The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

[Buck Island Map]

The largest, wildest & tallest sandbars on Buck Island are located on its top end, the upstream side facing north, sitting above the northernmost stands of trees.  At low water these sandbars extend almost a full mile above the northernmost trees, and near the water’s edge are mostly gravel.  These gravel bars were once the favorite haunts of noted Helena archeologist Injun Joe Madonia.  If Joe’s spirit is found anywhere since his passing in 2011, it will be found here.  If you make landing look out for unusual rocks, fossils and petrified bones, many of which have been washed hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles down the Mississippi River out of all past epochs of geologic history of North America.  And watch out for Injun Joe’s playful spirit & twinkling eyes, which are surely peeking down on us from across the heavens!


Due to its very gentle slope the top end sandbar of Buck Island goes underwater quickly as the river rises.  One foot of river rise might mean hundreds of feet of sand going underwater, so choose your campsites carefully and be aware of the river forecast [CLICK HERE: Forecasting & Monitoring River Levels].


Several years ago two adventurers made a campsite stop on Buck island after a long hard-days of paddling.  The exhausted pair pulled their canoe up the shore, ate some supper, and then unloaded their sleeping bags and went to sleep, leaving most of their gear still in the canoe.  The next morning they awoke to find their canoe and all their gear had disappeared in the night.  The reason — the rising waters had crept up the shallow bar and floated the canoe away.  Always pull your canoe up and tie it down!  If there aren’t any trees nearby drive one of your paddles deep into the sand or mud for an anchor point. This shows how the river will sometimes surprise even the most experienced paddlers.  Never assume you know everything about the river!  [Add Citation].  I once had to chase down my canoe as a strong north wind blew it out towards the open main channel.  Saving it required a long swim.  Not saving it would have meant an even longer swim!  Another time I had carelessly laid camp at dark without carefully inspecting the location and not forecasting the river.  I awoke in the wee-wee hours of early morning with water entering the bottom of my sleeping bag!


In the heat of the Summer an open bar camp can be a decided advantage as you lay sweltering your tent in thick swarms of mosquitoes.  Wide open bars like Buck island are subject to the best breezes.  If there are no oncoming storms and the sun is low enough to comfortably set camp without getting burned, you might locate camp far from the trees on an open beach.  The mosquitoes live in the trees, and don’t usually come out until after dark.  The slightest breeze will help keep them down and keep you cool as the roasting sand off vents from the heat of the day.  [CLICK HERE: for more hints about how to live with mosquitoes]. 


On the other hand, open bars become broiling pans in the direct light of the sun, and as noted are subject to the whims of the weather.  Perhaps the best combination to look for is the place where a thin line of trees extends across a dune extending out of the forest outwards towards the shoreline of any island, or similar attribute of the island that creates a thin line of trees.  It might be at the end of an island which is collapsing into the river.  There you will find protection if you need it, shade from the sun, shelter from the wind, but also the ability to easily set your tent on top of a ridge or dune for the best breezes when they are blowing gently.  Another possibility to keep in mind here is the hammock.  Strung between two medium sized or larger trees atop a dune you will feel like you have landed in the Yucatan Peninsula and will sleep like a baby in the gentle breezes blowing off the waters.  The rustling of cottonwood leaves or the gentle swaying of the fragrant willow completes this scene of paradise in the middle of America!


There are two small isolated splinter islands on the top end of Buck Island at Mile 668 that have formed around the dikes RBD that paddlers in the area have named The Fawns.  Around its Eastern circumference (at Mile 666 — opposite Trotter’s) a larger splinter island named Doe Island is found with a medium sized channel separating it from Buck.  This mid-island channel is closed off until the river rises above 17 HG.  Above 35 HG Doe goes completely underwater.  Located at the bottom end of Doe is a favorite campsite on a prominent peninsula with an inlet behind that local paddlers refer to as Tip-o-Doe!


At low water the sandbars of Buck Island extend completely around its outside edge, broken here and there by a mudbar or an isolated inlet.  As the water rises the bars quickly go under, first from its bottom end and in the back channel, then the sides and finally the entire top end.  At 35 HG there is no more sand to be found anywhere around Buck Island, but the woods are still dry.  In the winter, when the snakes are hibernating and the mosquitoes are gone, you can find good campsites within the forests of Buck Island — that is until the river rises above flood stage (44HG).  However in the warmer months be ready for clouds of voracious mosquitoes, thick poison ivy, and a healthy snake population.

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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