The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
Water Levels and Dikes
In the Vicksburg area you can use the following scale to Gage water flowing over dikes, although some dikes vary in height. Also some have been “notched” in recent years as result there will be a middle notch that you can paddle through at much lower levels of water, some places down to 0 Natchez Gage.
Using the Natchez Gage:
6-15 NG water flowing through notches only
16 NG – rocks still exposed on all dikes
18-19 NG dikes starting to go under, some flow through breaks & low spots
20 NG dikes completely under, but little flow
29-30 NG good flow and lots of boils & turbulence
30 NG strong flow, some turbulence, no dikes exposed anywhere
40 NG river bank full
>48 NG Flood Stage
Warning: above 48 NG paddlers are advised to stay off the river. Limited access. Most landings and approach roads will be underwater. Most islands will be gone. No easy camping. All sandbars will be covered. Fast waters with many hazards. All islands and landings will be surrounded by flooded forests full of snags, strainers, sawyers and all other dangerous conditions associated with floodwater moving through trees. Docks, wharves, dikes and any other man-made objects will create strong whirlpools, violent boils, and fast eddies. Towboats will create large waves. The Rivergator will not describe the river and its islands at any levels above flood stage.
Louisiana Daytrip: St. Joseph to Waterproof
Fifteen mile paddle down the big waters of the Lower Mississippi River, the largest river in North America. Enjoy stunning views of the Mississippi Bluffs and long distance sights of islands, floodplain forests, and giant flocks of birds. Along the way paddle past the jungly mouth of Bayou Pierre, and the enchanting entrance to Rodney Lake Chute. At Bruinsburg 40,000 Union troops crossed the Mississippi in Grant’s final (and successful) attempt to sneak behind Vicksburg in 1863. Good picnicking or camping can be found on Bondurant or Spithead Towheads. Main channel is your fastest route, but many alternate routes are possible during higher water levels.
Put in at St. Jo and take out at Waterproof. Paddle in the main channel for the quickest route (15.5 miles), or follow alternate routes for visiting islands, back channels and other points of interest. Appropriate for canoes, kayaks or Stand Up Paddleboards, but only for experienced (and strong) paddlers capable of big volume waters, big waves, long crossings over open water, chaotic currents and possible side winds, head winds or tail winds. Carry VHF marine radio and use US Army Corps Maps of the Lower Mississippi for navigation. In general stay off the river if the wind is gusting above 20-25 mph. Please read below for more instructions and precautions.
Custom-made google map:
396.4 RBD St. Joseph Boat Ramp
St. Joseph Boat Ramp (Gladstone Landing) is located at the bottom of Hardscrabble Bend at mile 396.4 RBD. Long and steep concrete ramp at low water, bottoms out into sand and mud around 15 on the Natchez Gage. Ramp and parking lot go under water at flood stage 48 Natchez Gage. Land access is three miles north of St. Joseph via Hwy 605 turn on 604 past Fish Tale Grill/Lake Bruin Lodge & Country Store, follow pavement over levee. Next to Bunge Grain Elevator. Do not leave vehicles overnight.
396.4 RBD Lake Bruin State Park
The St. Joseph Boat Ramp provides easy access to Lake Bruin (one mile over levee). Portage your canoe to the State Park, or hide gear first and then walk over. Lake Bruin is an oxbow lake of the Mississippi River with 3,000 acres of open water. The lake dives to over 50 feet deep in places. Good concrete boat ramp with adjoining pier. Easy access for all paddlers. Park fee required for parking and use. Lake Bruin State Park, 201 State Park Rd, St Joseph, LA 71366, (318) 766-3530. Open daily 6am to 7pm. Beautiful lakeside camping available for nominal fee. Bathrooms and Showers. Swimming beach. Pavilion. Fishing Piers. Click Here for the Lake Bruin Paddling Trail.
396.4 RBD Fish Tale Grill/Lake Bruin Lodge & Country Store
The Fish Tale Grill/Lake Bruin Lodge & Country Store is found at the base of Lake Bruin, ½ mile from the river. 2214 Hwy 604, Lake Bruin, Louisiana 71366. Call ahead and make your order. They might even deliver to the St. Jo Boat Ramp! (318) 766-0075. Located near south side of Lake Bruin. Eclectic variety of southern Louisiana dishes. Lodging, groceries, refreshments and sundries.
395 LBD — Mouth of Bayou Pierre
Downstream Paddlers can easily eddy out into the mouth of Bayou Pierre and paddle upstream a ways for fantastic wildlife viewing including birds, mammals, amphibians and alligators. Bayou Pierre runs along the loess bluffs into central Mississippi. Mouth of Bayou Pierre is located at Mile 395. Paddler Layne Logue added this interesting tidbit: “As you know, Choctaw for “bayou” is “meandering stream” and “Pierre” is French for “rock”. You can find plenty of petrified wood, fossils and sometimes arrowheads on the Bayou Pierre. Especially during low water when the gravel sandbars are exposed.”
Main Channel St. Jo to Waterproof
15.5 miles. Put in at St. Jo and cross river and follow strong flow along Mississippi Bluffs below Bondurant. Stay left bank through Rodney Cutoff and make crossing back to Louisiana side in Kempe Bend. Look for Farmer’s Grain Dock right bank descending mile 381. Take-out landing a couple hundred yards downstream of grain elevator. Total paddle time high water in good weather could be 2-3 hours. In low water 4-5 hours.