The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Buck Island is the best camping in the area.  During medium or low water levels good campsites can be found around perimeter of island on any of the sandy inlets or dunes, or other places with a good landing and natural refuge.  During inclement weather seek shelter in or near the many stands of trees.  If storms are in the forecast, chose a location with shelter from the approaching storms.  Never locate a camp where you might get blown over by the fierce front-line winds that often precede severe thunderstorms.   As with all islands on the Lower Mississippi River paddlers should practice the seven principals of Leave No Trace.


Buck Island is a 1420 acre island with 880 acres of native forests and 620 acres of large white sand beaches at medium water, this grows to almost 3,000 acres of sand at the lowest of river levels.  Of course, at high water there is no sand to be found (above 35 HG).  Buck Island is a refuge and paradise for the long distance paddler because it is now a publicly owned island and you can camp and picnic on it without fear of cramping somebody’s hunting camp or private property of any sort.  Furthermore Buck Island has five miles of hiking trails, and a three-mile side channel. These natural assets provide outstanding opportunities for wildlife viewing, camping, hiking, paddling, swimming, fishing, and eventually hunting, and also supports numerous wildlife species, including the endangered least tern, fat pocketbook mussel, and pallid sturgeon. The island is also a stop-over site along the Mississippi Flyway, used by 65 percent of North American migratory bird species. Buck Island is a one hour paddle from AGFC’s public boat ramp in Helena Harbor, making it easily accessible. The island has been highlighted in national publications including Canoe & Kayak Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, and ESPN, and international programs such as Steven Fry Visits America (BBC).


The largest, wildest & tallest sandbars on Buck Island are located on its top end, the upstream side facing north, and sitting above the northernmost stands of trees.  At low water these sandbars extend almost a full mile above the northernmost trees, and near the water’s edge are mostly gravel.  These gravel bars were once the favorite haunts of noted Helena archeologist “Injun” Joe Madonia.  If Joe’s spirit is found anywhere since his passing in 2011, it will be found here.  If you make landing look out for unusual rocks, fossils and petrified bones, many of which have been washed hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles down the Mississippi River out of all past epochs of geologic history of North America.  And watch out for Injun Joe’s playful spirit & twinkling eyes, which are surely peeking down on us from across the heavens!


Due to its very gentle slope the top end sandbar of Buck Island goes underwater quickly as the river rises.  One foot of river rise might mean hundreds of feet of sand going underwater, so choose your campsites carefully and be aware of the river forecast.


Several years ago two adventurers made a campsite stop on Buck Island after a long hard-days of paddling.  The exhausted pair pulled their canoe up the shore, ate some supper, and then unloaded their sleeping bags and went to sleep, leaving most of their gear still in the canoe.  The next morning they awoke to find their canoe and all their gear had disappeared in the night.  The reason — the rising waters had crept up the shallow bar and floated the canoe away.  Always pull your canoe up and tie it down!  If there aren’t any trees nearby drive one of your paddles deep into the sand or mud for an anchor point. This shows how the river will sometimes surprise even the most experienced paddlers.  Never assume you know everything about the river!  I once had to chase down my canoe as a strong north wind blew it out towards the open main channel.  Saving it required a long swim.  Not saving it would have meant an even longer swim!  Another time I had carelessly laid camp at dark without carefully inspecting the location and not forecasting the river.  I awoke in the wee hours of early morning with water entering the bottom of my sleeping bag!

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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