The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

St. Francisville to Baton Rouge

253.6 LBD Amoco Pipeline Dock

Busy dock in the middle of an otherwise wild-feeling and treed stretch of river below the Port Hudson Bluff, the Amoco Pipeline Dock is often in use by tows with barges.  Exercise the normal precautions around docks, and keep your distance, particularly in high water.  Currently owned by BP Pipeline Co. it connects into the extensive crude oil pipeline systems that run through the Baton Rouge area.

 

252.2 - 246.5 LBD Profit Island

Profit Island was created when Islands No 123 and 124 joined each other and became one bigger island.  Profit (originally spelled “prophet” for one of its first settlers) is the last “really big island” still intact on the Lower Mississippi River.  It divides the big river main channel flowing down one side and back channel down the other with the presence of other “really big islands” upstream like Middle Ground Island, Choctaw Island, Big Island, and Island No 8.   These first order islands create their own environments, and often provide habitat for unique species not found on the shore in the batture, and not found on any other nearby smaller islands.  First order islands on the Mississippi are those with 2,000 acres of forest or more. 

 

Profit Island boasts 2,300 acres of healthy bottomland hardwood forests, fields, sandbars and floodplains,    The last sandbar starts out high, dry at bank full, and descends along the bottom end with extensive cocklebur fields above.

 

Profit Island was once owned by a timber company and is now home to several hunting camps. Though the island feels remote, paddlers should be sensitive to not wander into private property here. We have heard a number of anecdotes about boaters who have been chased off of by angry hunter’s claiming the whole of the island is private property. We cannot recommend using Profit Island as a camping spot unless you have permission from land owners.

 

In an interesting anecdote, during the 1980’s experimental field trials were conducted on Profit Island of special cottonwood tree cultivars that were hoped to provide super fast growing pulpwood for paper making.

 

252.8 - 252.2 LBD Profit Island Chute (Entrance)

Profit Island divides the Mississippi almost cleanly in half.  The Chute is slightly smaller, but not much.  The best camping is along the top and back ends of the Island in higher water levels, and around the backside and bottomside in low or medium water.  If the water is high you can take either route with equal speed.  But as the water level drops, the back channel slows exponentially.  Even though you can get through down to low water, it will be a mostly flatwater paddle.  This is not a bad thing if you have time to explore, bird watch, and look for amphibians.  You will find plenty to see in the back channel.  On the other hand if you need to make good time, stay main channel and paddle around the outside of the island.

Profit Island Chute Weir

Paddlers using the 2007 Army Corps maps might be frightened by the severe wording for the Profit Island Chute Weir, which crosses the entire back channel less than a mile below the entrance at top end:

 

WARNING: An underwater stone dike has been constructed across Profit Island chute approximately 0.5 miles downstream of the inlet. The chute is permanently closed to navigation and under no circumstances should any vessel attempt to navigate the length of Profit Island Chute.

 

No vessel?  Don’t worry, this was written for towboats, not canoes.  If you weigh several thousand tons and have a 9 foot draft, yes, you should not go this route.  As with many commercial aspects of the Mississippi River, no one really understands the abilities and capabilities of the paddle-powered craft... that is except for other paddlers.

 

Unless the river is 20BG or lower, ignore the danger.  You’ll see the ends of the weir against the bank at 20, but you won’t notice any change in water, as if there is no obstruction below.  Between 15 and 20 more of the weir is exposed against the banks, but you can still easily get through the giant tongue of water sliding through the middle.  You’ll gently slide over a slight swelling and experience some boils with “whirlies” (small whirlpools).  But below 15BG start worrying.   Approach weir cautiously and scout out a route.  If no route is found, go to the closest side of the exposed weir you can safely get to and portage over.  Or, more simple, stay main channel and avoid the weir completely.

 

Profit Island Chute (Industrial Area)

Although you may not notice much of it as you paddle down the river, just to the East of Profit Island Chute, over the muddy banks and forests beyond, is a thriving industrial area that is currently home to:

- The Joint Emergency Services Training Center, a sprawling training center operated by the Louisiana State Police to train emergency personnel in emergency vehicle operations, explosives, firearms, hazardous material response, and other emergency / law enforcement skills.

- Huge abandoned aluminum refining waste pits from Kaiser Aluminum; now owned by the City of Baton Rouge.

- The East Baton Rouge Parish Sanitary Landfill.

- A petroleum coke calciner

- A lead battery recycling facility

- 2 Superfund Sites from former petrochemical waste disposal operations

- A rail yard that was home to a huge geodesic dome (completed in 1958) designed by Buckminster Fuller with a diameter of 384 feet which made it the largest free-span structure in the world at the time and was considered a marvel among engineers and architects. It was a weather-proof structure that allowed Union Tank Car Company to repair dozens of petroleum tank cars at a time. When the standard size of tank cars went from 50 to 60 feet in length in the late 1960s, the cars became too long for the specially designed roundhouse and Union Tank abandoned the dome. The dome and rail yard were sold to Kansas City Southern Railway in 1990.  In 2007, one year before it was eligible for National Register of Historic Places designation, the dome was razed.

(LMRK)