The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
Supertankers? Welcome to Chemical Corridor!
Directly downstream from Monte Sano Bayou sits Formosa Plastics, followed by the Exxon-Mobil petrochemical complex, once the world’s largest oil refinery (it still ranks). Here, at the Exxon docks, you will see the first deep-draft vessels of your journey. People argue over how large a ship must measure to be considered a “supertanker.” Suffice it to say that here may be seen ships longer than eight hundred feet. The Corps maintains a minimum 45-foot channel depth from here to the Gulf of Mexico. Directly across from Exxon, on the West bank, you can see the Placid Oil refinery docks. Refineries on both sides of you. Welcome to the Chemical Corridor (see entry below on “Cancer Alley”). (Mike Beck)
232.9 RBD CSS Arkansas
Not visible but of historic interest, the USS Arkansas is buried in the mud under the levee 1.4 miles below where the 190 bridge comes to land in Port Allen (690 feet past river mile 233). The CSS Arkansas was a Confederate Ironclad warship which served during the American Civil War in the Western Theater. Arkansas ran through a U.S. Navy fleet at Vicksburg, Mississippi, on 15 July 1862, in a celebrated action in which she inflicted more damage than she received. She was later destroyed by her crew to prevent capture by Union forces, and then later buried in the inevitable layers of mud laid down by generations of floods. (LMRK)
233.8 LBD Formosa Plastics Corp., Baton Rouge North Wharf
Listed on USACOE charts as Formosa Plastics Corp., Baton Rouge North Wharf, the wharf is currently under repair and the dilapidated facility behind it is currently owned by CEMUS and is the former site of Kaiser Aluminum. Under rehabilitation construction in 2014/2015. Be especially vigilant for workboats, and small towboats pushing big choppy waves around wharfing.
233.0 LBD Kinder Morgan (EXXON Petroleum Coke)
The ExxonMobil Petroleum Coke terminal operated by Kinder Morgan. Watch for workboats, and towboats coming from unexpected places behind dock pilings.
232.2 LBD ExxonMobil
And now the whopper with the big ships, buckle yourself in for the experience. The fortress-like ExxonMobil Refinery can no longer call itself the largest refinery in the world, but it is still a megalith of pipes and cat crackers, and is the 3rd largest in the country. The ExxonMobil facility here sprawls over 2,100 acres and processes over 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day. The facility first opened in 1909 as part of the Standard Oil Company and now produces an array of products including gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, lubricants and waxes. Newspapers from when the facility was first developed ensured local residents not to worry about the pollution from the facility because it would be dumped in the river and washed away. Things have progressed since then but there is regularly a dark colored discharge that enters the river behind the lower end of the ExxonMobil dock. This area should be avoided by paddlers.
The expansion of the ExxonMobil facility led to an unfortunate but inevitable conflict between the growing industry and the adjacent neighborhood. As of today, Exxon has cleared approximately 250 acres of open space along it’s Eastern fence line, creating a buffer zone. This 250 acres represents the removal of hundreds of homes and the dismantling of the local community, one of many such events in SoLA.
232.2 LBD ExxonMobil Graffiti Wall
The ExxonMobil port is where you are likely to make your first encounter with sea-going ships carrying petroleum products to and from remote corners of the globe. Yield to any traffic, and stay tuned in to VHF 67 for any planned activity. We’re talking freighters! With a very watchful eye look carefully between docked freighters for the sign board. Be sure to check out the home port written on the stern of the tankers and sneak a peak at the multi-lingual graffiti adorning the dock painted there by crews from all over the world.
231.8 RBD Placid Refining
This second-rate refinery takes all of the low grade crude (“sour crude”) refused by ExxonMobil (who only accepts “sweet crude”). This makes a convenient location for business. When a freighter comes up the Mississippi with payload full of trashy petroleum the highbrow ExxonMobil scientists turn up their noses and wave them off the wharf, they only have to make a one mile crossover to reach the eager crew at Placid Refining who reputedly accepts it all. Actually, not. There is some crude so crude that even Placid Oils sends it to the next step down the ladder leading into refinery hell. The so-called “Slop Refineries” are at the bottom rung, and are so repulsive that most were long ago shut down by the EPA.