The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Natchez to St. Francisville

348 - 345 LBD Ellis Cliffs (Mississippi Loess Bluff #5)

The Mississippi Loess Bluff #5 does not come close enough to the river to touch from the water, unless the river is at extreme flood stage.  At normal water levels you would have to walk through deep woods and swamps several hundred yards to reach their base.  But from the distance, they stand as tall and impressive as the Petite Gulf Hills, and from the air appear to be an extension of the Natchez Bluffs.  Marion Bragg provides a succinct history of the cliffs: “Richard Ellis brought his family into the Natchez District around 1785, when it was still under Spanish dominion, and established his plantation in the area that was then known as the White Cliffs. When Ellis died in 1792, he had accumulated 6,000 acres of land, more than 150 slaves, and an impressive amount of other property. It took three years to settle the complicated estate and distribute the wealth among his heirs.  The high chalky bluff below Natchez was known as Ellis Cliffs by 1800, and was often mentioned by river voyagers.”

 

344 RBD Esperance Bottom

A protected harbor is formed in a natural alcove at the very bottom of Esperance right bank descending around mile 344.

 

341.3 RBD Fairview/Old River

Access to Old River and Fairview Landing can be had year round through this runout into the old channel of the Mississippi at Glasscock (which is almost directly across the main channel from the mouth of the Homochitto).  Good location for emergency exit in oncoming storms.  Paddle one mile up the runout and into the lake.  The boat ramp is found on the south shore of the lake (left bank as you’re entering the lake from the river) nestled amongst some hunting camps.  Great birding and amphibians along the way, especially where the runout enters the lake.  Access to land by following the levee north to LA Hwy 15, which runs north to Vidalia/Natchez.  Good location for takeout after a daytrip or overnight on the river.  Contact Adam Elliott of Quapaw Canoe Company in Natchez for guiding, shuttling, and more information.

 

The Mamie S Barret

While not the easiest attraction to view from the river, it is a sight that should be seen.  The Barret is a connection to the river’s not so distant past, when paddle wheeled ships where the dominate form of transportation commerce. The trip is best made as part of a land based expedition from Natchez followed with paddling on Old River, but a determined paddler could paddle the 10 miles from the Mississippi River, up the Old River Chute and then to the Barret if desired.  The now abandoned steamship lies about 20 miles south of Natchez and 10 miles from the river she formerly plied.  Go to Rivergator Appendix VIII for a full account of the rise and decline of the Mamie S Barret.  Using the address 253 S. Prong Rd  Vidalia LA 71373 in any GPS or online map/direction service will take you to the Barret.

346 - 341 Glasscock Cutoff

The discerning paddler might notice a forest of cypress stumps left bank descending poking up out of the steep collapsing banks along this four mile stretch of river, between the old mouth of St. Catherine Creek and Washout Bayou, all contained within St. Catherine’s NWR.

 

341.1 LBD Washout Bayou/Homochitto River

The Homochitto is the last of the major tributaries from the state of Mississippi, and ranks along the Yazoo and the Sunflower as one of the most worked-over by engineers and land movers.   Historically the Homochitto meandered through the cypress forests of the floodplain and eventually entered the north end of Lake Mary, an old oxbow, and then exited the south end of the Lake to wander down to the Mississippi near Fort Adams.   The Buffalo River also flowed into Lake Mary, and joined the waters of the Homochitto.  In the overzealous flood control projects of the last century, the Homochitto was re-routed to flow due east down the old channel of Washout Bayou in something called the Abernathy Channel, and cut off entirely from its beautiful pathway through Lake Mary.  The engineering caused massive erosion along the Homochitto resulting in some of the worst headcutting in the south.  In 1906 the river at Rosetta was 96 feet wide with an average depth of 4.5 feet and a speed of 0.66 feet per second. By 1976 it was 328 feet wide, a foot deep, with a speed on 1.43 feet per second, according to Geological Survey measurements.   Today only the Buffalo remains as a reminder of that not so long ago river channel.  Keep reading further downstream for a description of the mouth of the Buffalo River, and possible access to Fort Adams.

 

Paddlers could duck into the mouth of the Homochitto for close up viewing of a stand of ancient cypress trunks still visible from the Glasscock Cut-Off.  You could perhaps find temporary shelter in inclement weather, but be careful of its notorious Homochitto flash-flooding which can increase the flow a thousand-fold from its average 1156 cfs to  118,000 cfs following torrential rainstorms in the area.  The mouth of the river is wide and exposed here, and the general landscape not very inviting.  Two fishermen died near here in the after overloading their boat with fish and getting hit by a severe thunderstorm.  You would find more interesting camping further downstream. 

 

The 90 mile long Homochitto drains about 1200 square miles of the Mississippi Piney Hills, falling from 380 feet at its highest tributary to 33 feet at the Mississippi River Confluence.  The Homochitto defines the southern perimeter of the St. Catherine’s NWR.  (see entry for 352.5 LBD St. Catherine Wildlife Refuge).  Several miles upstream Gilliard Lake is found just over the trees.  The whole area is thick with wildlife and interesting paddling.  Using good maps, GPS, and your intuition pick a route and follow your heart into some of the deepest intact wilderness around.   A paddler with strong sense of direction and good survival skills could retrace the old channel of the Homochitto to Lake Mary, but only in high water, and with a good deal of bushwhacking.  

 

For more about the Homochitto River, and its possibilities for paddlers, consult the classic book Canoeing Mississippi by Ernest Herndon.