The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail


We go around Dead Man’s Bend and wonder why it's named like that... we would like to think it’s not because of paddlers & canoe.  Eagles sightings are starting to be more regular on the water. Which always is cool.  John spots a bald eagle and it flies downstream to Artonish Island and sits high up top a tree. This is our island (mi marker 325) to setup camp. So we land at the north tip of the island.  There is no firewood around, so we have to walk 200-300 yds away to bring firewood to the kitchen area. We use a lot of wood to cook our meals and for warmth. Plus, wood for the morning fire. We're pretty tired from the long 33 mile paddle....but we collect enough wood... Then venture off on the island to find a place for our tents and hammocks.


The sunset was amazing and I watched it all. I didn't mind at all setting up my tent in the dark (with headlamp).  Brax got the mixed mystery stew going. Dinner was all about us talking about today and what we saw.  The campfire is hypnotic and one by one leaves to go to bed.


Day 6 = 27 miles.  Total paddled to date = 145 miles Remaining = 70 miles.  Mississippi River Expedition Vicksburg to Baton Rouge (210 miles) Dec 11. Woke up at 5:00am on Artonish Island (mi marker 325). I used my kelty tent for the first time on this trip. The woods on the island were just too thick to put up our hammocks (Nathan too). The north wind was blowing pretty good and a little chilly (? Low 40's) in the morning. John has the campfire going and the coffee ready ... Like always. You can't wake up before John.... he's always there when you wake up. There is a good gravel bar on the island filled with petrified mud, quartz, coal and just cool rocks. The wind dies down and our tents and gear dry out... So we pack up. I jump into Adam Elliot's canoe with Braxton and everyone else in the 30 ft Grasshopper canoe. It's partly cloudy and in the 50's (high of 60 today). We pass by the Old River Control Structures. They can be really dangerous because they draw off 1/3 of the Ms River to give to the Atchafalaya River. Barge traffic has picked up and we laugh when a Captain says there's 2 canoes and I don't see how the big one is floating. The Grasshopper is packed in a big pile in the middle. I'll get a picture of it packed. It does look like it'd sink. Lunch is cheeses, salami, watermelon, ham, bread and any combination you decide. Paddlers, mike and Paul Orr find fresh persimmons that have dropped and brings back a bunch. They are sweet and John makes a sandwich with them. We pass by Angola Prison /Louisiana State Penitentiary (not visible... Just the land and ferry). Another funny towboat experience happens as we get past Shreves Island (famous person that Shreveport is named after). We're cruising the river and a towboat behind us by about 2 miles blows a single horn at us. We look back and keep on paddling. After 15 min, he blows his horn at us again. He is still way back there... Because we're going just a little slower than the towboat. After 15 min, the captain gives us 5 horns... Which is danger. He's like a mile behind us and we move 100 yds away from the red buoy line and John rides the red buoys. We hear the captain say well, the one smart canoe got out of my way... The other one is going to cause me problems. Adam, Brax and myself were the smart canoe and we made sure everyone in the other canoe know it. We paddle another 30 min and make our campsite before he actually passed us. We land on Hog Island (mi marker 298). There are beaver sign everywhere (tracks, cut willows...). Dinner was a great vegetable soup by Adam. We added Doritos in it... Because they were there... And they are awesome. The temp feels great and the clouds roll by and the sky is full of stars. Great day # 6.

Day 7 = 26 miles.  Total paddled to date = 171 miles Remaining = 44 miles.  Mississippi River Expedition Vicksburg to Baton Rouge (210 miles) Dec 12 Friday Stayed up late late night on Hog Island (mi marker 298) talking around the campfire. It was tough to wake up at 5:00am... But you never know how beautiful the sunrise will be. Last night low temp 44. High today 67 and partly cloudy. Our routines have become more optimized. Eat breakfast. Break down tent and pack gear. Then pack gear into canoes. On the river at 9:30am. We stop at some irregular soil formations for a break and at lunch. They are a certain bluff and I forgot their name, but they have high vertical white cliffs with reddish iron mixed... All mixed with clay and sand. The river is really wide and long straight sections down here and there are a few places you can 6-8 miles down the river to the next bend. We got to a really wide and long section of the Mississippi River (and we were in the middle of it). So we started yelling and hooting to see how our echo bounced around. It bounced 3 times. We did it almost ten times... Then as I was about to yell again... Someone fired a rifle shot fairly close by. We didn't hear the bullet skip by... But we picked up our paddle and stopped testing out the echo . Hehe... We got a big kick outta that. We land on the front right side of St. Maurice Towhead (mi marker 272) and make camp. Driftwood isn't too far off like the last two islands. We all get that done 20 minutes. As we're getting wood, we find a red kayak up on the island. No doubt someone lost it during a storm... Or who know how it got here. It's red and I think it said Perception and maybe 8 ft. Looks like a whitewater boat. But I didn't pay too much attention cause we're supposed to be getting firewood. I guess Nathan decided it was bath night... So we jumped off in the cold ass river in our shorts and washed hair and body. Yeah, it was pretty darn cold and we did it at the worse time... The sun was almost gone. My feet started hurting slightly... I guess the bodies way of telling you if you don't change something you will die... Kinda like holding your breath. But we fought through the discomfort and we now are clean as a whistle. I would do it again in the winter... It's actually like an instant energy boost and definitely great from a long physical day of paddling. Tomorrow we land at the town, St. Francisville and pickup and little supplies (and some beer! Ralph wants tequila...)


