The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

St. Francisville to Baton Rouge

257 RBD Hermitage Dune

There is a mountain of sugary sand on the outside of the big bend (False River Cut-Off) going around Fancy Point Towhead.  This heavenly sand kingdom rises above a giant eddy just past the Heritage Light, RBD 257.6 and would make great protection in any westerly or southwesterly action coming your way on the weather radar. 

 

256 - 255.5 LBD Fancy Point Sandbar

Good low and medium water camping, up to 20BG, the contoured Fancy Point Sandbar isolated in between Fancy Point and the mouth of Thompson Creek.  Fancy Point Sandbar is very popular with shorebirds at low and medium water levels when it stretches out for half a mile along the river at the base of the back channel of Fancy Point Towhead, where the water slowly pours out over shallow shoals that make for good fishing.  Pelicans, gulls, anhingas, terns, herons and egrets congregate at the frilled ends of this bar, sometimes in the thousands.  Predators like coyotes, hawks and eagles sometimes hang in the willows on the banks behind Fancy Point Sandbar and dive in for the kill when the opportunity presents itself.

 

255.5 - 253.8 RBD Point Menoir

There are a series of sculpted sandbars opposite and downstream of Thompson Creek which offer a good landing (and great protection from westerly or southwesterly winds) and dray sand up to high water levels, but the first and most beautiful is within the confines of a large hunting camp.  Avoid the first one and go on downstream.  Within a mile you’ll pass several more possibilities, the 2nd choice the highest of all and backed by willows and tall cottonwoods & sycamores, the others a little lower in height but still good sand, all seem to straddle a series of stub dikes that have been placed as hard points along this bend of the river.  Across the river you will enjoy a view of the Port Hudson Tunica Hills, and the foul Georgia Pacific Paper Mill behind.

 

255.5 LBD Thompson Creek

Thompson Creek is the last major drainage entering the Mississippi River.  Where it meets the Mississippi two beautiful sandbars are formed, in a gorgeous stretch of river full undulating lines of forest, creamy sandbars, the sky and the river.  The bar downstream of the confluence is smaller than Fancy Point Sandbar ((above the confluence) but just as beautiful, and more protected.  Up to 25BG you can find nice mounds of sand close to protecting forests of mature willows.  One precaution: if the wind is out of the east you will want to avoid this location because of the nearby proximity of the Georgia Pacific Port Hudson Paper Mill.  (Keep reading below for why!)

 

Of Historical note, Thompson Creek leads up to Port Hudson which during the Civil War was the scene of the longest siege, 48 days, in US military history. After the fall of New Orleans in April 1862, Confederate troops fought to maintain control of the Mississippi River and the Red River from their encampment on bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River at Port Hudson. 7,500 Confederate troops stood against 30,000-40,000 Union soldiers and numerous US Navy Gunboats from May 23 to July 9, 1863. This long and gruesome battle is commemorated at the Port Hudson State Historic Site accessible from Hwy 61 in Jackson, LA. Over the past 150 years, giving a dramatic example of the incredibly dynamic nature of the Mississippi River, the river has shifted a solid 2 miles to the west of where it was during the Civil War. The bluffs at Port Hudson which were once the banks of the Mississippi River on which the siege at Port Hudson was fought are now not reachable by paddlers from the Mississippi River. Even still, Thompson Creek makes for an interesting opportunity to explore this fascinating area. (LMRK)

 

255 LBD Georgia Pacific Port Hudson Paper Mill

Maker of well known brands such as Angel Soft and Quilted Northern Toilet Paper and Brawny Paper Towels, the Georgia Pacific(GP) Paper Mill is located just south of Thompson Creek.  Not shown on the Army Corps maps because there is no dock or landing, or any visible connection to the river.  There is a nasty invisible connection though.  Georgia Pacific draws tens of millions of gallons of water a day from the Southern Hills Aquifer, the drinking water source for the City of Baton Rouge. This vast amount of water is used in the paper making process and after gaining a lethal stew of chemicals, GP discharges the waste water into the river forming a disgusting black lagoon, LBD 255, where dead fish and even a dead gator have been found (as documented by the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper).

 

You can paddle into the black waters (although this is not advised, avoid skin contact and fumes) by staying left bank after Thompson Creek.  The black lagoon is found in some stands of young willows just below the Port Hudson Tunica Hills.  The river lovingly accepts this intrusion as equanimously as she does any tributary.   You will not want to camp anywhere near this noisy stinky amalgamation.  Unfortunately some of the best camping in the area is found on nearby Fancy Point.  If the wind is blowing wrong way (from the East) the GP Port Hickey mill smells and sounds like it’s just over the banktop willows, when it’s actually still several miles to the east.

 

Don’t swim in or draw water downstream of this mill for any purpose, until at least Profit Island.  In fact, this would be a good point to stop using river water for any of your daily routine such as washing dishes, boiling for cooking water, or for filtering, or etc.  Even bathing.  I know this will be difficult pill to swallow.  But buck up paddlers, you are nearing Chemical Corridor, AKA Cancer Alley, below Baton Rouge. This will be especially difficult to adopt in the summer months when the best and easiest  way to cool down is with river water.  But you might as well start practicing something you’re going to most certainly have to adopt below Baton Rouge where raw city sewage is just one of many harmful intrusions on your previously clean source for camp water.

As a side note, the Southern Tunica Hills aquifer that GP draws from is declining so rapidly that it is sucking salt water into the same aquifer that Baton Rouge uses for its drinking water, as noted, approx 90 million gallons per day.  In an effort to slow the intrusion, Baton Rouge has dug deep wells south of town to try and slow the intrusion, and reverse the process.  So we have three sets of wells all sucking the earth dry at this last of the Tunica Hills, a sorrowful end note in their otherwise spectacular symphony following the Big River down from Fort Adams, Mississippi.

 

As a side note, the Southern Hills Aquifer, which GP and ExxonMobil (LBD 232.2) draw from, is being consumed at such a rapid rate that it is pulling salt water in from the south and threatening the drinking water supply for the city of Baton Rouge. In an effort to slow the intrusion, Baton Rouge Water Co. has dug deep scavenger wells in an effort to counteract the pressure created by the demands of the city and industry on the aquifer and combat the salt water intrusion. Concerned citizens and the city of Baton Rouge are currently working to find a solution to this highly unsustainable use of their precious groundwater. Perhaps part of the solution could be provided by the Mighty Mississippi. If  the Georgia Pacific PaperMill and ExxonMobil would switch to utilizing river water for its processes instead of aquifer water, the demand on the aquifer would be cut in half. This would dramatically extend the life of the pristine drinking water source for the people of Baton Rouge and the surrounding area. The river provides in mysterious ways! (LMRK)