The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

St. Francisville to Baton Rouge

250.3 RBD Bald Eagle Nest

Several Bald Eagle nests can be seen high in the arms of some tall trees along the perimeter of Profit Island, on both sides of the river, a sign that you are still within one of the few remaining “wild” stretches of the Lower Mississippi River, where wild creatures still outnumber two legged inhabitants.

 

250.2 RBD Wreckage of Crane Boat

The flood of 2011 uprooted this crane barge from somewhere upstream and slammed it against the outside of the Profit Island Bend, where it now lays at a severe angle making a sunning location for turtles in low water, and a catfish harbor at high water.

 

247.2 RBD Smithfield Boat Ramp

Steep Ramp is made of revetment, not maintained regularly, and is often covered with clumps of mud.  May no longer be accessible from the levee, the 4WD path between the levee and the ramp appears to be cut by a lagoon in the batture, possibly carved out during the flood of 2011.

 

246.5 - 246 LBD Profit Island Chute (Exit)

As you exit the Profit Island Chute (if this is the route you have taken) be sure to “look both ways” before re-entering the main channel of the big river.  Wait until the coast is clear and then paddle hard for the center of the channel for the best flow.  The water along the base of the island, and left bank descending downstream, tends to be sluggish.

 

The Monmouth Disaster

In October 1837 three hundred Native Americans died when an upstream steamboat named the Monmouth slammed into a downstreamer by the name of Warren (which was towing the Trenton), sending all 700+ passengers and crew on board into the cold water.  The crash occurred below the bottom end of Profit Island.  The people were being moved to Arkansas on the Trail of Tears.  Besides being overloaded, and running into stormy weather, it has been documented that some of the crew might have been inebriated.  A large hold of whiskey was being transported by the Monmouth.  And so ends another sad chapter in the long winding tragedy of the Trail of Tears.

246.2 RBD Small Dune

There is a small dune of yellow-white sand right bank descending as you exit the Profit Island stretch of river, that could make for a good emergency camp in southerly or southwesterly winds, but is open to the north wind.  In any northerly winds continue downstream hugging RBD for the series of possible camp spots several miles downstream along Solitude Point.

 

246.5 - 245.8 LBD Sandbar at Bottom of Profit Chute

As you come around the southwesterly point of Profit Island you will pass a skinny sandbar with camping up to 30 BG, that connects to a long 2-mile sandbar stretching along the entire southern or bottom end of the island, gradually descending from 30BG, to 25, to 20, halfway down the sand emerges at 15, and at the very end of this long skinny bar not until 10BG.  This is all to say that you will always find good shoreline camping at any water level below 30BG somewhere along the bottom end of Profit Island.  However, you will also have towboat search lights prying into your camp all night long also.  The tow pilots are more possessive of their normally pitch black islands and towheads in these lower stretches of river.  When they see a campfire gleaming in the darkness, their curiosity (or feeling of dominion) gets the better of them, and they will light up your tents and everything else in your camp under their scrutinizing glare.    Accept this disrespectful light show with patience.  You get to enjoy the campsite, the fire and the stars.  They can only look on and feel pangs of jealousy.

 

First Sighting of Baton Rouge (still 12 miles downstream)

The first indication of Baton Rouge will appear as you pass downstream from Profit Island, maybe with puffs of smoke in the air, maybe discharges from refinery off-venting, or maybe the giant pile of refuse at the Baton Rouge landfill.  During high water, you can see the stadium lights of Mumford Stadium at Southern University (SU).  You are still twelve river miles from Baton Rouge, however, because of the huge hairpin turn at Thomas Point.  (Mike Beck)

 

245 LBD Devil’s Swamp Bayou

Note: the main entrance to Devil’s Swamp is at the south end of the bayou, ten miles downstream left bank descending, below and behind all of the fleeted barges near mile 235.8 LBD.   If you are interested in seeing Devil’s Swamp in a more casual way, and easily accessible to any paddlers of any ability, keep on downstream 10 miles, and enter from the bottom.   On the other hand, If you are interested in a high water adventure of questionable viability, try the below.  The north entrance, described below, is only accessible between bank full flood stage, 30-35BG.  Even then it is doubtful you will get through.

 

Warning: this route for expert paddlers/survivalists only!  At bank full (30BG) or above the danger-loving paddler could find openings through the woods in this stretch of river and cut over through dense cypress forests into the Devils Swamp drainage, and cut off about 6 miles of river travel.  This drainage is unnamed on USACE charts, but called “Bayou Baton Rouge” on most other maps.   Don’t do this for making better time, though.  Pull out your machete and compass, and keep them handy!  This route could possibly require a lot of bushwhacking, poking around, dead ends, retracing your route, and other way-finding.  As always, use the sailor’s sixth sense, and go with the flow if any flow is evident.   Bring your GPS or magnetic compass and good maps.  Look up in the sky and carefully mark the height and angle of the sun, and keep track of the sun’s progress as you make your way through this maze. You might be in for extreme survival if you enter unprepared.  Pack extra food and water and overnight gear, including a hammock.  No dry land found at flood stage between here and the Baton Rouge bluffs at Southern University.