The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Tunica Lake cuts through the woods several miles due east of here.  It was in this stretch of river, at Ship Island, some 60 miles below Memphis, that Mark Twain’s brother, Henry Clemens, and one hundred and fifty others were lost when the steamboat The Pennsylvania was destroyed by an exploding steam boiler.  The boat had been hurrying upstream in June of that year, and had passed Austin just before dawn. There was a wood yard above the town, and George C. Harrison happened to be out on the river bank stacking cordwood when the big steamer passed. Harrison stopped his work to watch the boat round the bend above him. Suddenly the Pennsylvania seemed to disintegrate before his astonished eyes. A fraction of a second later, a tremendous blast shook the earth, and Harrison knew what had happened. When the smoke cleared he could see that the Pennsylvania was already a total wreck.

Peering through the smoke and fog that still hung over the river, Harrison thought he could see people in the water, struggling to stay afloat and clutching at bits of debris. Young Harrison shouted to his father, and the two men quickly untied a wood flat and rushed to the disabled steamer as fast as they could row the awkward craft.


Ship Island, and the old channel, are now found seven miles to the east within the confines of present day Tunica Lake, left abandoned by the shifting channels of the river and the 1942 Hardin Cut-Off.  


672 RBD Mouth of the St. Francis River

Two miles below Stumpy Island right bank descending the mouth of the St. Francis opens up momentarily and affords a striking view westward through overhanging trees and jumping fish to the Crowley’s Ridge.  If you aren’t looking for it, you might float by this opening without realizing it (paddling down the main channel you might have the space of 45 seconds in which to get the view!).  On the other hand, if you are searching for this place it is unmistakable.  The tall trees of the mature forest open up across a 300 yard wide mouth before closing up again into the next piece of deep forest.  The St. Francis is the first major right bank tributary on the Mississippi River below the Meramec River near St. Louis, which is about 450 miles upstream.  In fact, the St. Francis shares highlands with the Meramec and parallels the Mississippi for hundreds of miles before joining the mother river here in her Arkansas floodplain.  Curious paddlers should eddy out into the St. Francis and make at least one quick turnaround in her chalky waters before continuing on downstream.  If you have more time and want to explore a little, paddle several hundred yards up the normally gentle currents of the St. Francis, at least up to the last series of squiggles above its mouth, for close-up encounters with gar, red-eared sliders, Asian carp and possibly a gator.  There has been a family of gators inhabiting the St. Francis bottoms, although not much has been seen of them since the 2011 flood.  If you are so inclined, make a long side trip from here 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.  Paddle as several miles up the St. Francis and hide your vessel by pulling it completely out of sight up the shore towards the ridge (which will be the left shore looking upstream the St. Franny).  Walk directly into woods watching for snakes and thorny vines as you do.

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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