activity, this is another place where the river gets squeezed and the resulting current responds with turbulence and unexpected explosions of whitewater activity.  During low water the tows will employ the flanking maneuver to safely negotiate.  CLICK HERE: The Flanking Maneuver]

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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