The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

St Louis to Cairo

39 - 35 LBD Santa Fe Chute

The Santa Fe Chute is another name for the Back Channel of Burnham Island, and opens up top end around 12 CGG with slow flow, but increases steadily with each foot of rise. By 25 CGG the half mile wide opening will be bank to bank water with good flow, maybe 3mph, but be forewarned: WARNNG: turbulent 4-foot drop through devilish rocky teeth of cross channel dike around 25CGG. Best passage 30CGG or higher. There are no cross channel dikes occluding Sanat Fe Chute, but you might notice a series of alternating stub dikes along each shore.


37.7 - 35.7 LBD Jacket Pattern Chute

At flood stage the water starts flowing through the woods of Burnham Island and concentrates into Jacket Pattern Chute, recreating the old islands Goose Island (and Little Island above it.


34 RBD Goose Island Blue Hole/Old River/Horseshoe Lake

A giant blue hole is contained bhind the wall of rip rap at mle 34 left bank descending. It is open to the paddler at all water levels, you can point your canoe or kayak into the opening in the rock wall at low water (or paddle over the turbulence n med or high water) and make landing on the sandbars against the bank. A short hike over the levee will bring you to an old river channel now completely isolated as a lake.


Horseshoe Lake Nature Preserve

Over the levee behind Goose Island Blue Hole, and the Old River, an ancient channel of the Mississippi River plowed through the flat landscape and cmpleted a tight 180 degree bend in a shape reminiscent of present day Dogtooth Bend or Greenleaf Bend. The river changed course, and left the giant lake with a 20 mile shoreline deep in the woods. The 10,200 acres of shallow lake and extensive forests comprised of bald cypress, tupelo gum, swamp cottonwood trees and wild lotus make you feel like you’ve reached Louisiana! Well not quite, but you’ve almost reached the Lower Mississippi River and the flora and fauna is changing. Fall and winter paddlers will see large populations of waterfowl and bald eagles. Spring and summer guests will enjoy the vibrant colors of the foliage. Some of the most beautiful blooms are found on red buckeye shrubs in April and wild lotus in June. Native southern hardwood forests are abundant, and two large, undisturbed tracts have been dedicated as Illinois Nature Preserves. These preserves are open to visitors, but also are used for scientific research and education.


34 - 33.3 RBD Billings Island

Billings is a small muddy island with a narrow back channel that is fun to explore, and enjoy a little taste of the trees and wildlife. Possible low/medium camps top and bottom end but not recommended for camping in high water except in winter winds or emergency.


33 - 32.7 RBD Lower Billings Island

Lower Billings is smaller than its big brother upstream but affords better camping in medium water levels. Three chevrons are placed at the edge of the main channel adjacent Lower Billings, and you might notice inexplicable turbulence in the water as result.


31 RBD Doolan Chute (Powers Island Chute)

Paddlers will notice a small opening right bank descending with enough water for back channel exploration, except in the lowest of water levels. This is the old Doolan or Powers Island Chute, which defines the bottom end of a huge flooplain that starts below Commerce, nine miles upstream. Tens of thousands of acres big, Powers Island still floods in big water like the 1993 flood, and is all still within the batture of the big river.


31 - 29 LBD Bumgard Island

Bumgard is a classic mid channel island that makes you feel like you could be in the Florida Keys or on some Polynesian island, its beautiful, wild, and sits alone in the middle of a big open body of water. Best camping in area (along with Brown’s Bar). Excellent all season picnicking or camping is found on Bumgard Island, which is a two-mile long expanse of clean sand at low water. In medium water you could jump into the back channel top end and stop wherever you are most attracted to. All the sandbar beaches disappear in high water, but a small bump of willows, silver maples, and young cottonwoods near mile 29.5 remain above water with good sandy floor camping up to flood stage 32 CGG.


31 - 29 LBD Bumgard Island Bend

Deepwater weirs have been placed in the main channel around the outside of Bumgard Island Bend. Paddlers in this stretch of river might experience a lot of upwelling disturbances as result, and the waves from upstream tows might be larger and more chaotic than they normally would be.


29.8 RBD Price Landing

At low and medium water Price Landing is a great all weather protected bluff of sand in between the edges of a big eddy and the towering forest above. In high water campsites can be found in the sandy bottoms below towering cottonwoods and sycamores on the tall riverbank.


27 Hacker Towhead Levee Break

The levee disintegrated here in the height of the 1993 flood and a turbulent wall of water several hundred yards wide burst through and rushed outwards across Dogtooth Island spreading out and flowing across the point to re-enter the river near Sister Missouri island. From the air the scene would have invoked the great flood post ice-age. Farmers are still digging sand out of their ears here where the fast silt laden waters added several feet of infertile sandy sediment over hundreds of acres of rich soil.   A deep blue hole 750 feet long and 150 feet wide remains as a reminder of the violent power of flood water. The mainstem levee had to be re-routed around this whale-sized blue hole after the flood waters receded.