The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Natchez to St. Francisville

326 RBD Union Point

A good “hole in the wall” campsite can be found right bank descending 326.5 before entering the back channel of Palmetto Island for good protection from southwesterly winds and severe thunderstorms.

 

325.5 - 322.5 RBD Palmetto Island

Two and a half miles long in high water, and maybe a mile longer in low water, Palmetto is a beautiful isolated wild island surrounded by good sandbars and backed by a long back channel that never completely goes dry (for paddlers).  Top end is the first place you’ll find dry ground, and is also might be best bet for the highest of water levels.  Next choice is halfway down around the main channel side where a long bar is found with good camping at all water levels from low, through medium to high.  Or, if the water’s not too high, you can slide down the back channel and get away from the endless noise and stabbing lights of the tow industry.  A large pristine bar grows off the middle of the backside of the island, about one mile down, and is good camping up to around 30 or 35NG, although woods camping could be possible here at higher water levels.  If none of these suits your taste, or you want to get some much needed respite from the heat of the day, read below for a final optimal choice.

 

The forest is choked with vines and undergrowth on the top end, but bottom end descends into a delightful skinny willow forest that comes to a fine point at the southern end of the island.  This narrow forest makes for so-so winter wind protection, but is the perfect place to hide from the mid-summer heat.  A southerly breeze would flow through the woods keeping mosquitoes at bay.  Best enjoyed in a hammock.

 

Marion Braggs: “The palmetto plant, for which this bend is named, is abundant in this area, and grows well in most of the hardwood forests and swamplands of southern Louisiana and Mississippi. Early settlers on the plantations found it useful for making bonnets and fans. The leaves were dried and pressed and braided into long pieces and shaped into hats or bonnets lined with cotton cloth. Making the fans was a simple process. The plant is fan-shaped, and had only to be dried and trimmed to the proper size.”

 

325 - 320 Three Rivers WMA and Red River NWR

From the top of Palmetto island down to Shreve’s Bar the sprawling Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and Red River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR)

create sprawling swaths of deep bottomland hardwood forests, tupelo gum wetlands, and countless lakes, bayous and other waterways, bounded between the Mississippi and the Red River.   When viewed from above, this is one of the most extensive green areas on the entire Lower Mississippi, ranking alongside the White River WMA at the close confluences of the White-Arkansas-Mississippi River systems.  Only the Mighty Atchafalaya River Basin creates a bigger green space.

 

Red River NWR is a critical stop over point for migratory birds and provides crucial wintering grounds for waterfowl and wading birds. Over 80,000 waterfowl utilize the refuge for feeding and resting annually and over 200 species of neo-tropical migratory song birds seek refuge here.   Habitat types include shrub/scrub, open grassland, cypress sloughs, sandbars, various stages of reforested agriculture lands, batture and bottomland hardwood forest and moist soil impoundments. The refuge also has numerous oxbow lakes, bayous, rivers, irrigation ditches and reservoirs. With such a diverse array of habitats, Red River NWR supports an abundance of wildlife including over 44 species of mammals, more than 70 species of reptiles and amphibians, over 106 fish species, more than 200 species of migratory birds, 25 species of waterfowl and an array of plant life. Priority species for conservation found on the refuge include the cerulean warbler, Swainson’s warbler, the endangered least tern, the recently delisted bald eagle, the American alligator, alligator snapping turtle, rusty blackbird, Rafinesque’s big-eared bat, southern myotis bat and endangered pallid sturgeon.

 

There are endless possibilities for paddlers along the Red River, Ouchita River, and the numerous protected lands along their lower stretches like Three Rivers WMA.  The best source for further exploration by canoe or kayak in Louisiana is Ernest Herndon’s Canoeing Louisiana.  For a taste of Ernest’s writing, please go to Appendix XVI: Stories by Outdoor Writer Ernest Herndon.