The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

I guided National Geographic Adventure through here in 2006, an experience which produced their story Where the Big River Gets Lost.  This title is misleading, because of course the big river never gets lost – whereas people often get lost on the big river!  In fact, with Nat’l Geo I decided to cut behind the Arkansas Bar using the above described southwesterly route, where we got bewildered by the crowded willow thickets with water flowing through, and had to haul ourselves armful of willows at a time, through the conflagration until finally emerging into other hidden pools of muddy water — to get submerged again in more willow thickets.  Unfortunately this confounding (and very adventuresome) experience did not get included in the final story (printed in the August 2007 issue).


The Floating Sensation 

However you do it be sure to stop paddling at some point and enjoy the sensation of floating along in the meeting of the big rivers.  If the wind is contrary you might only be able to enjoy this for one minute.  But on a calm day with no tows to navigate around you can float for miles.  Floating with the flow of the river will enable you to best appreciate the dimension and scope of this landscape as you silently roll over the curvature of the earth and are buoyed along by the big waters.  With a little imagination you can dwell upon all of the places this water has travelled from to reach here and visualize the big bends upstream and downstream that come together at this location like the forks of the world’s largest peace sign.


Circumnavigation of Big Island (52 miles; 5-7 days) 

[CLICK HERE: Map of Circumnavigation of Big Island]


A complete circumnavigation of Big Island could be a challenging week-long expedition in of itself, not recommended as an addition to your Mississippi River journey, but to be done as an entirely separate adventure in of itself.  It might take upwards of 3 days of hard paddling to get up the Arkansas, one grueling day for the portage to the White, One day of moderate paddling back down the White back to the Mississippi, and One day of downstream paddling back down the Mississippi.  Add two days for exploration, bad weather, bear sightings and unforeseen circumstances.  Approximately Fifty-two miles total.


The best place to start would be the Rosedale Harbor, although you could also initiate this adventure from Terrene Landing — or on the Arkansas shore from the Montgomery Point Lock & Dam or the Ozark Hunt Camp.  Secure your vehicle, or better yet arrange shuttle from some safe place for parking.  Carry extra food and water, good maps (USGS 15 minute topos cover this region with great detail), compass, GPS, cell phone.  Cell phone coverage spotty at best.  Bring your satellite phone if you have one.  Be prepared for one week of hard paddling.  


Leg 1: Out of the Harbor and down the Mississippi.  2.5 miles in harbor.  One hour.  Flatwater paddling two and a half miles to the mouth of the harbor.  Look both ways before crossing (possibly busy towboat activity — monitor VHF channel 13).  4.5 miles to the mouth of the Arkansas which might be one hour of paddling.  Follow strong downstream current around the Arkansas Bar and then angle in right bank descending for the approach to the mouth of the Arkansas River.  Look for tell-tale change of water color.  Cut in RBD wherever the face of the water opens unopposed to the north.  


Leg 2: Upstream the Arkansas River.  20 miles.  2-3 days.  Now the big challenge.  You have at least twenty miles of hard paddling to get up the biggest tributary of the Lower Mississippi River.  At low water the mileage might be more, but the time required might be less.  At high water the mileage might be less (due to the smoothed out river bends) but the time might be doubled or tripled with added challenge of fighting fast moving water.  If you’re not an expert paddler, this kind of experience will make you into one!

Best route upstream shallow rivers with frequent shoaling in general is to hug the inside of the bends where the water is slower, jumping out of your vessel for cordelling when favorable.  Coming out of the bend find the best place to make your crossing and position yourself for the next bend and the next place to hug the inside of the bend.  After several days and 19 miles of upstream paddling start looking for the entrance to Owen’s Lake right bank ascending (ie: left bank descending).  If unfamiliar with region use google maps or GPS entrance.  Paddle north up to low water road crossing.


Leg 3: Portage through Owen’s Lake to White River.  1.38 miles.  One day.  2 portages are necessary using this shortest route to the White River.  Portage canoe or kayak over retaining dam (low road).  Paddle one mile across Owen’s Lake to its dead end.  Scout best route to the White River, which lies to the east.  Make your second portage several hundred yards through the woods and over gravel road to the banks of the White River.  Watch carefully for bear tracks.  In warmer months watch for poison ivy and snakes.


Leg 4: Down the White back to the Mississippi.  6.28 miles.  Half day to one day of easy to moderate paddling, including possible delays at lock & dam.  After you’ve reloaded your canoe from the Portage set off down the White RIver in its normally placid waters, but infrequently full of runoff from the Ozarks or the Arkansas Delta.  Leave the Truster Holden State WIldlife Management Area and paddle through the bottom end of the White River National Wildlife Refuge.  Watch for bears, wild turkeys and migrating birds.  At low water, passage through Montgomery Point Lock & Dam will be necessary.  At medium and above you can slide over the dam unimpeded.  Watch for the color change in the water as you rejoin the Mississippi River.

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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