The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
Helena’s “Low Road” into St. Francis National Forest
The “Low Road” north of Helena runs along the base of Crowley’s Ridge and provides land access to the mouth of the St. Francis River, and the Three-Mile Boat Ramp also on the St. Francis River. This is one of the most beautiful drives in the region with the unique environment of steep Crowley’s Ridge hardwood ridges with ash, pawpaws, persimmons, rhododendron, ferns and equisetum on one side and cypress bottoms on the other side of the road. Trees and plants that grow on one side don’t grow on the other. The road is the dividing line between two distinct biota, and so the driver gets a doubly rich safari! This gravel road is appropriate for bicyclists and hikers. Little traffic. Lots of side roads to explore, including roads to Horner Lake and Porter Lake. No maintained trails, but being National Forest you can follow game trails, or your own line of direction and wander through thousands of acres of ridges, ravines and wetlands without encountering a single other person! Avoid leaving road during hunting season. Watch for poison ivy, snakes, spiders, and lots of briars. Carry a map and GPS.
King Biscuit Blues Festival
(2nd weekend of October)
Every fall, during the second full weekend of October, one of the world’s greatest blues festivals takes place on the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown Helena. As you paddle down the main channel of the river the sounds of towboats and cicadas in the river valley is replaced with the scintillating vibrations of the purest music tradition that was born out of the cotton fields of the deep south — the music that broke down the barriers of segregation and led to the birth of rock & roll — the downhome Delta Blues!
Imagine listening to world-class blues artists from where you sit on the levee, incredible blues performances in front of you, the Mississippi River flowing behind! Traditionally the music starts Thursday at noon and runs through Saturday night. Music is presented at five different stages in the downtown, and historic Cherry Street becomes a pedestrian mall lined with food vendors, arts & crafts booths and street musicians. You can camp directly on the banks of the river in the Helena River Park, or you could camp on Buck Island and paddle in for the music. For your own safety please don’t drink & paddle, and exercise special caution when paddling at dusk, or after dark. Use running lights in case of close encounters with yachts, party boats and other motorized craft that frequent the harbor during festival time.
For more information about the King Biscuit Blues Festival, visit their website: www.kingbiscuitfestival.com