The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Vicksburg to Natchez

414 RBD The Crossroads

A rare river crossroads is created here at the junction of Togo Island, Palmyra Lake and the Main Channel of the Mississippi. From a paddler's perspective this is a watery paradise. Four distinct routes to follow from the same location!

 

408.5 LBD Big Black River

A dynamic alternate put-in for the Mississippi can be made paddling down the last 13-14 miles of the Big Black River from the boat ramp at the Hwy 61 Bridge.  There is always some flow in the Big Black, and no shoals to negotiate. When the Mississippi is high, it gets backed up.  When the Mississippi is low and the Big Black high, it can be a roller-coaster ride.  Paddling a “small” river like the Big Black out of the hills and into the floodplain, and then into the unimaginably expansive open waters of the big river puts everything into perspective.

 

Hwy 61 Boat Ramp

Narrow steep concrete ramp on southwestern side of bridge (accessible only from south-bound lane of Hwy 61). Bottoms out in mud at low water. Parking lot gets submerged in high water. Don't leave your vehicle parked at this location. Arrange shuttle.  Approximately 14 miles to the mouth of the Mississippi River.

 

407.8 LBD Grand Gulf State Park

Grand Gulf State Military Park is well worth the visit.  There is no boat ramp here, and no camping, but you can make landing and walk into the park.  Pull your canoe or kayak  all the way out of the water and carefully tie it somewhere.  Big waves follow the towboats here.  Half Mile walk to park headquarters.  First go to Visitor's Center with museum, and then take a walk around.  There is a tower you can climb at the top of a nearby bluff.  Good views of the woods and the surrounding territory, but not very good views of the river.  12006 Grand Gulf Road, Port Gibson MS 39150.  601-437-5911.

 

Middle Ground Island Back Channel

When the Mississippi is above 25VG jump behind Middle Ground Island for some relief from tow traffic and the monotony of the Main Channel.  Equidistant either route, main channel or back channel.  Healthy waterfowl habitat in back channel, and infrequent gator sightings.


404 RBD Yucatan Ditch

For a safari-like run into the Mississippi River floodplain replete with fishes, amphibians and winged creatures, make a short detour up Yucatan Ditch.  Paddle quietly and you will make some remarkable animal encounters.  Keep your camera handy.  If the river is falling, the ditch runs out.  If it’s rising, the ditch runs in.  Steady river, no flow.  Regardless of flow, you can paddle as far as you feel like paddling, then turn around and paddle back out.

 

405-401 RBD Coffee Point Dikes

Great low and medium water camping amongst clumps of dense willow topped dunes, arranged esthetically around the entire length of this bend.   Best camping between 10 and 20VG, but still possible up to 25.  All islands go completely under around 30VG.

 

423 Diamond Cut-Off

Below LeTourneau the canoeist or kayaker enters a five mile southerly stretch and then rounds a right angle bend at Newtown which resolves itself in a northwesterly direction.  What was previously a tail wind becomes a side wind or head wind, and vice versa.  After all the industrial commotion below Vicksburg Newtown Bend is a welcome return to the wild feel of the Lower Mississippi River with big woods on either side and no sign of mankind save passing tows.  The woods are about 15 miles deep to your west over Davis Island, Palmyra Lake and over to the levee on the Louisiana side.  They are about 5 miles deep in the floodplain on the Mississippi side.  Which means the river here is flowing through a bottomland hardwood forest twenty miles wide!  The water here gurgles into and out of numerous sloughs, back channels, side channels old channels and run outs, creating a watery landscape that is constantly filtering and rejuvenating the big river in the way the floodplain was meant to do.  At flood stage most of the forest will be standing in water.  During the flood of 2011 there was a steady flow throughout all of these woods, and strong flows through all the back channels.  No dry land was found in between the Louisiana levee and Highway 61.

 

Says Braggs: “Diamond Cutoff was the first artificial cutoff constructed by the Corps of Engineers in the 1930's. There had already been several natural cutoffs in the area, and engineers believed that the river was about to create another at Diamond Island. To forestall the natural cutoff, the engineers began the construction of the artificial channel which was designed to keep the river channel in a more desirable alignment than the river itself might have chosen.”

 

421-419 RBD Newtown Bend Sandbar

Long beautiful sandbar at low and medium water levels, possible picnic and campsites found along entire length.  Newtown sizzles in the summer sun like a slice of fatback in the griddle, and shimmers like an alaskan snowfield by the winter moonlight.  In any season it creates a balanced layer of sand in between the big river and the woods behind with thousands of acres of sand at low water.  As the river rises this expanse narrows to hundreds of acres big at medium high (30VG) and then at bank full high water (35VG) goes completely under.  Between 30 and 35VG a delightful narrow sliver of island remains RBD near mile 418, like a gar rising to the water’s surface, a willow topped gar with sugary sand dunes sprinkled throughout.  In a north wind you will be protected along Newtown Sandbar if you can get close enough to the treeline behind.  Eagles, Osprey and many different hawks frequent this area.  Terns nest here in their season, sometimes hundreds at a time.  As noted elsewhere the endangered least interior tern has made such a spectacular comeback along the island of the Lower Miss it is being de-listed as an endangered species.