Natchez to St. Francisville
363 Natchez Bridge
The Natchez Bluffs make several final expressions as you push on downstream, one being the bridge bluff itself, with a second prominence following. US 84 and US 98 cross the Mississippi River over the Natchez Bridge. A Victorian House and Natchez B&B straddle the second prominence, looking like they might fall down the steep kudzu-covered cliffs. The building situated most closely to the precipice of the bluff is the BriarVue, constructed in the early 1980’s. It serves as a bar and restaurant with a spectacular view of the river and the low lying grounds of Louisiana. You can paddle into the base of either of them for close-up inspection of loess geology here, but save your time for the best bluffs are yet to come, at the Tunica Hills (best seen below Clark Creek, and below Tunica Bayou).
363 RBD Vidalia Boat Ramp
There are two good public boat ramps in Vidalia, one directly under the bridge, good at any water levels above 15NG, the other a few hundred yards downstream good at any water level. You can fill water bottles at the newly built Vidalia Convention Center, which is also at the base of the bridge. You could also just as easily resupply in Vidalia as you could in Natchez. But your food choices are more limited, and Vidalia can’t match the allure of its sister city’s fancy sprawl over the top of the bluff.
362.8 RBD Vidalia Boat Ramp (Lower)
Great boat ramp usable at all water levels (until extremely low conditions when it bottoms out in mud and is isolated by a sandy/muddy gravel bar that forms between it and the river). Of course, us paddlers can find access at any water levels anywhere.
361 LBD St. Catherine Creek (New Mouth)
This mid-sized creek starts in the hills north of Natchez and scribes an arc around the city itself. St Catherine’s Creek has played an important part in the history of Natchez from the era of the Natchez Indians and also for early settlers. For most of the year the creek is ankle deep, with a few deeper pools. The real treat is the rare time that the Mississippi achieves a stage well beyond flood.
For paddling on St Catherine, any stage above 40 ft on the Natchez Gauge will do. Access will be limited to putting in at the Adams County Port boat ramp and paddling downstream for a distance of several hundred yards to the mouth of the creek. Stages in the low 40’s will allow a paddler to go upcreek several miles as far as the Lower Woodville Rd bridge. Cut bank, some loess and stands of willow and cottonwood are the most prominent features.
Above flood stage, 48 ft, and into the high 50’s gives the ultimate experience. A touch of wilderness in an urban environment. This also allows for a put in at Providence Park, located on Highland Blvd. Beyond the bridge at Lower Woodville Rd more loess bluffs
appear. Large stands of cottonwood, pecan, sycamore and an occasional cherry tree appear. If one is lucky, oak leaf hydrangea can be seen as well. There is also a diverse environment for wildlife. Alligators, deer, soft shelled turtle, a variety of snakes and dozens of bird species thrive here. The pinnacle of this experience is to catch a very high river stage during the spring migration of the neo-tropical birds with a visit to the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians by canoe.
When conditions are right, this area makes for pleasant paddling for those of any experience level. Private property borders the creek on both sides, so this must be a consideration for any place that a stop may be made. (Adam Elliott)
360 - 356.5 RBD Natchez Islands
Your first best campsites downstream of Natchez are found on its namesake islands, which begin to emerge right bank descending in a four mile long archipelago of narrow islands. Good camping throughout up to medium water (around 20NG), then the choices become limited to the top and bottom ends of the first island (RBD 360) and at Whitehall Landing (RBD 359). A sweet shelf of sand is found between 20 and 25 on the breadloaf-shaped Natchez Island #3 (RBD 358).
Beavers thrive within the Natchez Islands. Your sleep might be interrupted by the frequent splashing of their tails, a territorial behavior. Don’t set your tent down near the opening of one of their burrows, or near their scent mounds, as discovered and here described by Mark River from his blog (see Appendix for complete blog):
“I made a bad decision. Arriving at camp, I noticed five beaver scent mounds on the edge of the sandbar. Five different mounds. Another towhead island with a deep back channel that’s home to a territorial beaver family. I made the mistake of camping to close to the scent mounds. I took a walk on the backside of a island. A muddy bluff with steep drop offs. Deadfall throughout the bluff. The beaver must have picked up my scent from camp and followed me along the bluff smashing its tail. A smaller beaver followed not splashing its tail, but mimicking the large beaver. I never seen a beaver so persistent. Splashing its tail over and over, eventually continuing through the night. Didn’t get much sleep as the terrible beaver harassed me all night. That night I leave my tent to relieve myself- and every time the beaver awoke splashing throughout the night. This beaver never slept.” (Mark River Peoples)