The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

726-717 Armstrong/Dismal Point/Ensley Bar

As noted above, the long chain of forested islands found along Armstrong/Dismal/Ensley is the best camping to be found below Memphis.  Approximately fifteen miles downstream of Mud Island and light years away.  (Note: another beautiful location awaits another 15 miles downstream at Cat Island).  Currently there are five main islands and at least that many minor islands which are fairly static spread out over about nine miles of the main channel. The majority of dry land is found on the second island encountered.  It is about 3 miles long and 3/4 mile wide and replete with good camping at all water levels.  There is a long and wide back channel behind this big island with good flow at high water, in fact the water seems to flow just as fast behind the island as it does in the main channel.  You can also jump behind another island into a narrow channel further back about halfway down, near mile 720.


This archipelago is lacerated by many connecting channels to the back channel which open during high water for exploration and wildlife sightings.  There is only limited access in medium water MG15-25, and no water travel at low water below 15 MG — but you can pull into any number of inlets and continue by foot.  At high water you can camp just about anywhere along any of the clumps of sand found close to the trees.  At low water, however, the topmost island expands to a mile wide low-angle desert that you’ll want to avoid except in the most ideal of weather conditions.  If there is any wind, sunshine or storms you will find no protection, and only shallow landings.  Beware fast rising or falling river on any low-angle sandbars like this one.  You could awake as some paddlers have and find your camp submerged, or worse yet, your canoe departed (always tie down regardless!).  On the other hand in a fast falling river you might wake up the next morning high and dry with several hundred feet of wet sand and mud flats to portage over.  Not as bad as losing your canoe completely, but also not a fun way to start the next day!


In general the best low water camping is found further down the chain of islands.  Canoe or kayak along the right side of main channel (with the green “can” buoys) until you see the sand retreating closer to the woods.  Pick your place and explore.  If one place turns out to be a dud, keep going.  The best camps will have a good landing, access to firewood and protection from wind or sun.  You have about eight miles of riverfront islands to choose from, and the same on the backside.  One of the lower islands (RBD 719) is inhabited by a small hunting camp on stilts, so you may not be welcome there.  The lower islands rise just as high as the upper ones, and afford easy access to the trees at all water levels thanks to a series of inlets behind many peninsulas which jut out into the main channel and then fall back to reveal beautiful harbors and stunningly pristine sandbars alongside.  As in many locations on the Lower Miss you will have to pinch your arm to remind yourself that you are on the muddy Mississippi and not some Caribbean seashore!


If you go back channel at medium or high water (above 25 on the Memphis Gauge) you will find almost as many beautiful sandbars to stop, stretch your legs, picnic on, or camp on, and you will enjoy the added privacy and feeling of wildness.  The woods are deep here, and although you still see the glow of Memphis at night, by day you will feel that you are as deep as any wild places on the Lower Miss with the plethora of birds, turtles, fish, and many mammals such as deer and coyote.  Wild Turkey seem to be particularly thick along these islands.  

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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