The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
26.5 – 24.5 RBD Buffalo Island
In medium high water levels paddlers can jump behind Buffalo Island for temporary respite from the harshness of the big open main channel. Squeeze in between the top island and main island for a narrow chute which opens up into the back channel, with a few secret sand dunes on either side that would afford private campsites for small groups. Nice back channel “hidey-hole” campsites on top of a couple of tall sandy bluffs.
25 LBD Brown’s Chute (Top End)
Even at low water strong flow is encountered as the river rolls past Brooks Point and into the opening behind Brown’s Bar, the upstream mouth of Brown’s Chute. In low water pick your best route and follow the dancing currents through the notches in the dikes top end and two more below. In medium water vigorous tongues of boiling brown broth concentrate their forces through the same notches, which are located left bank top end, and right bank (against the island) further down. Turbulence at 25CGG and serious drop at 20CGG. Don’t worry if this seems confusing, just use your mariner’s sense and read the river to find the best passage. At high water you can follow whatever line of travel most piques your interest!
25 – 21 LBD Brown’s Bar/ Dogtooth Island
Brown’s Bar ranks amongst the best island picnicking and camping on the Middle Miss, along with Moro, Marquette and Angelo. Great all year, all weather, all water level camping. Three miles of beautiful beaches surround the island in low water, and you can camp just about anywhere the spirit moves you, but of course be wary of any worrisome storms approaching from the west, or any forecasts for wind. As the river rises there are more choices closer to the woods for firewood, privacy and protection. At high water, acres and acres of dry ground is found top end of the island (near LBD 24) where the water pushes through into the Chute with several shallow channels and creates delightful isolated stands of willows in between shelves of big grain sand. Spectacular tertiary channel. It seems like a third island is getting carved here on the top end as result.
21 – 20 LBD Dogtooth Bar
If you are watching your compass as you round Brown’s Bar you will be surprised to see that the next ten miles the river actually folds back on itself and flows back towards St. Louis, as if it’s not sure if it wants to continue down south with the Ohio. Previous head winds turn into tail winds here and vice versa. In low and medium water levels you will find endless choices for campsites around the bottom end of Dogtooth Bend LBD 21 to 20. While not as interesting as Brown’s Bar they will suffice any river traveler’s with dry sand, spacious sandbars, and incredible stars at night. Watch for deer at sunset, and listen for a chorus of coyotes and owls after dark.
20.2 Thompson Boat Ramp
Thompson Boat Ramp is a narrow concrete ramp in remote location. No services. Limited use. Bottoms out around 25CGG.
18 – 17 RBD Thompson Towhead
There never seem to be good landings along the steep muddy rip-rap banks right bank descending from mile 20 to mile 18, maybe a few sandy bluff purchases in high water, and at low and medium water a lot of slimy muddy flats seem to accumulate around the bend below Thompson Towhead. On the other hand, in high water you might want to dive hard right into the woods at mile 18 RBD and enjoy a short back channel chute through thick willow forests. Sometimes a beautiful sandy landing emerges after high water at the bottom end of this chute (near RBD 17) that would make for a terrific stopping place. In low water you might find open sand on extremity of bar, which is a graveyard of steamboat wrecks.
Approaching the Ohio River Valley
As you come around Dogtooth Bend, and then Greenleaf Bend (two of my favorites in the entire Mississippi River river basin), you are afforded your first views downstream of the Kentucky Hills rising slightly above the bottomland hardwood forests, the evidence of previous high water flows in the massive piles of driftwood pushed against the edges, in some places an unbroken tangle of jumbled logs & branches woven tightly by the mighty Middle Mississippi, like some giant sheep herder’s fence line, all of the rocks & wing dams ravaged by the current, (in 2014) some rock work now in progress at the end of Greenleaf, a rock barge & crane & tow anchored and huffing away loudly & laboriously, the landscape sliding by.
16.8 LBD Scudder Bar
Steep Sandbar below high bank in dismal location at the edge of extensive fields. This would be a good emergency camp for extreme north winds, but otherwise you would be best served by the beauty of the Middle Miss to camp elsewhere, such as Angelo Towhead.
14.5 – 11.8 Sister Chute
Warning: low water dam at bottom end of Sister Chute, at the last dike near mile 12.2. No flow in low water, dangerous drop in medium water, disappears under the flow in high water.
14.3 – 13.5 RBD Island No. 28
Islands 28 and 29 present inhospitable landscapes for paddle weary travelers (due to steep muddy banks in low water, and claustrophobic forests in high), but they make for great off-channel exploration in medium water or higher. Opens up around 15 CGG, with gentle flow around 25 CGG.
13.5 – 11.8 RBD Island No. 29
Island 29 is an active hunting Camp, and accessible by land in low water. As stated above, paddlers should avoid this inhospitable landscape due to steep muddy banks in low water, and claustrophobic forests in high water, except for back channel exploration. Beware of low water dam at bottom end of Sister Chute, at the last dike near mile 12.2.