The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

A thriving jungle wilderness through the Civil War, the Delta was considered a frontier into the early 1900s for its deep forests full of giant cypresses, oaks, sweetgums, and a fantastically active wildlife including panthers (cougars) and black bear.  Teddy Roosevelt hunted bear in the south Delta and declared he’d found the biggest trees in North America outside of the West Coast.  Unfortunately, no one thought to save any of these sacred forests, and 90% of them have been cleared away for farmland.  Second growth forests can be seen, however, in some special places that we’ll point out further downstream, including Big Island and Delta National Forest.  Another location is St. Francis National Forest, which you’ll soon pass on your way into Helena.  If you are so inclined, make a side trip from Helena into the lofty forests of St. Francis National Forest for the feeling of what the used to the big woods Faulkner wrote about and Teddy Roosevelt boasted about.  In the cycle of life, the demise of one thing leads to the birth of others.  The best outcome of destroying the greatest bottomland hardwood forests in North America was not cotton t-shirts and jeans.  It was the world-changing art form known as the Delta blues, created by the black men and women who sustained great physical and emotional duress under the sharecropper system, and found an eloquent musical expression to fill their lives and aid in their survival.  As sure as the “Blues Had a Baby and they called her Rock and Roll,” slavery begat sharecropping, begat civil rights, begat poverty, and thus begat gang-banging and black-on-black crime.  The Civil War is still being fought and blues never died.  Such is the contradictory nature of the Delta.  Rising like a Phoenix from her own ashes, the Delta is finding resurrection in tourism, sustainable agriculture, and education. Incredible advances are being made in education as highlighted by the KIPP public school system of Helena, Arkansas, whose students are embracing the river as their landscape in part through learning to paddle canoes and kayaks, water quality testing, and an annual expedition around Big Island. 


Check for blues festivals which abound along the cities and towns downstream during the warmer months of the year.  Notables include Juke Joint Festival (first Saturday after Easter), Sunflower Blues & Gospel Festival (2nd weekend of August), Delta Blues Festival (3rd Saturday in September) and the King Biscuit Festival (2nd weekend of October).  There are many others in between as well.  Go to for complete listings and a well-maintained calendar of juke joint performances and other not-to-miss occasions.  If you can tie in a weekend of blues with your Mississippi River Expedition you will think you have washed into the shores of a paddler’s heaven!


The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta is defined by the Yazoo and the Mississippi Rivers.  The Yazoo “River of Death” is born of several Mississippi Hill Country rivers and streams, including the Coldwater, Yocona, Yalobusha and Tallahatchie Rivers, the same Tallahatchie that Bobby Gentry sang about concerning Choctaw Ridge, a Bridge, and Billy Joe McAllister.  The 450-mile long Yazoo drainage parallels the Mississippi but does not meet it until Vicksburg.  What takes the Yazoo 450 miles is 300 miles on the Mississippi (downstream of Memphis).  A close inspection of the Rivergator Mississippi Delta Map will illustrate the geography of these various rivers, and will also illuminate other famous rivers contained within, such as the illustrious Sunflower River, which drains the heart of the Mississippi Delta including its tributaries the Hushpuckena, the Quiver River and Deer Creek.  As we journey further southward the Rivergator will touch upon these alternate waterways where appropriate and attempt to provide some context to the sometimes bewildering nature of the Mississippi Delta.

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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