The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

389 LBD Rodney Lake Side Trip

When the water is around 30 NG or higher you can cut through the intriguing opening at the topmost Cottage Island, around mile 389 left bank descending, and enter the deep woods surrounding the back channel of Rodney Island No 111.  Enter at your own risk.  Once you start down this channel you are committed to a fifteen mile route that changes slightly from year to year, and is crossed in one place by a low bridge (paddlers take warning!).  As it approaches the top end of Rodney Lake, the main channel (of the back channel) branches off into a wetland distributary field, like the bronchi of the lungs, where fingers of flowing water spread out in many directions into the flooded forests and overflowing banks.  This remnant river-connected wetlands is one of the best examples of the pre-levee health of the river (the other great example being Forest Home/Paw-Paw Chute/Old Yazoo wetlands above Vicksburg).  It’s easy to lose your way or end up in a dead end waterway.  Then again, you can turn around almost anywhere along the route and paddle back up to where you started at the big river.  Good place to use your GPS if you have one.   

Paddle quietly, or float along the gentle current for the best wildlife viewing imaginable.  Canoeists and kayakers in this area have snuck up on buck deer nestled down along the scrubby bank for a mid-day nap, coyote swimming across the chute, and even black bear peeking out through the trees.  Pileated woodpeckers (North America’s largest) flit back and forth laughing when the land, and songbirds fill the air with their sprightly ditties and dirges in the spring migration.   Kingfishers might bark out when you enter the sections of the muddy bank they have claimed for their own, but also might reward you with daredevil dive bombs into the muddy waters.  Wind your way deeper and deeper through dense stands of classic primeval bottomland hardwood forest, eventually the channel goes under a low bridge (beware!) and enters the top end Rodney Lake down a long curving channel lined by big willows.  The land drops away gradually as the channel widens, and the forest eventually becomes flooded, and then you find yourself in the lake.  Yellow rocket are thick in the spring and in the winter willows are some of the last trees to lose their leaves.   Follow the lake westward, and then northwest, and then north.  This is the shape of Rodney, a classic oxbow situated with its ends to the north.  The inside of the lake is lined by endless walls of willow, arranged neatly in horizontal layers as long as the sky.  The outside bank (to the south and then west) climbs higher and higher as you paddle along, and the trees become more and more populated with hardwoods like sycamores, sweetgums, oaks and ash, and the bottoms wrapped by vines and thorny brambles, and some palmettos.  Eventually you will see a settlement on the left bank (to the west as the lake curves north) where the land rises to its full height, and then falls away completely.  This is the exit you need to follow to return to the main channel of the big river.  There are gravel bars here where the water flows over, a road crossing (no bridge) and overgrown gravelly sandbars, only the hardiest of trees in this nutrient poor soil, honey locust and osage orange pop up in low spots where some mud has accumulated, otherwise it’s all tough weeds and dewberry vines.  

Here you reach the final gate of this route.  If the water is flowing through, you are good to go, the passage is open back to the river.  If the water is not flowing, you will have to portage or turn around and paddle back 3-4 miles to Cottage Island.  (The dead-end happens in this situation: If the river has been low, and you happened to enter during a rise, the lake might still be filling up, and not yet overtopped this exit place.  This is the possibility you will have to accept in this kind of exploration.  Even if you can’t get through, it is still well-worth the journey getting here, and then getting back.


Mile 381 – Waterproof Landing

Waterproof Landing (AKA Goldman Lower Landing) is a primitive landing located over steep bank just below Farmer’s Grain Elevator RBD at mile 381, and made its fame as the start point for the legendary “Halph-the-Phat.”  (For more about the “Phat,” keep reading below…)   As you downstream through Kempe Bend look for grain elevator past bottom of Spithead Towhead.  Do not leave vehicles overnight!  Arrange shuttle.


381 – 374 RBD – Waterproof Island

Waterproof Island is two giant islands, each several thousand acres big, that have formed like twins, one hugging the other, parallel to the main channel of the river.  Each Island is long and narrow, so long that you’ll think it’s just part of the right bank descending as you paddle down along it, and so narrow that you can see light through forests towards their bottom ends where they slice the river downstream like a razor-sharp knife.  Paddlers in the Natchez area refer to them as Upper Waterproof and Lower Waterproof, so the Rivergator will do the same.

