The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Memphis to Tunica

LBD 725.5 Entrance to McKellar Lake

Watch for towboat traffic coming in and out of McKellar Lake Memphis Industrial Harbor, as well as workboats, crew boats and fleeted barges.  Unless you purposely intend to access the harbor the fastest water and most interesting forests and islands are found along the right bank and behind Ensley Bar/Dismal Point Dikes.


7 miles up harbor Riverside Park Marina on McKellar Lake

There are very few public places in the Memphis area to access the Mississippi River.  In fact there are exactly four.  Two are downtown, one above town, and one below town, here within McKellar Lake.  However you are faced with a seven mile flat water paddle to get there!  Boat Ramp at the legendary Riverside Park Marina.  This route is not recommended except of course in emergencies, or if you just want to get a close inspection of the inner workings of the Memphis Industrial Complex.   The marina website states the following: “Riverside Park Marina on McKellar Lake has provided emergency and routine services for vessels on the Mississippi River 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for over 50 years. Owner Larry Pop Stanley and wife Rita are proud of this tradition of public service. 1875 McKellar Lake Dr. Memphis, TN 38109 (901) 946-2000”  For more information go to:


724 T.E. Maxson Wastewater Treatment Facility

If you are paddling past the mouth of the McKellar Lake Harbor and staying left bank at low water you might notice a roaring whitewater feature charging into the Mississippi through a deep rip-rap culvert. This is the outlet of the Lower Water Treatment Facility for the City of Memphis.  At medium water it becomes a slurry of frothy commotion you’ll want to observe from a safe (and sanitary) distance.   At high-water it gets completely submerged, you won’t see any evidence, but you will still clearly smell it.


According to a City of Memphis Report, The T.E. Maxson Facility treats an average of 70 million gallons per day of wastewater under NPDES Permit #TN0020729. The T.E. Maxson Facility is located at 2685 Steam Plant Road and began operation in 1975. It has gone through a series of major changes over the years. The treatment regime currently consists of coarse bar screens, grit removal, fine bar screens and primary treatment followed by high rate trickling filters, conventional activated sludge, and secondary clarification. Treated wastewater is discharged into the Mississippi River. The primary and waste activated sludge is sent to a covered lagoon system for anaerobic digestion. The digested sludge is dewatered with belt filter presses and the dewatered sludge cake is land applied on-site. The biogas generated by the covered lagoon system is both sold to a nearby utility and flared. (City of Memphis Report)


Paddler’s Routes below Memphis

Dismal Point/Ensley Bar/Cow Island Bend Area Miles 727-712