The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
951 LBD Wickliffe Docks and Wharfing
Give wide berth for docked barges and service boat activity left bank descending as you’re paddling past Wickliffe. Service boats often make steep crashing waves that are more difficult to maneuver through than towboat waves.
951 LBD Wickliffe Cross (Jefferson Hill Memorial Cross)
Kayaker Jerry Bell “married the Mississippi” when he threw his old wedding band in the water and swore to “honor and protect” his newlywed below this 90 foot tall cross officially known as the Jefferson Hill Memorial Cross. Jerry and his pipe-fitter buddies smoked 10,000 Marlboro cigarettes to win an inflatable 10 foot kayak. He paddled out of his Indiana homeland down the Wabash, into the Ohio, and then on down to this confluence. After marrying the Mississippi, he honeymooned downstream until puncturing the kayak flotation on stainless steel revetment wire. When he reached Memphis he was floating in the water with his gear tied up in a garbage bag. After several years of camping at the mouth of the Wolf River above Memphis, Jerry found an aluminum canoe and finished the honeymoon all the way to New Orleans. He lost this canoe in Katrina but he rode out the hurricane in a tent. The storm surge lifted him into a tree. He climbed down when it receded and survived as a refugee scavenging food scraps and liquor bottles from the debris.
951 LBD Wicliffe Bluff (1st Kentucky Bluff)
As you paddle downstream from the confluence and scan the Kentucky shoreline your eye will be attracted to a splash of yellows and oranges in cliff lines falling off the top of the verdant hills. This is the Wickliffe Bluff, the first of five prominent loess bluffs between the confluence and Hickman Kentucky. Make a landing here and explore the strange array of rocks and minerals and piles of hardened mud. Be careful of avalanches during or after rain storms, as the bluffs are known to periodically collapse. The loess bluffs are result of thousands of years of blowing dust which accumulated in giant piles along the eastern shore of the Mississippi River following the last ices age.
950.2 LBD Mayfield Boat Ramp
Gated and not maintained. On USACE 2007 maps incorrectly labelled as “Fort Defiance Boat Ramp.”
950 LBD Mayfield Creek
You could dive into Mayfield Creek in inclement weather for quick exit from the elements, but you won’t want to stay long. Mayfield Creek is located directly in between the Westvaco Pulp Mill and its nasty cleaning pools.
950 LBD Westvaco Pulp Mill Dock
You won’t want to be camped anywhere downwind of this monstrous pulp mill spewing the usual foul concoction of pulp aromas including known carcinogens, toxins, and dioxins.
949 RBD Norfolk Landing
Abandoned Boat Ramp, but usable in an emergency. Access from levee just north of where 302 meets levee road 303. Steep banked sandbar. Good protection from storms and wind out of the west.
949 – 946 LBD Island No. 1
A small indication of what’s to come downstream, Island No. 1 rises to its full height with its best camping below the small forest of scrubby willows near mile 948. Note: On the Lower Mississippi River, make sure there are no oncoming storms, and no forecast for wind, before camping on an open beach. Many a voyageur has chased their tents and sometimes even their canoes down the sandbars in front line winds. Unless the weather is perfectly calm (or cool enough you don’t need shade) you will want to make camp near or under the scrubby island forests when camping on the big open bars of the Lower Miss.
A gravel is found top end of Island No. 1, with sand alongside midships, and at the bottom end. Gravel bars yield a wide variety of rocks, fossils, coral, petrified wood, and other hard objects that might have travelled hundreds of miles getting here. Island No 1 commands the channel here with huge sandbars at low water (between 10 and 20 CG), which gradually diminish as the water rises. At 30 CG very little dry ground remains and by 35 the entire island is under water. Best protected camping between 20 and 25 CG.
Zadok Cramer: The Navigator
Island No. 1 is a special place being the first numbered island, and the first true island with possible camping on the Lower Mississippi River. All of the numbered islands were so designated by Zadok Cramer when he wrote the 1801 best selling The Navigator, from which The Rivergator gets its name.
Cramer’s charts were crude, but his text was useful and he performed a unique service when he ignored the names of most of the islands in the river and gave them numbers. Until that time, some of the islands had had several names and it was always difficult for a flatboatman to obtain and remember useful information about reaches of the river that contained no distinguishing characteristics except an island or two. The island numbers made it easier to pinpoint and identify the difficult passages on the river. Cramer told the navigators that Island No.1 was about 1 mile long and lay close to the left shore. He warned them that the channel behind it was not navigable and told them to take the channel to the right, or west, of the island at all stages of the water. Cramer’s book, The Navigator, proved to be so useful and so popular that twelve editions of it were published, often with revisions that informed the boatmen about the new river towns that were springing up and about political events such as the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and the West Florida rebellion a few years later. Cramer was followed by many imitators who either copied him brazenly or leaned heavily on his book for information.
Many of the islands that Cramer numbered in 1801 have now joined a shoreline, and some have completely disappeared. Island No.1 has become a part of the Kentucky mainland, but a towhead by the same name has appeared in the Island No. 1 Dikes.
(Braggs: Historic Names and Places)
The Rivergator adopts the names of nearby Islands or geographic locations for some of the newer islands which have sprouted up in and amongst the dike fields.