You will find dry sand at all water levels up to flood stage on the top end of Upper Waterproof, although it will be best for camping at bank full or higher (above 40NG) when you can get in close to the vegetation.  If sand is what you want, camp anywhere around the top end in low or medium water levels.  For privacy, or to get away from the monotonous drone of the never-ending parade of tow traffic, go backside for a more limited but still ample selection of picnic and campsites.  Back channel opens below the 3rd big dike around 15NG in shallow “feathery” channels that bump over the sandy shoals.  If there’s water going in and you’re not in any particular hurry, go for it.  The riverman’s rule is flowing in: flowing out (which holds true 99% of the time.  (Go to Rodney Lake back channel for the 1% time this might not hold true!).

Meanwhile, the back channel of Lower Waterproof doesn’t open until the river is significantly higher, until around 25NG, and is only accessible through the back channel of Upper Waterproof.  If the river is high and you are already back behind Upper, paddling down the back channel, by all means turn right into the opening where the Lower Chute opens up.  If there is water flowing in you are good to go.  Enter with the flow and enjoy the endless stream of birds, trees and happily bubbling, boiling and babbling waters.  The waters are seem happier flowing down the back channel.  You are protected here from all winds unless it’s blowing from the due south.  Stop paddling along the way and just float along enjoying the mesmerizing patterns on the water and the vitality of life surrounding your passage.  In the summer it can be hot and lazy, but a quick swim will freshen things up.  In the winter the skeletal forests are silhouetted by the sky, and the winter birds can be heard foraging, and occasional squirrels and possums.

Lower Waterproof has one beautiful sandbar on the main channel side towards its bottom end (open to the big river).  Marked on the USACE maps as L’Argents Landing, this bar is best between 20 and 30NG.  Below 20 it gets muddy, and above 30 there’s no more sand.  Very little remains dry on Lower above bank full, and at flood stage the entire island is a flooded forest.  This does not mean you should not visit, for there is nothing more heavenly than paddling through the creator’s own river cathedral created within the trunks of a flooded willow forest.  If the spirit hovers anywhere over the waters on the seventh day, you will surely find God here amongst the murmuring waters and sighing willows as the muddy water whispers through the wet tree trunks, catfish swirling their tails underneath and parachute spiders and water skeeters skipping overhead, and during their season mayflies crowding every twig and leaf like the angel choir, their forearms held together in prayer, their flight a dizzying dance that must surely please the maker.

During the flood year of 2003 I camped at the top end of Waterproof with my bachelor party which consisted of my brothers Ernie and Frank, step-father Daddy Gare-Bear, nephew Ian, and friends Dean Lambert, Sean Rowe and “Big Muddy” Mike Clark.  Several dozen acres was all that remained dry on Waterproof.  The mosquitoes were out in droves, newly hatched, and all concentrated over the remaining dry ground.  Boy were they glad to see us!  As Lewis & Clark so often quoted: “very troublesome.”  None of us had tents, we didn’t think we’d need them.  My oldest brother Frank, ever the innovator, came up with a unique solution.  It was a chilly night, so sleeping bags covered most exposed skin.  But what about the head?  Frank went to sleep with his baseball cap on, over which he draped a pieces of gauze from the 1st aid kit, folded together like cheesecloth.  While the rest of us tossed and turned, swatting those busy buzzing bombers all night long, and awoke the next morning in a less than rested state of mind.  Meanwhile brother Frank arose the next morning refreshed and chipper as a young squirrel.  In fact, he slept so good we all woke up before him and we watched as the river rose higher and higher.  Pretty soon the patch of ground he had laid his head on was an island.  We debated whether to leave him there in his peaceful slumber that none of us shared.  “We’ll let the river wake him up,” we quipped out of jealousy of his sound slumber.  Eventually our good will got the best of us, and I sent Daddy Gare Bear over to wake him up.


Once past Spithead and the Farmer’s Grain Elevator, follow Waterproof  through Ashland Bend past Cole’s Creek towards Hole in the Wall.  When you get to the bottom end of the Island the ten mile stretch of straight water down to Natchez opens up in front of you in a solid wall of blue-green haze.