Day 8 = 17 miles. Total paddled to date = 185 miles Remaining = 25 miles.  Mississippi River Expedition Vicksburg to Baton Rouge (210 miles) Dec 13 Saturday A beautiful sunrise on St. Maurice Island (mi marker 272). Ralph found a 8 ft kayak (perception dancer xs)... John says it's ok to tow it on the trip. So the big canoe gets it. Sunny warm day of 70. Sky rarely has a cloud in it. We stop at lunch close to St Francisville and Paul and Mike's father shows up at the boat ramp and gets Braxton and Adam to go get supplies. We arrive at our campsite, next to Fancy Point Island(mi marker 255 on the Left bank Descending). There are a ton of Pelicans and other birds. All of a sudden a water plane does a fly by in us... We wave. Then he comes back and lands right in front of on shore. Then takes off and leaves. It was really cool. Paul and Michael Orr start making chicken andouille gumbo and rice. It's a family recipe and it is some kind of good! The sunset was amazing and Ralph gets Adam and Braxton to paddle out for a great picture moment. Two pecan pies are cut up into slices and handed out for dessert. The campfire feels good to our sore muscles. This is our last night on the river. I want to keep on going... But we'll have to wait till March 2015 for the mighty Quapaws to have another Rivergator expedition (Atchafalaya River 159 miles). I look forward to that trip.


Day 9 (last day) = 21 miles.  Total paddled in nine days = 207 miles.  Mississippi River Expedition Vicksburg to Baton Rouge Dec 14 Sunday This is our last day on the river and we’ll make Baton Rouge in the afternoon. Great temp last night to sleep in a tent/hammock (low temp 45). Beautiful sunrise (again) and the +500 pelicans and +500 seagulls all returned to the sandbar 200 yds south of our campsite. They were swirling around sandbar like a bird tornado. The chicken andouille gumbo was so good last night… we had it again for breakfast. We didn’t’ have any more white rice, so we used oatmeal as the rice substitute. Oatmeal & Gumbo… a classic sandbar combo. John and Mark ‘River’ Peoples perform a Quapaw ceremony with burning incense (white sage) and a drum on the river bank by Fancy Point Island (mi marker 255). We thank and bless the river. One group picture by Ralph’s tripod and we’re off. Sunny blue skies, no clouds, light breeze and low 60 temp (high of 71 today). This trip was blessed with great weather for sure. It didn’t rain on us anytime that mattered (only a light shower that I didn’t even hear one late night). We pass by the massive pelican and seagull population on our left as we jump into the main channel. Our first island we get to is Profit Island. There is flow in the back channel, but there is a Corps of Engineer warning on the Navigation Chart that an underwater stone dike has been constructed across the chute. John said there may be 3-4 ft waterfall at the dike. Braxton, myself and Adam are in the smaller canoe (and Paul, Michael, Ralph, Nathan, River, Lil Mike, and John are in the big canoe). Braxton convinces Adam after… constant…. Convincing. Adam gives in and we tell John we’re going to survey the stone dike on Profit chute. The chute is 3 miles long and the other route in the main channel is 5.5 miles long. So, it’ll be a shortcut for us (adam, brax and me). But dang, if there wasn’t even a ripple of water back there…. Of course we tell everyone we went over an 8 ft waterfall. It was HUGE! Towboat drama today titled “The Days of Our River” or “As the River Turns”: The towboat Captain of the “Crimson Duke” pushing a 7 x 6 says several times “ the canoes are in the middle of the river. At least they’re smart enough to wear life preservers. They must be CRAZY YANKEES!”. We normally don’t talk to the towboats unless it’s needed… but, that “crazy yankee” comment warranted a response. Adam replied back on the radio “We ain’t no crazy Yankees…”. Either the Captain didn’t hear it (most likely) or he didn’t care. The hilarious part of this is … this Captain is complaining that we are in the middle of the river and blocking /causing problems…. Yet we PASS the Crimson Duke 3 TIMES along 20 miles. He is so big and the turns are so tight, that he has to stop and let the river turn his towboat in the right direction. Let me repeat that …. We(human powered canoes) pass the Crimson Duke (diesel powered) three times on the Mississippi River in 20 miles. Honestly, the towboats go just a little faster that our canoes most of the time… unless they are really throttling down. The river starts getting busy with towboats as we get close to Baton Rouge. The tall buildings are in our view. We pass by 4 super tankers/cargo ships on our left. There are three northbound towboats all space across the river and all of a sudden a towboat pushing one barge pops up behind the super tanker and coming right at us. He sounds a single horn twice at us and we head out into the middle of the river cutting in-between the 3 towboats. Those super tankers/cargo ships are huge. My first time paddling 30 feet from them. Local paddler, Mike Beck, paddles out and escorts us to the Baton Rouge boat ramp. The sun is going down and it’s another beautiful sunset (even over the harbor businesses). Perfect end to a perfect trip. Thanks to the Quapaw Riverguides: John Ruskey, Adam Elliott, Braxton Barden, Mike and Mark Peoples. Thankful for new friends, old friends and great memories.