The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

572-567 Cypress Bend

Cypress Bend is perhaps the most perfectly formed bend on the Lower Mississippi.  The river flows in perfectly due west out of Catfish, and then carves a perfect semi circle around Cypress, and then exits perfectly due east towards Eutaw and Choctaw below.  Alas, its also one of the most perfectly boring bends of the river — and seems to last forever — especially during low water.  It’s like climbing the big mountain where you keep thinking you are seeing the end of the climb, and keep getting disappointed by a series of false summits.  For the paddler you keep seeing false end points downstream where you are sure the bend is finally rounding out, but then you get there and find its another couple miles to the next visible point!


The above mentioned pulp-mill (and the grain elevator below it) don’t help any, and the empty expanse of the Catfish Point Bar located inside the bend only seems to add to the monotony of the distance.  But voyageurs take heart and paddle hard.  Remember its not the destination that matters but the journey.  Long distance travelers on all big rivers always experience this syndrome at some point in the expedition.  When queried about their greatest difficulties on their human-powered descent of the Nile River, the voyageurs said it was the mental challenge of seeing the same thing every day for several months (the North African desert).  The cure is to stop thinking about where you are going and start paying attention to the little things, like the patterns of the water around you, the the colors and shapes of the boils and the little whirlpools on their edges, the tiny ripples and the tiny fish scale patterns they create when they cross each other.  And then look to the sky and enjoy the Wyoming-sized skyline surrounding you and try to identify the subtle shading in the atmosphere and look for aberrations and watch patterns of clouds, and try to name the shapes in the clouds, and watch comtrails emerge behind passing jets and then later dissolve into the air.  Singing is helpful, if you are solo you don’t even have to try to sound good, but shout away with drama as if you were in the shower, no one will hear you.  Poetry, stories, word games, chit-chat, anything to help keep the mind awake is helpful.  How about imagining the rich marine life populating the water underneath you?  Keep reading below…


Cypress Bend — Pallid Sturgeon 

A common misconception of the Mississippi is that it’s a dead river, devoid of life.  Quite the contrary!  The Lower Mississippi River is cleaner than upper reaches, and is in fact the richest inland fishery in North America.  The problem for the paddler is…  you can’t see anything in the muddy water!


Legendary US Fish and Wildlife Biologist Paul Hartfield and his collaborators from Mississippi State University use the deep and swift currents of Cypress Bend as one of their outdoor laboratories for studying and monitoring the Pallid Sturgeon population on the Lower Mississippi River.  They are dispelling myths about one of the river’s most mysterious creatures and helping re-write its life history.  Up until the mid-1990’s, there were fewer than a dozen capture records of Pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) from all of the Lower Mississippi River.  Most biologists assumed the bottom end of the river was too polluted and engineered to support this and other rare fish.  No wonder, with a muddy river you can’t even see your fingers when you stick your hand in the water!  It was also a difficult and scary place to sample for fish.  On a half-mile wide river that averages 50 feet deep and dives to over 150 feet deep around turbulent bends like Cypress Bend, its no surprise that a shy fish that grows to over three feet long is seldom seen. 


The Pallid Posse (as Paul and his team call themselves) are capturing the fish, implanting sonic transmitters, and tracking the fish to see what areas of the river they use, and when they use them.  This information is being used by the Corps of Engineers to adjust their engineering and maintenance practices to reduce impacts, and even to benefit this endangered species.  In 2011, the project was expanded with the help of two crews from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, and Pallid sturgeon are being sonic tagged at Mhoon Bend, Catfish Point, Greenville, Willow Point, Vicksburg, Profit Island, and Baton Rouge; and tracked and monitored from Memphis to Baton Rouge.


Paul is also working with Tyler Olivier, a PhD candidate from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, to shed light on the abundance and life cycle of the freshwater Ohio River shrimp (Macrobrachium ohione), a beautiful clear crustacean which was once enjoyed as a delicacy aboard steamboats.  Like many river dwellers it is poorly known, and has declined greatly, possibly due to channel modification and the higher river velocities that have resulted.  The shrimp was so abundant during the 1800’s through the 1950’s that it supported a seasonal commercial fishing industry from Louisiana to Kentucky.  Although smaller than Gulf brown shrimp, it was highly prized for its flavor. The river shrimp requires saline conditions to molt from a larval to a juvenile stage, and the adult shrimp were traditionally captured for dining during the spring when billions of mature females migrated downstream the main channel and tributaries (Ohio, Tennesse, White, Arkansas, and other rivers that are now blocked by dams) to release their fertilized eggs near the Gulf.  During the summer and fall, they were collected and sold for fishbait, when TRILLIONS of juvenile shrimp would swim upstream, against the current of the Mighty Miss… as far as St. Louis, Missouri, and high up the tributaries (over 500 miles up the Ohio River!).   This is an incredible migration (up to a 3,000 mile round trip!) for such a small and delicate creature!  How do they do it?  How long does it take?  How long do they live?  How many of these beautiful creatures have survived?  These are some of the questions Paul and Tyler are trying to answer by sampling the shrimp at Cypress Bend, Vicksburg, and St. Francisville.


Click here for a National Audubon video of Tyler’s work with the Ohio River shrimp:

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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