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Middle Mississippi & Bluegrass Hills / Bootheel 195-0, 954-850 ST. LOUIS TO CARUTHERSVILLE
Chickasaw Bluffs 850 – 737 CARUTHERSVILLE TO MEMPHIS
Upper Delta 737 – 663 MEMPHIS TO HELENA
Middle Delta 663 – 537 HELENA TO GREENVILLE
Loess Bluffs 437 – 225 VICKSBURG TO BATON ROUGE
Vicksburg to Natchez
USFW and the LMRCC  
Bluz Cruz  
Vicksburg Services and Accommodations  
Putting In: Clay Street Landing / Yazoo River  
Down the Yazoo to the Mississippi  
437 Entering the Mississippi
437 Delta Point
437 Centennial Cutoff
434.5 LBD Ergon General Store (Tow Boat Supply)
437 – 435 LBD Walnut Hills (Mississippi Loess Bluff ##1)
Greatest Dust Storm Ever  
Bluff Beat  
The Nice Mississippi Loess Bluffs  
No Levees  
436.5 LBD City of Vicksburg Riverfront Park
435.7 LBD Vicksburg Bridges: US 80 and I-20
The Zen od Paddling the Big River  
Paddler’s Choices Below Vicksburg  
Crossing Over to Delta Point  
Vicksburg Bridge  
Main Channel LBD  
Main Channel RBD  
LBD Private Boat Ramp  
433.2 LBD Baxter Wilson Steam Plant
432 – 430 RBD Racetrack Towhead Back Channel
432 – 430 RBD Racetrack Towhead Main Channel
431 – 424 LBD Below Racetrack Dikes / Towhead
430 – 427 RBD Reid Bedford Bend
427.3 RBD Reid Bedford Point
426 LBD Letourneau Public Boat Launch
426.5 LBD Hennessey’s Bayou
426 LBD Letourneau
Palmyra / Togo / Middle Ground Island  
Paddling in the Port Gibson Area  
Main Channel Route  
425 LBD Entrance to Palmyra Lake Back Channel
Palmyra Lake Back Channel  
Hazard: Low Bridge Palmyra Lake  
416 RBD Togo Island Back Channel
414 RBD The Crossroads
408.5 LBD Big Black River
HWY 61 Boat Ramp  
407.8 LBD Grand Gulf State Park
Middle Ground Island Back Channel  
404 RBD Yucatan Ditch
405 – 401 RBD Coffee Point Dikes
423 RBD Diamond Cut-Off
421 – 419 RBD Newtown Bend Sandbar
419.6 LBD Lake Karnac
417 – 414 RBD Togo Island
416.5 LBD “Big Momma” Dike
418 – 413 RBD Big Black Island
417 – 414 RBD Togo Island Bend & Dikes
Mississippi River Dead End?  
414 RBD Palmyra – Togo Island Crossroads
Big Black Bluff, The Grand Gulp (Mississippi Loess Bluff ##2)  
410 RBD Middle Ground Island
Honeymoon Island  
404.8 RBD Port of Claiborne County
Phatwater Mississippi River Challenge Rip  
404.2 RBD Yucatan Ditch
399 LBD High Bluffs
395 LBD Bayou Pierre
Mississippi Water Levels  
Natchez Gage (NG)  
Water Levels and Dikes  
Using the Natchez Gage  
Louisiana Daytrip: St. Joseph to Waterproof  
396.4 RBD St. Joseph Boat Ramp
396.4 RBD Lake Bruin State Park
396.4 RBD Fish Tale Grill / Lake Bruin Lodge & Country Store
395 LBD Mouth of Bayou Pierre
Main Channel St. Jo to Waterproof  
RBD Med / High Water Route – Back Channel  
LBD Med / High Water Route – Back Channel  
392 RBD Bondurant Towhead
389 LBD Rodney Chute
384 LBD Spithead Towhead
Petit Gulf Hills – Mississippi Loess Bluff ##3  
394 LBD Bruinsburg Landing
392 LBD Rodney (Ghost Town)
390 – 389.5 RBD Brown’s Field Island
385.9 LBD Below Brown’s Field Wetlands
