The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

St. Francis River:

The 426 mile-long St. Francis River drains 8,400 square miles of the Missouri Ozarks & Boot Heel Floodplain, and is the biggest Mississippi tributary (on its west bank) in between the Missouri River (St. Louis) and the White River. Like many Lower Miss tributaries, the St. Francis parallels the big river for hundreds of miles until finally joining waters.   Indeed, the headwaters of the St. Francis spring forth from the hilly highlands above St. Louis, in numerous creeks & streams which combine and then follow the Mississippi behind St. Genevieve and Cape Girardeau, out of the Missouri Ozarkian Plateau and into the floodplain continuing still parallel in a meandering path behind New Madrid, Blytheville, and West Memphis.  At long last Crowley’s Ridge seems to force the St. Francis to join the Mississippi after this impressive southern run.  Its confluence creates one of the wildest bottomland floodplains in the region.  A cross section viewed east to west would reveal almost 20 miles of forests broken only by river channels and lakes & bayous.   Straddling Crowley’s Ridge is the dynamic St. Francis National Forest. Not far beyond to the East of the ridge are found the parallel drainages of the White River one of which is the “Big Swamp” of the Cache where the Ivory Billed Woodpecker was recently sighted after being considered extinct since the 1920s (unconfirmed sighting).   One of the most interesting sections of the river extends some 30 miles along its course, east of Jonesboro. The massive New Madrid earthquake of 1812 created the St. Francis Sunken Lands. The river, and thousands of acres along it, dropped a few feet to create a wetlands region. A wildlife management area under the auspices of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission preserves almost 17,000 acres of the sunken lands but it remains interspersed with private land.

[add: Louisiana Purchase]


As you enter the waters in your canoe or kayak, the Mississippi is generally the stronger of the two rivers (unless the St. Francis is flooding) and creates a giant eddy at the confluence, oftentimes with boils & small whirlpools where the two meet.  Watch for changes of water color in the meeting of the rivers.  Sometimes it is only a subtle change, sometimes dramatic.  If the St. Francis is flooding it flows a creamy white.  In low water it is a clear greenish color.  The Mississippi varies from muddy orange/yellow/green in high waters to a clearer orange/green in lower water levels.  The two rivers tangle at their meeting, with pools of one river swirling into the other, the St. Francis hugging the Arkansas bank sometimes for hundreds of yards downstream as the mother Mississippi gulps swirl after swirl into her waters to which the St. Francis eventually succumbs and then is completely engulfed in the Mighty Mississippi.


671-673 LBD St. Francis Bar

Created by historic flooding of the St. Francis River, the St. Francis Bar is a perennial sandbar that varies from a mile long at low water, to half a mile at medium water, and is completely submerged during high water (goes under around HG37).  Beautiful picnic site and good swimming from its white sand beaches.  Possible campsite but no protection from the elements.  Watch out for nesting least tern April through June.

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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