The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Natchez to St. Francisville

314.6 RBD Main Intake -- Old River Control Structure

This is the original gate built in 1963 to “keep the Mississippi in its place,” and was almost washed away a decade later, in 1973, by floods that scoured120 foot deep holes around its monumental concrete & steel footings.  The auxiliary channel was built following this shake-up to help distribute the water more evenly during future floods, an addition that seemed to work well during the 2011 flood.

 

Layne Logue added this unique perspective on the 1973 near-disaster, with stories from  his father:

 

“In 1973 my dad, Louis H. Logue, worked for the Vicksburg Corps of Engineers and visited the damaged Control Structure as it neared catastrophic failure.   The east side of the Control Structure was scouring underneath.   The wing walls had collapsed.  The only solution available was to drop huge rock boulders (3-4 ft diameter) into the scour area.  They attached steel cables to a single barge and reeled it out like a fisherman letting his bait drift into the honey hole.  A rubber-tire front end loader on the barge would push the boulders off and into the holes.   The operator would sometimes back up right to the edge of the barge as he maneuvered around causing my Dad’s heart to stop.   This operator had nerves of steel.   He’s driving around this barge, pushing rock off the edge and the barge is held only by steel cables  AND the barge is being pushed by high flood turbulent waters into a control structure that is failing.  I don’t know what he got paid… but it wasn’t enough!  About 20-30 barges of rock were pushed off at that structure.  My Dad said, “You could hear the giant boulders bounce around like a pinball in a pinball machine as they went through the control structure and out the back where the energy dissipaters stand”.  After the flood had dropped, the Corps built cofferdams to dewater the area, repair and beef-up the structure.   There wasn’t even a single boulder to be seen.  They had all disappeared.”

 

313 LBD Buffalo River (Old mouth of the Homochitto River)

Across the river from the Old River complex is the mouth of the Buffalo River, which meanders through the Mississippi bottomlands below Fort Adams, and is connected to Lake Mary during higher water levels.  This is the old mouth of the Homochitto River, which was diverted down Washout Bayou.  Paddlers can use the Buffalo for land access to Fort Adams if the river is above 20NG.  Paddle up the Buffalo to a private landing located on the east side of the river at the base of the first bridge crossing (Jackson Point Road/dirt road between Lake Mary and Fort Adams).  A short walk east will bring you to the hamlet of Fort Adams, where a small country store is located for basic provisions.

 

Clark Creek Natural Area

One mile east of Fort Adams one of the South’s most unusual landscapes is found in the deep ravines and cascading waterfalls of the Clark Creek Natural Area. In 1978 the State of Mississippi protected this natural wonder with 700 acres of some 50 waterfalls, ranging in size 10 to more than 30 feet in height.  Steeply sloping loess bluff hills host a mixed hardwood and pine forest dominated by beech and magnolias. Uncommon trees found in the area are Southern sugar maple, serviceberry, umbrella tree, pyramid magnolia, chinquapin oak, big leaf snowball, silverbell, and witch-hazel. Here, visitors discover a variety of colorful migrating and resident birds; invertebrates; poisonous snakes; a rare land snail; the Federally endangered Carolina magnolia vine; and the State endangered fish, the Southern red belly face. The forest tract provides excellent habitat for another threatened species in Mississippi - the black bear.  Clark Creek boasts a world champion record Mexican Plum and Bigleaf Snowball, and a Mississippi State Champion Hophornbeam.

 

Paddlers could hide their vessels and gear in the woods along the Buffalo River and enjoy a invigorating hike through Fort Adams to Clark Creek Natural Area, which would be a great relief to your paddle-weary arms and upper body.  On the other hand, you could stay on the river a get a little taste of this glorious landscape.  You will travel below the same loess bluffs that created this spectacular landform when you paddle past Knox Landing, as described below.  You won’t see the waterfalls, but you can stop and walk along the base of the same bluffs at the mouth of Clark Creek.

 

313.7 RBD Knox Landing

A steep but well-positioned concrete boat ramp drops into the river here on the artificial island created by the Main Intake and Auxiliary Intake of the Old River Control Structures.  Good place to start or end an expedition, and probably safe parking.  But there are no services in the area.

 

311.7 RBD Auxiliary Intake -- Old River Control Structure

As you paddle past Knox Landing and around Point Breeze, with the Clark Creek/Tunica Hills on your left, you might notice a mournful “fog horn” like sounding echoing through the woods right bank descending.  This is the warning horn for the Old River Auxiliary Channel.  The horn means the gates are open and water is flowing in.  Paddlers take caution, and maintain a line of travel several hundred yards off the right bank.   The Auxiliary Intake was built following this near disaster to help distribute the water more evenly during future floods, an add-on that seemed to work well during the 2011 flood.  Huge piles of sand are piled around the mouth of this canal, but do not be tempted to make landing anywhere near the mouth for possible disaster when you are sucked into the canal by powerful waters.   Even if you make safe landing away from the mouth, your nerves will be distraught by the baleful warning horn, which bellows mournfully on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, ad infinitum, and seems to get louder and more maddening after dark.