The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

St Louis to Cairo

51 LBD Giboney Island

Giboney Island hugs the Illinois side of the river LBD downstream of the Cape Bridge. You could find narrow sandy camps here in all but the highest of water levels, but you would hear traffic, and better sites are found not far downstream on Marquette Island.


51 - 47 LBD Marquette Island

Marquette island offers one of the most reliable highwater campsites on the entire Middle Miss (along with Ste. Genevieve’s Moro Island, Rockwood island, Brown’s Bar, and a few others). Great spot but surrounded by industry on the top end. Plenty of other locations in bcak channels and backside of island. The island is one of seven of identified as a "string of pearls" several years ago by the Middle Mississippi River Partnership as “environmentally important properties.” The partnership, a coalition of 16 public and private agencies, works to promote the environmental health of the river. Best camping in high water is top end. Find a place protected by the trees, and enjoy the enchanting view of the Cape Bridge and its city behind.   In low and medium water levels, good camping can be found around the outside edge. Paddle along and keep looking until you find something that appeals to you. Marquette Islan d contains 550 acres of forest, primarily cottonwood and willow, and approximately 280 acres of sandbar. Marquette Island provides habitat for pallid sturgeon, interior least tern, and Indiana bat.


51 - 47 Cape Bend Chute (Marquette Island Back Channel)

In low water the back channel of Marquette Island (Cape Bend Chute) can be accessed through a break in the dike LBD near mile 51. You will avoid a lot of industry and busy traffic located in this short stretch of river by taking Cape Bend Chute. There is an almost continuous line of dikes across the top of the back channel, but you will find an wide opening at the base of Giboney Island LBD near mile 51 which opens around 12 CGG with slow flow. This opening becomes turbulent around 15 CGG with a strong eddy below. By 25CGG the dikes are all under water and medium flow can be enjoyed below. A cross-channel dike is located 2 miles down Cape Bend Chute (near mile 48.3) which can produce big waves and strong turbulence. In low water you will have to run through the notch in the center of the dike. In medium water the dike goes under, and the best flow concentrates in a powerful V-line tongue of water mid stream. If you feel like exploring a blue hole full of wildlife, make a landing LBD below the dike and follow the big eddy around in a big circle and make a landing on the big bluff of gravel LBD. Tie off your vessel and walk up and over riverbank. If you walk quietly and stay low you might sneak up on some unsuspecting wildlife like egrets or herons, turtles and deer. In warmer months this pool makes for a fabulous swim hole. When the conditions are right it will be brim full of clear deep water, cool on a hot day and warm on a cool day.   The enjoyment of a Mississippi River blue hole!


48.8 RBD Castor River Diversion Channel

Historically the Castor River ran free across the Missouri Bootheel into the Arkansas Delta, to join the beautiful St. Francis, and parallel the Mississippi for hundreds of miles past Caruthersville, Osceola, West Memphis and Marianna, all the way down to the end of Crowley’s Ridge at Helena Arkansas. But sometime in the last century the flood fearing farmers of the Bootheel prevailed upon the engineers to re-route the poor Castor (which is latin for Beaver) to an ignominious ending here below the Cape.


The Castor used to run southward to eventually join the St. Francis River.   But the poor abused Castor, once a beautiful Ozark stream that ran into the Missouri Bootheel, was ripped from its natural channel by flood-fearing engineers, and forced through the lowlands to join the Mississippi through the Castor River Diversion Canal, the Headwater Diversion Canal, and then the Ducktown Ditch, to meet the Mississippi at here at the Cape.


48 RBD Southeast Missouri Port Authority/Cape Girardeau Slackwater Harbor

Small but sometimes busy slackwater harbor located LBD opposite the base of Marquette Island. Watch for tows steaming in and out of harbor.


46.2 RBD Gray’s Point

The Pawnee Hills crosses the Missouri River at Gray’s Point forcing the river eastward and a little north before it finds a break and cuts south and across Clear Creek.


45.8 - 45.5 LBD Rock Island

This small island staunchly blocks the mouth of Miller Creek (also Sexton Creek and Clear Creek) at Gale, IL. Excellent winter forest camping, but you’d want to avoid in the summer for lack of sandy landings and profusion of mosquitoes.


45.5 LBD Clear Creek

Clear Creek enters the Mississippi River around Rock Island, after having been diverted from its original channel for dozens of miles upstream.


46 - 40 Pawnee Hills/Thebes Dome

2011 was a flood year. 12 months later the Mississippi River experienced extreme low waters that threatened to shut down shipping at Thebes due to the Thebes Domes. The Thebes domes rise from the bottom of the river here where the dolomite rock of the Pawnee Hills has been rounded into massive underwater summits. Normally far below the bottoms of passing tows and barges, 2011 exposed the vulnerability of navigation. The Army Corps responded in normal operating procedure by executing a platoon of heavy duty earth-moving machinery and tons of dynamite, TNT and plastic explosives t blow their way through the obstructions and open the passage.


44 LBD Thebes, Il

Once a thriving river town, Thebes is now a sleepy landing after having gone through several transfusions of life, including the steamboat era, the railroad era, and the modern highway era.  Thebes got the steamboats and the highway, but it was the railroad that killed Thebes, when no station stop was built.   Thebes is ideally located at the base of short bluff, with neighborhoods behind and on top of the bluff.  Nothing much in the way of business remains downtown except a Pentecostal Church and a decrepit campground, functional but unmaintained.  The smattering of houses in various neighborhoods are still inhabited.  The 1993 flood dealt downtown Thebes a hard blow, from which it recovered better than some riverside villages such as the ghost town Seventy-Six. The bluff above downtown Thebes is dominated by the former courthouse of Alexander County, which was designed and built in Southern Gothic style and features a two-story porch and four giant front pillars.   A striking half moon attic window punctuates the front facade.  Legend says that Dred Scott, a slave whose Supreme Court decision set back black rights by declaring that African-American slaves had no claim to freedom, may have been imprisoned in the courthouse jail awaiting trial in St. Louis.  Abraham Lincoln practiced law here. Thebes, like the city of Cairo, also in Alexander County, Illinois, is named after the Egyptian city of the same name. This part of southern Illinois is known as “Little Egypt.” In literature, Thebes is the home village of Captain Andy Hawks, his wife Parthenia Ann Hawks and daughter Magnolia in the Edna Ferber novel Show Boat. (Wikipedia)