The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
915 RBD (Back Channel) Bend of Island No. 8 Boat Ramp
Bend of Island No. 8 Boat Ramp is a good quality concrete ramp built over the rip rap on the backside of Island No. 8 about two-thirds of the way up the back channel with access via the levee. Take the levee west to New Madrid (approx 15 miles) or east to Big Oak Tree State Park (2 miles).
914 – 913 LBD French Point Gravel Bar
The best and most extensive gravel bar is found below French Point when the water falls below 20CG, and even better below 10CG. The river washes rocks, fossils and other hard objects like glass shards and brick and lumps of coal, from hundreds of miles upstream, maybe thousands, and they get scoured up out of the river bottom in high turbulence places like French Point. Excellent rock hounding is found on these gravel bars with an unusual mixture of colors, minerals and textures. As noted above, Paddlers should give tows plenty of berth in the Chute of at the bottom of Island 8, as the main channel gets squeezed into a narrows in a zig-zag route.
911.5 LBD Island No 8 Chute Boat Ramp
Island No 8 Chute Boat Ramp is a well designed and constructed concrete boat ramp laid out over the rip rap in a remote stretch of the river in the Chute of Island No. 8. French Point Gravel Bar is just upstream of the ramp, and a mammoth wall of rip-rap LBD lining the chute going downstream. Access via levee to Hickman (10 miles east) or Reelfoot Lake State Park (10 miles south).
910 – 907 LBD Milton Bell Bar
The Madrid Bar stretches out almost three miles along the Kentucky shore left bank descending below the Chute of Island No. 8 with the best landings for picnics and campsites around mile LBD 910. The Madrid Bar is layered sand and gravel at top end, becoming more sandy bottom end. This is a high bar that does not go under until bankfull (around 35CG).
907 – 900 RBD Donaldson Point Dikes
A seven mile series of sandbars and willow clump forest islands has grown up along the Donaldson Point Dikes, RBD along Donaldson Point. From mile 907 all the way down to mile 900 there are 11 dikes in all and almost each one has a sandy island or a flat sandbar in between. The best camping is found where willow forests have grown upon taller clumps of sand and mud, notably at LBD 904 and LBD 903. Here you can find better protection from the sun and wind amongst the young willows and cottonwoods, and enjoy the pleasure of your own island. The dikes go under around 20CG. In higher water levels (above 30CG) you can stay off main channel and find a wonderful line of travel behind all of the islands with good potential for wildlife viewing. Hug the islands, or hug right bank descending and find sandy landings amongst mature forests along the shore, much of it protected by Donaldson Point Conservation Area.
905 – 887 Welcome to Tennessee?
Like the popular dancer at a ball, the Mississippi sashays into Tennessee for 8 miles around Donaldson Point, and then recrosses the dance floor to share one last dance with Kentucky, throwing Tennessee to the side momentarily. There are 175 miles of Mississippi River total flowing along the western border of Tennessee, if you add in this piece at Donaldson Point. After revolving completely around Bessie’s Bend, the Mississippi will take Tennessee again as a partner at mile 882.
RBD 908 – 905 Donaldson Point Conservation Area (and also RBD 896-893)
Donaldson Point Conservation Area occupies 5,785 acres on a unique point of land facing southwards between Island No 9, No 10, and Slough Neck (Bessie’s Bend). The Mississippi River forms part of the east and west boundaries as it slides down and around the point, first south running, then north running, and provides about seven miles of river frontage. The trees include cottonwood, willow, ash, elm, maple, pecan, sycamore, box elder, hickory, and some bottomland oak species. For birders Donaldson Point is home to several species not usually seen in the Mississippi lowlands including the endangered Swainson’s warbler (nests in giant cane). Also seen are Mississippi kites, bald eagles and interior least terns. Swamp rabbits, and cotton mice run through the undergrowth. There are good fishing opportunities for bass, catfish, crappie, carp, buffalo, and sunfish. Hunting is allowed for deer, rabbit, squirrel, turkey, and waterfowl during season. (From the Missouri Dept of Conservation Website)
Reelfoot Lake State Park
Some say Reelfoot Lake was created by an earthquake. Others say the Great Spirit stomped his foot on the ground and created the lake. Both stories agree its waters were filled from the Mississippi River, as the lake is just ten miles south of Donaldson Point. According to Chickasaw legend, Reelfoot Lake is said to be named for an Indian chief who was born with a deformed foot and walked with a rolling motion, so was nicknamed “Kolopin,” meaning Reelfoot. When he became chief, Reelfoot determined to marry a Choctaw princess, but her father would not permit it. The Great Spirit warned Reelfoot that if he attempted to kidnap the maiden, his village and his people would be destroyed. Reelfoot disobeyed the Spirit, and seized the princess by force and carried her to Chickasaw territory, where he arranged a marriage ceremony. In the middle of the ceremony, the Great Spirit stamped his foot in anger, causing the earth to quake, and the Father of the Waters raised the Mississippi River over its banks, inundating Reelfoot’s homeland. The water flowed into the imprint left by the Spirit’s foot, forming a beautiful lake beneath which Reelfoot, his bride, and his people lie buried. Others say the 15,000 acre lake was created by a series of violent earthquakes in 1811-1812 that caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards for a short period of time, creating Reelfoot Lake. Regardless of which story you believe, the park’s ecosystem is a natural wonder. Reelfoot lake is a shallow flooded forest. While majestic cypress trees rise above the water, below the surface are many submerged cypress stumps. A variety of aquatic plants and flowers occupy the shoreline and saturate the shallow water. The lake harbors almost every kind of shore and wading bird as well as golden and American bald eagles. During January and February, Reelfoot Lake is home to thousands of migrating American bald eagles. Warblers migrate through in the spring and fall. Also, owls may frequently be seen and heard. Long Point Unit provides better access for viewing the abundance of waterfowl in winter. Several pairs of Bald Eagles nest around Reelfoot Lake and can be seen year round, which greater numbers in winter. Other wildlife includes migrant warblers, vireos, and flycatchers. Least and yellow-bellied flycatchers are possible in May. Look for Mississippi Kites, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons (in the woods), a possible Anhinga, among other waterbirds. Cerulean and Swainson’s Warblers nest here. (From Wikipedia and Tennessee State Parks)