The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Cairo To Caruthersville

947.7 RBD Pritchard Boat Ramp

Narrow concrete boat ramp in pretty place along the river, kind of feels like a French road with a single line of mature cottonwood trees behind, accessible from levee. Good at most water levels down to 5CG, parking lot goes completely under around 35CG.


950.5 - 945.5 RBD Pritchard Revetment

Revetments are protective works designed to retard or halt the attack of currents against the banks of the river. They help preserve waterfronts, levee systems, and other flood control and navigation works. There are more than 600 miles of revetment work along the Lower Mississippi River. They consist of articulated concrete mattresses, laid under the water, with stone or riprap paving above the waterline. A bank-grading unit prepares the river's banks for the protective work, and a mat-sinking unit assembles the mattress on the spot and lays it in the water. On the Lower Mississippi, where almost everything is on a grand scale, erosion problems naturally assume gigantic proportions. It took more than half a century of experimentation for the Army Corps of Engineers to develop the methods and the machinery used today to produce the articulated concrete mats that stabilize the river's caving banks. It has been estimated that when the river attacks an unprotected bank it can erode as much as 600 feet of good earth in a year's time. Even a moderate attack by river currents can eat up 30 to 70 feet of river bank annually. The soil that disappears as the banks cave away soon reappears as sand and silt temporarily suspended in the water. When the load becomes too heavy, the river drops it, and it forms sandbars, towheads, or islands. In the past, small towns have been totally destroyed by the river.


944.5 LBD Island No. 1 Boat Ramp

Low angle concrete ramp that bottoms out in mud in med/low water levels (30CG and below), and not always maintained. Best bet if you need access in this area is to go on down to the next ramp, the Carlisle County Boat Ramp, which is about a mile further downstream on the same side of the river.


943.6 LBD Carlisle County Boat Ramp

Well designed concrete boat ramp descending at moderate angle amongst the rip rap in the deep water of the main channel near mile 943.6.


945 - 943 RBD O’Bryan Towhead/Pritchard Dikes

Possibly camping on the sandbar, but often muddy and trashy, best in low water levels, up to around 20 CG, then goes completely under, although the small sliver of forested island behind stays dry until around 35CG. Paddlers seeking shelter from easterly winds could jump behind the last stand of trees on top of the island at RBD 943 for some relief, and then jump into the next opening below, the Chute of Island No. 2.


943 - 939 RBD Chute of Is. No 2 (Lucas Bend)

Adventuresome paddlers ready for back channel exploring should look for the obvious opening through the forested riverbank around RBD mile 943. Slow flow at 25, gentle at 30, strong at 35.   Five mile bend around the bulky shape of old Island No. 2, the 2nd island so numbered by Zadok Cramer in the early 1800s. The channel gentle curves left and right and then arc southward in a gentle half moon curve to re-emerge onto the main channel through a shallower channel that is becoming populated with mature willows, and might require some maneuvering amongst the trees to paddle through. 7 mles of back channel 4 miles in the main channel.


942 - 939 LBD Campbell Dikes

A long sandbar emerges here to the left of the main channel only in the lowest of water levels. Miles of fleeted barges on right bank descending, against Is. No 2 being made in tows by the Ingram Company, the largest tow operation on the Lower Mississippi.


938 - 937 LBD 2nd Kentucky Loess Bluff

Columbus-Belmont State Park sits on top of the next spectacular display of loess geology at the 2nd Kentucky Loess Bluff. This bluff and the nearby town of Columbus was once called “Iron Bank” for the striking red coloring staining the cliffs. Paddlers can make landing at bluff base and secure their vessel (or pull it out of the water) for exploration. Be wary of falling rock and collapsing bluffs, especially after precipitation.


The area where Columbus-Belmont State Park is today was once a fort for the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War.  The area was strategically located on a large bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.  Standing on the bluff, one can look up the Mississippi River for oncoming Union forces for miles.  And considering how slow movement was along the river, it would be easy for the Confederate forces to fire upon the Union armies. Confederate General Leonidas Polk created the fort on the bluff around September 3, 1861.  Officially the name was Fort DeRussey, but Polk referred to the site as the “Gibraltar of the West”.  It was one of the most strategically significant sites in this part of the country due to its ability to control traffic on the Mississippi River.  The fort would also help protect important cities down river such as Memphis and Vicksburg, Miss.  It also was the northern terminus of the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, which was an important supply line for the Confederacy.


Chain Across the Mississippi?

One of General Polk’s unique ideas was to stretch a one-mile iron chain across the Mississippi River to keep Union forces from heading downstream.  Today it would seem like a logistical nightmare to pull off, but considering this was 150 years ago makes the feat all the more impressive.  Polk had hoped the chain would stop the Union boats long enough for the Confederates to bombard them with cannons. The chain was suspended in the river on a pontoon bridge, made up of several flat-bottomed boats.  By removing certain boats, the chain was raised or lowered.  However, the system was flawed and soon the chain broke.  At one point, too many boats were removed and weight of the chain plus the current of the river was too much for it to handle. The chain had an anchor on one end that weighed anywhere from two to six tons.  The chain’s links were 11 inches long and weighed just over 20 pounds each.  When the chain was exposed during a landslide in December 1925, officials dug around the chain until the anchor was revealed.  It had been buried in 11 feet of earth with its 9 foot flukes fixed vertically to 12-foot oak logs.  It had been there for 64 years. The chain was preserved by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1934 by building a stone monument to hold the chain. This is now on display in the park. (from Columbus, Kentucky website)