The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

But the big river got the last laugh when it decided to migrate westward and instead of commanding a good steamboat landing, Friars Point was left with nothing but sandbars and mud bars, its downtown approachable only in high water.  The river might as well have banished Friars Point to the middle of the Gobi Desert so dislocated it now found itself.  When the railroad tracks of the Illinois Central Railroad were laid through Clarksdale, Friars Point rescinded its prominence as County Seat, and then lost the newspaper and major banks.


Still, the town is easily accessed at mile 652.5 by anyone paddling through the area using an unimproved & very primitive landing at the edge of town, directly below the Mississippi Limestone/ADM complex.  There is an obvious open sandbar below all of the granaries and piles of gravel and docking facilities.  The Yazoo-Mississippi Levee Board has made repeated attempts to improve the landing, but every high water the river re-takes command.  Make your landing there for access to Friars Point, and also to get to Clarksdale.  Paddlers, be sure to hide your vessel well, and remove any items of value.  If you need to get to Clarksdale your best bet is to bring your canoe or kayak and all your gear with you.  Remember, the unwritten rule of the river rat is if it’s not locked it’s fair game. You can camp here if necessary, but beware midnight visitors.  Better option: visit town and then push off to camp further downstream.  


Even within the shadow of its blues-tourism drenched neighbor, Clarksdale, there are many reasons to walk over the levee for a quick visit.  Friars Point was the Childhood home of Conway Twitty and Aretha Franklin’s Daddy, The Rev. C.L. Franklin. The postal packet the Kate Adams made regular landings here en route Arkansas City and Memphis.  Muddy Waters reported seeing Robert Johnson perform in front of Hirsberg Grocery.  The bench that Robert Johnson performed on still sits in front of the grocery, now painted fire-engine red.  Friars Point was the original ferry landing for access to Helena.  All blues musicians in the area passed through to get to Helena’s influential King Biscuit Time radio program.  If you stop, be sure to visit the North Delta Museum and Icehouse Antiques.  Paddlers can find a limited selection of groceries at a couple of markets, one of which has noteworthy take-out lunches quick fried on a gigantic iron wok.  Friars Point also has a liquor store and a post office.


LBD 652.5 Friars Point Landing (unimproved)

Several hundred yards below the McAlister Grain/Mississippi Limestone complex (you will see a line of shiny stainless steel grain elevators and piles of gravel and anchored tows) you can find a serviceable landing with access to Friars Point.  Unimproved location.  Primitive landing on muddy banks topped with sandy/muddy flats.  Not recommended camping.  Hide your vessel above or below and carry all valuables if you leave landing to visit Friars Point.  At low water steep muddy banks with gooey muddy bottoms.  At high water landing becomes submerged around HG 35, but paddlers can simply pull in wherever a good spot is found along the levee.

What’s to come further downstream:

Below Friars Point the big river convulses like a lazy snake on a hot summer day into the enormous floodplain added onto with the waters and wetlands of the Arkansas and the White Rivers.  The Arkansas is the largest tributary below the Ohio and its single highest drainage, having come from the Central Colorado Rockies.  This is the biggest river in North America and it sure feels like it!  Go on to the next section of the Rivergator for more mouth-watering descriptions of the Big 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
Memphis to Tunica
736 LBD Memphis, Tennessee, Mud Island Harbor
Buoys and Docks  
Floating Underneath a Bridge  
734.7 Lower Bridges/Engineer’s Bar
734.7 The Frisco Bridge
734.7 The Harahan Bridge
734.7 The Ghost Bunker
734.7 The Old Bridge (Memphis & Arkansas Bridge)
733 President’s Island
Fleeted Barges  
732 LBD Hole in the Wall ##2
727.3 TVA Transmission Lines
727.3 RBD The Wreck of the Raft
Tennessee Valley Authority  
725.5 LBD Entrance to McKellar Lake
7 Miles Up harbor Riverside Park Marina On McKellar Lake  
724 T.E. Maxon Wastewater Treatement Facility
Paddler’s Routes Below Memphis  
727 – 712 Dismal Point/Ensley Bar/Cow Island Bend Area
726 – 717 Armstrong/Dismal Point/Ensley Bar
720 Josie Harry Bar
718 – 713 Cow Island Bend
Goodbye Tennessee, Hullo Mississippi  
The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta and the Blues  
711 – 705 Cat Island No.50
710.8 LBD Starr Landing
712 – 695 Paddler’s Routes Around Cat Island and the Casinos
Pickett Dikes Back Channel  
639.8 RBD Tunica Riverpark Museum Boat Ramp
Tunica Riverpark Museum  
Basket Bar Dikes/Porter lake Dikes  
693.8 RBD Lost Lake Pass
703 Buck Island (No. 53)
701 Gold Strike Casino
700 Fitzgerald’s Casino
Tunica to Helena
700 Basket Bar
Paddler’s Routes Through Commerce and Mhoon Bends  
695 – 690 Commerce Bend
692.5 RBD Peter’s Boat Ramp
690 Rabbit Island
Switching to thhe Helena Gage  
Dikes and Water Levels  
687.5 Mhoon Landing
689 – 685 Mhoon Bar
690 – 683 Mhoon Bend
682 – 679 Whiskey Chute/Walnut Bend
680 Whitehall Crevasse
Paddler’s Routes Below Walnut Bend  
Stumpy Island, Shoo Fly Bar and Tunica Lake  
Main Channel  
677.4 LBD Tunica Runout
Behind Shoo Fly Bar  
Stumpy Island  
Walnut Bend Boat Ramp  
Tunica Lake Boat Ramp  
679 RBD Walnut Bend Boat Ramp
679 – 677 Hardin Cut-Off
677.4 LBD Pass Into Tunica Lake
677 – 676 Shoo Fly Bar
677 – 674 Stumpy Island
674.5 Harbert Point
672 RBD Mouth of the St. Francis River
Primitive Landing at the Mouth of the St. Francis Rive – Conditions  
RBD 3 Miles up St. Francis River Three Mile Ramp
Daytrip: St. Francis to Helena  
St. Francis to Helena: Paddler’s Descriptions  
For Intermedite Paddlers: Right Bank Route  
For Expert Paddlers: Left Bank Route  
St. Francis River  
671 – 673 LBD St. Francis Bar
669 LBD Flower Lake Dikes
668 RBD (A View of) Crowley’s Ridge D
668-663 RBD Buck Island (Prairie Point Towhead)
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  
Helena’s “Low Road” Into St. Francis National Forest  
King Biscuit Blues Festival (2nd Week of October)  
Helena to Friars
661.6 Helena Bridge (Hernando De Soto Bridge – US HWY 49)
663 RBD Leaving Helena Harbor
Fleeted Barges  
Small Towns in Harbors  
Buoys and Other Stationary Objects  
Highlights of Civilization  
Pollution Within the Helena Industrial Reach  
661.6 Helena Bridge (Hernando De Soto Bridge – US HWY 49)
657 LBD  
How to Get Into the Old Entrance of the Yazoo Pass  
LBD: Alternate Route to Vicksburg: Yazoo Pass  
Yazoo Pass Milage  
Rivers & Robert Johnson  
656 LBD East Montezuma Bar
657 – 654 RBD Montezuma Towhead
654.7 LBD Montezuma Landing
Shuttle Route Montezuma to Clarksdale  
652 LBD Friars Point
652.2 LBD Friars Point Landing (Unimproved)
What’s to Come Further Downstream  
Middle Delta 663 – 537 HELENA TO GREENVILLE
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