The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

St Louis to Cairo

132.5 - 129.6 RBD Establishment Chute/Schmidt’s Island

Adventurous paddlers could stay right bank descending and enter Establishment Creek at 129.6RBD for some superlative exploration of the steep forested Mississippi River Hills. Establishment Creek divides the floodplain from the Hills. Trees and undergrowth that grow on one side of this creek do not grow on the other. Several ravines drop in from the hills, first Frenchman Creek, then Lawrence Hollow, and then the best one of them all, Magnolia Hollow. You are now in Magnolia Hollow Conservation Area. Tie your canoe up and walk softly. You will be rewarded with amazing sightings!


128.7 RBD Lawrence Hollow/Magnolia Hollow Conservation Area

This rugged 1,740-acre area is bordered by Establishment Creek and Schmidt's Island, along-side the Mississippi River. The area features steep bluffs and scenic river views. Eagles are commonly sighted along the river. The forest at Magnolia Hollow Conservation Area is diverse, ranging from mixed hardwoods to cedar glades. Magnolia Hollow, itself, is a deep draw, containing a wide variety of trees, shrubs, herbs and wildflowers, including begonia orchids. Wildlife management practices in forest include creating watering ponds, planting fields to serve as food sources for animals, and harvesting timber, which provides improved forage and cover for wildlife. Management of Magnolia Hollow and Establishment Creek corridors is minimal and is designed to protect the steep and sensitive watersheds. (From Missouri Dept. of Conservation)


127 RBD Tower Rock Stone Company Quarry


125.6 Ste. Genevieve and Modoc Ferry

The Ste. Genevieve and Modoc Ferry is the last remaining ferry on the Middle Mississippi. Watch for its passage back and forth as you paddle through here, and be sure to pull your vessel out of water if making landing, or suffer possible upset from crashing waves along the shore. This landing and the harbor further downstream are equidistant from town. See Rivergator Appendix for services and points of interest to paddlers. Good access to Ste. Genevieve but be sure to secure your vessel and don’t leave valuables on board. Station one of your team as guard, or portage vessel for longer stays.


125.6 LBD Consolidation Coal Company, Kellogg Dock


122.5 RBD Ste. Genevieve Harbor/Gabouri Creek

The Ste. Genevieve Harbor is silting in, and bankside businesses are shut down. Paddlers can access harbor when the river is above 12SLG medium water or higher, and continue on up Gabouri Creek drainage in high water. In fact as the river becomes bank full 25SLG you can paddle all the way into town! As with all river landings, protect your vessel and belongings by hiding under vegetation (or in nearby inlets). See Rivergator Appendix for Ste. Genevieve services and points of interest to paddlers.


122.5 LBD Upper Moro Island/Back Channel

Upper Moro Island is found LBD at the top of the 2,000 foot wide Moro Island Back Channel. Paddlers can get through its narrow opening around 18 SLG. When the water is lower, great campsites form between the islands. The river here is strong and fast in high water.   The water roars into the back channel over a 1,000-foot long wing dam. At low water, below 10SLG, the wing dam rocks become visible and below 6SLG a string of sparkling clear blue holes are found below the dam wall. On a hot summer’s day in low water, stop for a refreshing swim! Blue holes are formed in high water levels when the powerful currents hit some obstruction like a rock wall, are lifted up and then drop down. This partnership between man and nature has created one of the Mississippi River’s greatest assets!


122 - 120 LBD Moro Island

One mile wide and two miles long, Moro Island offers some of the best camping anywhere along the Middle Mississippi, especially at medium water levels or higher. It is the first island below St. Louis that has big sandbars even at flood stage (30SLG). The best high water camping is found top end in park-like sandy bottom, open woods, a delightful stand of silver maples, sycamores, and cottonwoods -- with views upstream. Back channel opens up around 10SLG with good flow. Good flow going behind island in med water, and strong in high water. A smaller island (Upper Moro) sits to the left of the top of the back channel which can be explored by water in medium water 15SLG or higher -- with another “button” of an island found above it. As water drops the private campsites top end become inaccessible by the extent of the giant sandbars, although beach camping along river’s edge is possible if the weather is calm and no wind is expected. Big sandbar emerges bottom end on main channel in medium water and continues to grow as the river drops down to low water 4-12SLG.  


120.4 RBD New Bourbon Port Authority

Like many economic incentive projects on the Middle and Lower Mississippi Rivers, the New Bourbon Port Authority has yet to realize its potential and remains as vacant as they day it was carved out of the mud. This is kind of sad given its fancy name!


117.8 - 115.8 RBD Beaver Island

Beaver Island is a 245- acre division of the Middle Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge, which was added in 2004 through a donation from Ducks Unlimited. It has a mature cottonwood forest, an active side channel, and several secondary channels near the main river. Located at the junction of the Kaskaskia and Mississippi rivers, its cobble and gravel riverbed offers sturgeon and other native fish good spawning habitat.


117.4 LBD Kaskaskia River

The Middle Mississippi River Wildlife Refuge headquarters is now located at Kaskaskia Lock and Dam. There are good boat ramps both above and below the Lock and Dam that provide adequate access, parking, and camping opportunities. The one below the dam is the best one, and of course much more useful to paddlers wanting access to land on the Illinois side of the river (unless of course you just want the thrill of locking through the dam!).


117 LBD Ellis Grove Landing

Several hundred yards downstream of the mouth of the Kaskaskia there are a couple of beautiful landings created by creeks spilling off the Pawnee Hills that might be useful camps in strong winds or storms out of the north, or just a good picnic site. The first one is a hole in the wall to jump quickly off the main channel for shade or wind protection, a slot canyon of foliage and sand and mud (depending on river level) with a grove of big cottonwood trees above. You might have company if you camp here, popular fishing spot. The second one is another hundred yards down.