The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Rivers & Robert Johnson:

The Mississippi Delta where the Delta Blues was born and thrived is not the Delta of the Mississippi River.  That’s right, this delta is actually an independent floodplain formed by the big river and its smaller tributary the Yazoo.  The “Delta Blues” that was born & fostered under the phenomenal careers of genius musicians like Muddy Waters, Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson refers geographically to the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, which is a mussel shell-shaped alluvial floodplain bounded by the Mississippi and the Yazoo-Tallahatchie-Coldwater River systems running approximately two hundred miles between Memphis and Vicksburg, and sixty miles at its widest between Greenville and Greenwood.


Robert Johnson’s life is tied into Yazoo River, the River of Death, by the many places that highlight his life and death.  All of these places can be visited by canoe, kayak or SUP. However the landings are not marked and paddlers will have to use maps, GPS and their orientation skills to locate the best places to land and then walk to the below:


Mileage from Downtown Greenwood Public Boat Launch:

Little Zion Church: along the Tallahatchie River 15 river miles north of Greenwood

Three Forks Store: Yazoo River, 25 miles south of Greenwood

Payne Chapel: Yazoo River, 15 miles south of Greenwood (+ 2 mile hike)

Mount Zion MB Church: Yazoo River, 35 miles south of Greenwood


LBD 656 East Montezuma Bar

A shaggy mile-long Island with a large back channel that can be run above 20HG.  Notoriously turbulent waters are found boiling along its top end main channel, and all along its long dike which connects to the Mississippi shore, novice paddlers should avoid crossing this dike until the water is higher than 25HG.


657-654 RBD Montezuma Towhead

A three-mile long island at low water, one mile-long at medium, no sand at 35HG, goes completely under at flood stage 44HG.  Montezuma Towhead was created when an unfortunate steamboat by the same name The Montezuma happened upon a snag in this section of river and sank on Feb 28, 1829.  Snags were not uncommon back then, steamboat pilots avoided them like the plague, as is well narrated in Mark Twain’s 1883 Life on the Mississippi.  Less well-known are the towheads, islands, bars and other important river features that have been wrought out of these wreckages as they lay on the bottom of the river and create conditions that lead to sediment accumulation on their downstream side out of the vast oceans of sediment that are always there in motion.  The emergence of Montezuma Towhead forced the entire Mississippi River eastward one mile and the ill-fated town of Delta, Mississippi, was consumed by collapsing banks.  Delta was neck-and-neck with Friars Point as the leading town of Coahoma County.  Its promising future cut short by the sinking of a steamboat and the insatiable appetite of the river.  Friars Point didn’t enjoy its glory days long as victor in this race for prominence, its place on the river left high & dry by the opposite big river tendency: to create land.   Keep reading below for the rest of the story.

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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