The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

571-567 Catfish Point Bar

Another solution to the monotony of the long-distance paddler is a stop on Catfish Point Bar.  If the weather’s calm, and you need a good rest place to stretch you legs, pull into Catfish Point Bar.  It can be a long paddle getting into this giant sandbar from the main channel, and a long paddle getting back out into the current.  But you might as well get used to it: everything is super-sized here!  (I.e. its going to be a long paddle no matter what you do).  At low water Catfish Point Bar curves upwards of five miles inside Cypress Bend with a large gravel bar top end .  The gravel bar transitions into beautiful low-angle yellow-white sand beaches mid island, which eventually steepen into a cut bank bottom end topped by clumps of willow & cottonwood trees. 


If you like rock hounding and fossil finding explore the gravel bar top end, which creates a rugged landscape in between dike #1 and dike #2.  This gravel bar changes from year to year, with each flood a new landscape is created, layers of sand & gravel scoured and then relaid.  So the excitement never wears off.  If you find any fossils of note, record them with your camera and tag them with your GPS and send to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science whose paleontologist keeps maintains records.  If you are ready for a cool-down splash in shallow water, the beaches mid-island are incomparably open and shallow, and the water flows over them slow and even, and in general slightly warmer than the deeper water beyond.  [Click Here Safe Swimming].  Good place to set up the volleyball net or lay out your towel for some tanning (if you are in need of any more sun than you are already getting!).  On the other hand if all you need is a little shade for a picnic or a mid-day siesta, go bottom end and pull in below one of the clumps of trees and look for the winning combination of shade and gentle breezes off the water.  If you select your place carefully you can find both.  Look for a couple of trees atop a sandy bluff or ridge high enough to catch the breeze, but leafy enough to produce shade.  Lastly gauge the swing of the sun across the sky and choose accordingly.  Its no fun to fall into a peaceful slumber only to be awoken with the burning sun in your face.


RBD 568 Chicot Landing

Note: Boat ramp not marked on the US Army Corps 2007 maps.  Unimproved public gravel landing off the end of a stub levee above Arkansas City.  You won’t always be able to drive to the water’s edge, but paddler’s should have no trouble finding access at any water levels.  Low water leaves the bottom end of the ramp covered in a muddy bog.  High water means finding access off the stub levee.   A great daytrip including a stop on Choctaw Island could be be made using this as your put-in, paddling downstream to the back channel of Choctaw Island, making a picnic stop on the top end or backside of the Island, and then taking out at the Arkansas City Boat Ramp (halfway down the back channel).


The old steamboat era Chicot Landing is further downstream, just above the entrance to Choctaw back channel.  The splinter islands crowding the right bank around mile 565 are still covered with gnarly flood ravaged forests and piles of driftwood that when covered in water become ugly snags — and confirm the name given by early French Voyageurs, chicot meaning teeth.


The catastrophic Holly Brush Crevasse occurred near here and submerged all of southeastern Arkansas in the 1903 flood.


Reading Google Maps 

You can learn a lot about the Mississippi River using Google satellite maps, bearing in mind certain parameters.  Firstly the Google map-images were recorded from space during a season of low water, hence the islands and sandbars are at their largest, and many back channels that are open at higher water levels appear to be closed.  Unlike highways which don’t change shape or position with the seasons, the islands of the Mississippi River and their back channels are dramatically effected by water levels.  And so the paddler needs to remember that the shapes of low-lying landmarks like the sandbars and wetlands seen on Google Satellite Maps or Google Earth is probably not what they are really like on any given day when you are out on the river.  Be forewarned not to assume that the perfect-looking sandbar you see on you iphone will be there!


Secondly, river levels change with the Google Maps zoom. (Evidently Google used photos from at least 2 different time periods, hence they have recorded the river in two vastly different river stages.  I am certain this was inadvertently done).  Take Choctaw Island for example.  When you go to Satellite view for the Mississippi River near Arkansas City you will see that Google employs various depictions of Choctaw Island.  (I have created map at:  [CLICK HERE: Map of Choctaw Island])  Use the zoom tool to change scale.  Pay attention to scale icon at bottom left.  At zoom 1 = 1 mile and above you can see the back channel partially open & flowing well.  The water level is probably around 3AG.  However change the zoom to 2 = 1mile and lower you will see the back channel almost completely occluded by sandbars.  The water level in this depiction is certainly -4AG or lower.


However, even accepting the fact that Google Satellite Maps aren’t real time images, many river attributes and lessons to be learned.  For instance:


Towboat Activity:  You can see towboat activity on Google Satellite Maps.  Look for long rectangles slightly off color at various positions when you zoom in on any one bend or straightaway.  You can distinguish which direction they are going by their outwash.   Now you can tell upstreamers from downstreamers.  You can study the lines taken by the upstream pilots, who are looking for the slowest waters to conserve fuel.   On the Choctaw [CLICK HERE: Map of Choctaw Island]  zoomed close-up map you can see two upstream tows hugging the channel at bottom end of Choctaw Island, close enough to the island to find the slower waters but far enough out to not get grounded on the shallows.  Conversely, on the zoomed-out map (scale 1 = 2 miles) you can faintly see a downstream tow opposite the bottom of Choctaw using the current along the outside of the bend.


How could this be helpful to the paddler?  Number one, you will know to stay on the opposite shore (left bank descending) if you are coming down the river around Choctaw Island (or most other islands) and see an approaching upstream tow.  Not only will you avoid the tow pilot’s line of travel, but secondly you will be enjoying the advantage of the fastest water possible.

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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