The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
66.6 RBD Moccasin Springs Harbor and Boat Ramp
The Moccasin Springs Harbor is a seasonal harbor, that is seasonal with the river level. The harbor is created by a elbow shaped wing dam that protects the bank in front of the boat ramp, with the campground behind. It is a protected harbor in low to medium water. But as soon as the water starts flowing over the dike (between 15 and 20 feet on the Chester Gage) the water flows past this place and the harbor disappears. Regardless, the water is somewhat slowed here, and makes easy access, and doesn’t move fast until it gets up around 25 ChG.
The boat ramp is usable down to 5 on the Chester Gage, then it bottoms out in goopy piles of Mississippi mud captured by the harbor. Popular amongst local fishermen, but also used by towboats for crew changes. Why here? Typical crew changes are every 6 weeks, with 4 weeks on 2 weeks off. Instead making the crew switches in crowded places like the Cape or Chester, it is sometimes easier for tows to find places to pull over in remote stretches like Trail of Tears. This is all to say don’t be confused when you see a tow pulled to a stop along the bank here. But keep your eyes sharp on their movements, and be ready to get out of the way in a hurry. They could pull out at any moment, and may or may not see your approach. Monitor VHF Channel 13 if you have a radio – they will most certainly announce their intentions. How do they make the change? Using on-board cranes a tow crew will drop a motorboat into the river using the tow as a dock, and then make the run back and forth from there. This can be a tricky maneuver in the wind and the waves, but is otherwise routine.
66.6 RBD Mississippi River Campground (Trail of Tears State Park)
Paddlers will be happy to find showers, internet access, fresh drinking water and laundry at the Mississippi River Campground of the Trail of Tears State Park. Access is found from the Moccasin Springs Boat Ramp. You might be camping next to RVs and motorcycle campers, and the train rumbles by all night long. But after days of empty sandbar campsites, this might be a welcome change, especially after a hot shower and washing your clothes. An extra bonus is that Missouri State Parks have wired the campground for WIFI.
Take a walk through the Missouri woods on one of the many trails. Hike to road up to the visitor’s center, although it’s open with very limited hours. Current fees (2014/2015) are $13 April through October and $12 November through March. To make a reservation, visit mostateparks.com at any time, or call 1-877-422-6766 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. CT daily. A $2 per night camping discount is available year-round for senior citizens (65 years and older) and persons with disabilities. This discount should be requested at the time of payment. Proof of age or disability is required. Camping fees include sales tax.
The Mississippi River Campground is open and reservable year-round. During the off-season (November through March), potable water is available from the frost-free spigot at the dump station. Note: The railroad is active. For maps and more information please go to: http://mostateparks.com/campgrounds/trail-tears-state-park.
66.3 RBD Moccasin Springs Creek
Moccasin Springs Creek drains the low valley to the south of the high bluffs at Trail of Tears. Quick and easy exit from the river (located at the south end of the harbor several hundred yards south of the boat ramp), but no access beyond railroad tracks due to narrow culvert. Best access to park is using the boat ramp and harbor, or surrounding riverbank.
63 – 61 LBD Hamburg Landing Dikes
Series of sandbars behind dikes cutting into the left bank channel of the river with saw-like precision, one after another every thousand feet or so, pick the one that looks the best from the distance, swing in around the eddy and pull up to your own private hump of sand with great views of the Missouri Bluffs rising and falling in gentle cadence upstream towards Trail of Tears State Park.
62.5 – 56.6 RBD Schenimann Chute
Excellent back channel route and exploration at medium or high water levels, bisected by a series of wing dams and pools during low water. Schenimann Chute side channel and Windy Bar Island are located along the right descending bank between river miles 62.5 and 56.5. Schenimann Chute is important for “Big River” fishes that need off-channel habitats for healthy life cycles, such as the endangered pallid sturgeon. River flow through Schenimann Chute: 10 SLG no flow, 15 deadwater, 17 slow flow, 20 moderate flow, and 25SLG strong flow. WARNNG: there is a big dike halfway down Schenimann Chute approx 2 miles down near 60 RBD with waterfall whitewater feature through notch, passage not advisable below 15 SLG.
62 – 57 RBD Windy Bar Conservation Area
Windy Bar Island is a five mile long island completely protected by a Missouri Conservation Area by the same name with approximately 705 acres of riverfront forest and sand bar habitat. Schenimann Chute, a river side-channel, is located on the western side of the island and the main channel of the Mississippi the east side. Windy Bar Island Conservation Area is extensively forested with approximately 90 percent of the island chain composed of riverfront forest or wet-mesic bottomland forest natural communities. Cottonwood and willow are the dominant tree species on the island. Forested ephemeral wetlands, sandbar, and streambank/riverbank communities compose the remaining cover types that can be encountered on Windy Bar. The Island is important for federally endangered pallid sturgeon, interior least terns, and many Mississippi River fishes that are declining. Campers are limited to 14 consecutive days in a 30 day period. Groups of 10 or more campers need a special-use permit.
61 – 55 LBD Picayune Chute
Warning: Two dangerous blockages to negotiate: 1) a lowhead dam at McClure and 2) a tall dike near bottom end. No passage below 16 CGG. A low water bridge/dam at McClure creates 3 foot hydraulic keeper waterfall at 17 CGG. Picayune Chute is best paddled above 25CGG, but be prepared for turbulence at these two locations.
Probably the longest back channel on the Middle Miss, Picayune Chute meanders eight miles through the bottomland floodplain and forests, offering paddlers excellent opportunities for birding and animal watching. Best paddled in medium or high water levels, above 25CGG. Enter off the main channel near mile 61 left bank descending on the Illinois side. The entrance is opposite Windy Bar Conservation Area. After eight miles Picayune Chute opens up at Minton Point Bar, a large sandbar with high bluffs on the downstream side LBD, affording great year-round camping. Bald eagle habitat.