The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
Helena Boat Ramps
There are two landings in the Helena Harbor. Both are located near the top end of the harbor, one on each side. You can use either one, but in general the one to the West is more usable at low-med water levels. It’s less muddy, better maintained, less steep — and much wider. But it is also further away from town and sometimes busy with unfriendly fishermen and other motorized vessels who aren’t always courteous to paddlers. Also the East Ramp goes completely underwater and the access road is closed at 40 HG. At high water levels you will have to make landing on the West Ramp.
If you are making a short foray into downtown Helena you might want to pull over to the East Ramp, the one closest to the downtown levee. It’s narrow, short, steep and often gooey with the famous sticky & stinky mud of the Lower Miss, but at least you won’t have to elbow your way in through motorized traffic, and it’s a quick walk over the levee to town. There is talk in Helena about expanding this ramp specifically to accommodate paddlers. Helena’s Strategic Plan identifies the need to become better oriented towards eco-tourists like hikers, bikers and paddlers. With some simple implementation Helena could become the paddler’s destination on the Lower Mississippi, and improving this ramp would be a giant step in the right direction. Historic Cherry Street runs north to south parallel and directly behind the levee, and the Delta Cultural Center is the first building you’ll see and want to visit. Be sure to hide or safeguard your canoe or kayak! Carry any valuables with you!
On the other hand the best vehicle access is the West Ramp. If you are starting or ending your journey here and someone is dropping you off (or picking you up), drive to the West Ramp (via Perry street through the Helena River Park). If you plan to stay longer and camp, or are concerned about over-night security, the local police are directed to close a security gate to the access road (for cars) after mid-night. Call (870) 338-5555.
663 RBD Helena-West Helena
Mark Twain said that Helena occupies “the prettiest situations on the Mississippi River…” Twain should have also added: “and the driest…” Thanks to Crowley’s Ridge Helena has the distinction of being the only remaining population of any size to be found directly on the main channel in between Memphis & Vicksburg, some 300 miles of river. This fact in of itself deserves special attention. Other locales such as Rosedale, Greenville and Arkansas City that used to be “sho-nuf” river towns sitting right on the banks of the main channel and serviced by water vessels have been abandoned by the unstoppable shifting nature of the big river. Crowley’s Ridge provides Helena high ground and squeezes the river enough that you can still walk over the levee from downtown Cherry Street and watch towboats go sailing by, stick your toes in the water, and board your canoe. The American Queen Steamboat will resume passage in spring 2012 with stops here.