The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

If you aren’t in any particular hurry, you might as well stay RBD and visit this amorphous   confluence, one of the most important geographic & historic locales on the continent.  You will know you’re there when you find the color change in the waters where the rivers meet.  The muddy yellow waters of the Arkansas hug right bank for miles downstream while the muddy green waters of the massive Mississippi lazily reach out with swirling octopus arms and greedily engulf great gulps of Arkansas River water one muddy slurp after another until there is nothing left of it save new colors splashed up on the muddy banks and new earth tones left in the sandbars below.  Zoom in for a close up look off Google Earth, the subtle tonalities of mud can be seen from space!  During low water levels the color line between the great rivers is usually clearly etched.  However in highwater it becomes almost impossible to find as the big rivers have been mixing surreptitiously behind islands and through flooded forests throughout the entire bottom end of Big island above this point. 


A Detour Up & Down the Arkansas 

[CLICK HERE: Map of A Detour Up & Down the Arkansas]


A fun detour is to paddle upstream a ways up the Arkansas River and then turn around and paddle back to the Mississippi and continue on your way.


We call this maneuver the Omaha & Quapaw or Up and Down.  Its a simple roundtrip.  Its like climbing a mountain where you have to work hard to get up, but then get an easy trip back while gravity (and the flow of water) helps you back down.  You can easily paddle upstream the Arkansas from the confluence a few hundred yards to the bottom of Big Island (LBD Arkansas River), which stands fairly high along its southern end.  Or with a little more time and motivation you can paddle a few miles to one of the beaches on Cat Island which is found RBD one mile upstream.  During high water you might have to paddle two miles to reach the sand (goes completely under around 30AG).  Stop for a picnic or walk and then turn around and paddle back out.  Go as far as you like, or your day will allow, and then turn around.   When you are going upstream you are being an Omaha, the people who went upstream.  When you turn around back downstream you are being like the Quapaw, the downstream people.


On the way back down the Arkansas scoot out from the top of Cat Island to the outside of Jimmie’s Bend and follow the best current LBD around and below the steep cut bank.  Notice the new colors layered in the mud, these are the colors of the Great Plains, the yellows of Colorado/Kansas and reds of Oklahoma are alternately laid by the seasonal floods.  Cross back over RBD to the bottom end of Cat Island and follow the flow out to the Mississippi/Arkansas River Confluence, the yellow waters of the Arkansas dances along for several miles until being consumed by the slightly darker & normally muddier waters of the Mississippi.


Island Hopping 

[CLICK HERE: Map of Island Hopping]


An adventurous way to get a taste of the Arkansas River and its Delta is to duck behind one of the many splinter islands crowding the confluence, jump into the Arkansas River (which is flowing behind these islands), and paddle down out of the smaller river to rejoin the big river.  These islands are technically the southern extremity of Big Island since at low water they reconnect back to Big Island.  Back channels open up at water levels above 23AG.  (Note: This route is NOT doable from the Rosedale Harbor unless you make a 2 mile upstream paddle and a strong ferry crossing to reach the Malone Field at the top end of the Arkansas Bar.)


From Terrene Sandbar (Great River Road State Park) stay with the strong current RBD past the Malone Field Light 587.0 and look for the first dike RBD (Malone Field Dike#1), which is sometimes marked by a buoy sometimes not.  There is an opening in the woods directly below the bankside end of the dike.  If not obstructed by the raft of driftwood that oftentimes accumulates there dive behind a little island through this narrow channel.  If you miss it, keep going RBD around this little island and then follow the current flowing behind it over the Malone Field Dike #2 (which you won’t see — its underwater).  The river opens up several miles wide as it flows over the Arkansas Bar.  Follow the flow westward towards the tallest wall of trees behind.  This is a large island around which the water flows on both sides.  Before you get to this line of tall trees you will notice a medium sized channel flowing north and a larger channel continuing southwest.  You can take either channel, although I recommend the northerly route. 


The southwesterly route follows the edge of the island through a long ephemeral channel bordered by deep forests, and eventually disappears into several thick stands of willows that can be a challenge getting through.  Paddlers might spend an hour or more bushwhacking through thick willows from the cockpit of their kayak or seats of their canoe as showers of sticks and leaves fall around them, and spiders, and anything else in the trees.  Not for the faint-hearted.


The northerly route is easily followed as it rounds this splinter island (2 miles) and then joins the Arkansas River in Jimmie Bend.  Paddlers can enjoy 2-3 miles of paddling down the main channel of the Arkansas River from Jimmie Bend.

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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