The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

733 President’s Island

Boiling out Memphis and riding the fast water of the main channel the downstream the canoeist or kayaker will be buoyed increasingly westward and even northwestward by the hulking teardrop shape of President’s Island (which is actually a compound island joined by its sister Vice President’s Island).  If you were previously battling a south wind in downtown Memphis you will now enjoy some protection from President’s Island, especially if you stay towards the left bank descending.  Paradoxically if you were happily riding a north wind through Memphis you will now be faced with a challenging crawl as the currents propel you into side winds and then head winds as the sometimes blustery westerlies or northerlies race across the open river from the open fields of Arkansas and are funneled up through this bend.  It’s best to stay off the river if the forecast calls for anything over 25 mph.  Remember, head wind speed is increased by the speed of the river (while tail winds are reduced).  Side winds can sometimes be the worst.  Side winds will make smaller but choppier waves which can accumulate dangerously along the edges of the big boil and eddy lines of the Lower Mississippi and quickly fill and swamp open canoes and kayaks.  Kayakers should seal their spray skirts and canoeists should keep bailers ready if paddling in strong side winds.  On a river, head winds make bigger swells, but they tend to hit the canoe or kayak in the way that canoe & kayaks are designed to best withstand: from their bow or stern ends. 


Within two miles below the bridge you will leave the last of industry left bank descending, and you can turn and look back for the last glimpses of the pyramid and downtown Memphis from the unusual perspective seen framed by the Lower Bridges and the south bluff.  I love watching the pyramid and the color changes from different perspectives.  Like water, its glassy sides reflect whatever is going on in the sky around it, but changed.  Is that the last of the city?  Not completely.  There is still some right bank activity to come around West Memphis, Arkansas.  And the busy mouth of the industrial harbor is eight miles downstream LBD.  But for the most part you can relax and enjoy the resumption of bankside forests, sandbars and the wild beauty of the Lower Mississippi.  Even the Mid-South’s biggest city is dwarfed by on the floodplain of the Mississippi River.


Marion Braggs Historic Names and Places provides some interesting glimpses into the colorful history of President’s Island:


“During the latter part of the Civil War, Presidents Island was the site of a refugee camp for more than 1,500 blacks from southern plantations. The Federal agency called the Freedmen’s Bureau established the colony but when the Bureau was abolished, the ex-slaves had to learn to take care of themselves. Some of them may have gone to work for Confederate General Nathan B. Forrest, who retired to Presidents Island for a time after the war to manage a large plantation. General Forrest had been a slave trader in Memphis before the war, and so firmly did he discipline his labor force that many of them may have wondered whether the difference between slavery and freedom had been exaggerated.


“Many years after the Civil War, a pest house was maintained on Presidents Island. Most southern cities had such crude hospitals, where people with highly contagious diseases could be isolated from the general public. With the pest house and a prison located on the island, respectable people gave it a wide berth until some years later, when it became a sort of gambler’s paradise in the 1920’s. In January,1924, cock fights on Presidents Island attracted international attention. Birds from Mexico, Cuba, and other countries were matched against each other, and huge sums of money were wagered on the outcome of each gory battle.”

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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