The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
88.4 LBD LaCour’s Island
LaCour’s Island is a nice small bar, but backed by hunting camps and full of 4-wheel drive tracks.
88.3 RBD Star Landing
Primitive remote access over railroad tracks. Popular fishing spot.
87.2 RBD Cumberland Rock
At Cumberland Rock you will find a pile of angular grey boulders fallen over the riverbank. Great place to stop, stretch your legs, picnic and go exploring.
85 – 83 RBD Gill’s Point Bar
An open sandbar emerges downstream of Gill’s Point in low and medium waters, good for picnicking, wading, swimming, but no protection, no firewood. Not recommending for camping, especially in threat of wind, storms or rising river.
84 – 83 LBD Fountain Bluff
Fountain Bluff is a remarkable bluff, a jumble of jagged boulders tumbling down the steep angle plateau into the river. This free-standing plateau is a leftover from glacier meltdown, the river used to plow over the land behind and to the east of Fountain Bluff. But then at some point it carved a new hole to the west of the bluff, creating a steep rocky parapet that borders the water with an incredible jumble of building-sized boulders falling into the river. Take your time and get as close as you can to the boulders. Some are as big as houses. Lots of places to eddy in and enjoy a unique picnic site that feels more like the New River, or the Ocoee, or some other Appalachian stream than it does like the muddy Mississippi. The illusion is shattered by passing towboats and the width of the river beyond. At 83 LBD you can paddle up to and sometimes around and behind house-sized boulders that have toppled into the river from unseen heights.
82.8 LBD Fountain Bluff
You can locates some interesting sandy shelves in low and medium water levels here, that could make isolated 1 or 2-person camps, amongst some huge smooth boulders laying in various angles along river’s edge.
81.3 RBD Wittenburg Boat Ramp
Private boat ramp, no services. Picnic pavilion and small parking lot. Long walk to the nearest stores (5 miles — Altenburg) but well worth the hike if you want to see the very unique Lutheran Church and Museum. Picture-perfect small farms of all shapes and sorts and sizes fill the valleys and checkerboard the landscape above the Middle Mississippi, but Altenburg and vicinity seems to have fostered the richest assortment anywhere. Dairy, pigs, chickens, sheep, cattle, goats, horses, you name it, sprinkled in with corn fields, soybeans, wheat and vineyards. The small farm seems to be alive and well on the Mississippi Hills.
80.8 LBD Grand Tower – Devil’s Bake Oven (Rock Cliff)
After bouncing off Fountain Bluff the channel goes river center and paddlers looking downstream will become aware of an unusual feature seen left bank, a chunky shape rising right out of the water. At first it appears to be a grey boulder, but by and by you realize there are trees on top. It must be larger than a boulder. Trees don’t grow on a boulder. At low water you’ll see a cave on the west side facing the river. This is the Devl’s Bake Oven. Make a landing from the big eddy swirling downstream of the cliff and climb up an unkept trail on its backside for great views up and down the river. At low and medium water levels you can camp, but there is a dirt road behind leading to the nearby campground and town, and you will probably have company.
80.5 LBD Devil’s Backbone Park & Campground
One of the most beautiful parks on the Middle Mississippi straddles the Devil’s Backbone, a ridge of limestone leftover from the glacial days when torrents of water 20-30 times the Mississippi is today scoured everything movable out of the valley and deposited rocks, gravel, sand and mud. As it receded, the falling waters left behind monuments of the surrounding hills in the valley such as the Devil’s Backbone.
Devil’s Backbone is an unusual limestone ridge that runs for about one-half mile along the eastern shore of the Mississippi River at Grand Tower. At the north edge of the Backbone, there is steep gap and then the Devil’s Bake Oven, a larger rock that stands on the edge of the river and rises to heights of nearly one hundred feet. These two landmarks were used by river men to signal a shallow spot in the Mississippi River. Before the river was dammed, keelboats and barges were towed over the sandbars using mules. This bottleneck became a natural hijacking area for river pirates. The raids by river pirates became so bad that in 1803, a detachment of U.S. Cavalrymen were dispatched to drive the outlaws from the area. In the late 1800s an iron foundry was built on the hillside on Devil’s Backbone. (From Great River Road)
You can make a primitive camp on the sandbar downstream of Devil’s Bake Oven (Rock Cliff) if the water is below 20 on the Chester Gage. But if you don’t mind being amongst RVs and car campers, you might want to camp at nearby Devil’s Backbone Park & Campground and enjoy hot showers and running water. The primitive camping for us paddlers with tents is located at the north and south ends of the park. Take a walk and pick out your place, and then paddle up as close as you can get for easy access from the river. Devil’s Backbone Park sits upon the River to River Trail, as well as the Lewis and Clark Expedition Trail. There are hiking trails into the Backbone. Campfires are permitted, and firewood can be acquired on site. The park also supplies fire rings and picnic tables as requested. Fees for tent camping is $7.50/day.
Note: You will find another ideally located public campground 14 miles downstream at Trail of Tears State Park, which has showers, laundry, and WIFI.
The River to River Trail (American Discovery Trail)
The River to River Trail crosses 160 miles of Southern Illinois from Battery Rock on the Ohio River to Devil’s Backbone Park in Grand Tower Illinois on the Mississippi River. The River to River trail is part of the American Discovery Trail that extends 5,000 miles coast to coast from Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware to Point Reyes National Seashore in California, and claims to be our only cast to coast non-motorized recreational trail.