The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail


Scientific/Historic/Graphic Works:


The Rivergator will illustrate the changeable nature of the islands and river bends in maps and text, employing a wide variety of sources.  The Pantheon of literature relating to the Lower Mississippi River is of course quite broad and extensive, almost as varied and deep as the river itself.   I will leave off for now proving the ways in which The Rivergator fills a literary vacuum, and instead describe a selection of the titles I have read over the years in preparation for The Rivergator, many of which will be referenced, and all will be described in full bibliographic detail below.


Marion Bragg’s 1977 Historic Names and Places on the Lower Mississippi is my traveling bible for mile-by-mile understanding of the river’s unusual and sometimes contradictory nomenclature (one of the few books I carry during my paddling expeditions).


For map-making and graphic understanding of the morphology of the Mississippi River and its changing water/landscapes, the following were extremely helpful: Karl Bodmer’s America (paintings from the 1832-34 Prince Maxmillian expedition), America Mississippi (early 1800s, Charles Alexandre Lesueur), and Roger T. Saucier’s Geomorphology and Quaternary Geologic History of the Lower Mississippi River, 1994).


My maps are based on a combination of five sources: (1) The 1983 – 2015 Expeditions conducted by myself, Sean Rowe, Michael F. Clark, Joe Royer, Adam Elliott, John Gary, Paul and Michael Orr, and others; (2) the 1998 US Army Corps Flood Control & Navigation Maps of the Mississippi River, (3) the US Army Corps Hydrographic Surveys of 1988-1989 and 1991-1992; (4) the 7 ½ minute series and 15 minute series of the United States Geologic Survey for the regions being described and mapped, and lastly (5) satellite images available through Google Earth.


John Barry’s 1997 book Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and how it Changed America, depicts the river using the latest hydrologic & historic findings in its first six chapters, taken together in a chapter titled “The Engineers.”  An earlier 1927 Flood narrative also useful and full of eye-opening documentary photographs & documents, is Pete Daniel’s Deep’n As it Come (1977).  John McPhee’s essay on drainage in The Control of Nature (1989) is a stirring & eloquent narration of the controversial “Old River Control Structure” which was built in between the Atchaflaya River and the Lower Mississippi in an attempt to save New Orleans from the next 500 year flood. This Land, This Delta: An Environmental History of the Yazoo-Mississippi Floodplain (2005, by Mikko Saikku) has been extremely lucid and matter-of-fact in describing the forests and floodplain of the Mississippi Delta and how nature and the works of mankind have changed them, and continue to alter them.

For river explorations, I read and have referenced The Narratives of DeSoto Vol I & II (1904), La Salle, the Mississippi, and the Gulf: Three Primary Documents (1987), The Voyages of Marquette in the Jesuit Relations (1966: Readex Microprint), and The Travels of William Bartram (1791).


Some beautiful and telling river panoramas are expressed in John James Audubon’s 1834 Dileneation of American Scenery and Character and Agnes Anderson’s 1994 Approaching the Magic Hour (in which one chapter narrates a Mississippi River canoe journey made with her husband painter/potter Walter Anderson in 1924).  Two helpful regional autobiographies are Hodding Carter’s Where Main Street Meets the Levee (1952), and Willam Alexander Percy’s  Lanterns on the Levee (1950).


Applicable in only the most general sense to an overall contemporary understanding of the Mississippi River Basin is Mississippi Currents (1996, Andrew H. Malcolm & Roger Straus III) and The Mississippi: The Making of a Nation (2002 Stephen E. Ambrose & Douglas G. Brinkley).