389 – 387 LBD Cottage Bend Islands
389 LBD Rodney Lake Side Trip
381 Waterproof Landing
381 – 374 RBD Waterproof Island
373 – 371 LBD Fairchild (Skull) Island
Natchez Bluffs  
The Great Sun – The Natchez People  
Adam Elliott, Natchez Outpost of the Quapaw Canoe Company  
370 LBD Greens Bayou
369 Highline
370 – 368 LBD Opposite Rifle Point
369 – 367.5 RBD Rifle Point
368 – 366 LBD Bluff Bars
367 LBD Devil’s Punchbowl
367.5 RBD Opening to Old River – Top End (Marengo Bend Lake)
367 – 365 LBD Remnants of Cypress Forest
365 LBD Opening to Old River – Bottom End (Merengo Bend Lake)
363.5 LBD Natchez-Under-The-Hill
Some Natchez Stories  
The Natchez Bluff – Mississippi Loess Bluff ##4  
Natchez to St. Francisville
363 Natchez Bridge
363 RBD Vidalia Boat Ramp
362.8 RBD Vidalia Boat Ramp (Lower)
361 LBD St. Catherine Creek(New Mouth)
360 – 356.5 RBD Natchez Islands
355 LBD Carthage Point
358 – 355 LBD Carthage Point Towhead
356.5 – 360 RBD Morville / Jeffries Landing
352.5 LBD St. Catherine National Wildlife Refuge
Wood Storks  
Wintering Waterfowl  
Alligator Gar  
Bottomland Harwood Forests  
352.5 – 346.5 LBD Opposite Warnicotte / Esperance Archipelago
348.6 RBD Esperance Landing
348 – 344 RBD Esperance Point
347.2 LBD Old Mouth of St. Catherine Creek
348 – 345 LBD Ellis Cliffs (Mississippi Loess Bluff ##5)
344 RBD Esperance Bottom
341.3 RBD Fairview / Old River
The Mamie S Barret  
346 – 341 Glasscock Cut-Off
341.1 LBD Washout Bayou / Homochitto River
340.1 RBD Oil Well & Boat Ramp
340 – 338 LBD Buck Island
338.5 – 334 RBD Fritz Island
340 – 332 Dead Man’s Bend
332 – 328 Jackson Point / Widow Graham Bend
326 RBD Union Point
325.5 – 322.5 RBD Palmetto Island
325 – 320 Three Rivers WMA and Red River NWR
323 LBD Artonish Boat Ramp
323 – 321 RBD Black Hawk Island
321 – 319 LBD Palmetto Bend
Alternate Route to the Gulf of Mexico: The Atchafalaya River  
The Atchafalaya  
316.3 RBD Hydro Intake – Old River Control Structure
Short History of the Old River Control Structure  
314.6 RBD Main Intake – Old River Control Structure
313 LBD Buffalo River (Old Mouth of the Homochito River)
Clark Creek Natural Area  
313.7 RBD Knox Landing
311.7 RBD Auxiliary Intake — Old River Control Structure
311.7 LBD Clark Creek
311.7 – 310 LBD Tunica Hills Below Clark Creek (Mississippi Loess Bluff ##6)
311 – 309 RBD Point Breeze
310.2 LBD Wilkinson Creek
306 LBD Welcome to Louisiana!
306 – 294 LBD Angola State Penitentiary
306 LBD Angola Ferry
304.5 – 303 LBD Shreve’s Bar
303.7 Old River Lock and Dam: Entrance to the Atchafalaya River
The Atchafalaya River: Best Rout to the Gulf  
306 – 302 Back Channel of Shreve’s Bar
306 – 302 RBD Main Channel of Shreve’s Bar
304 RBD Carr Point
302.8 RBD Torras Landing
302.5 – 298 LBD Hog Point Sandbar
299 – 298 LBD Hog Point Towhead
300.2 – 298 RBD Miles Bar Towhead
297 RBD Raccourci Runout / Monday Lake
295.5 RBD Leatherman Point
294.7 LBD Sugar Lake Bayou
293 LBD Tunica Bayou
293 – 291.5 LBD Tunica Hills (Mississippi Loess Bluffs ##7)
Tunica Hills WMA  
293 – 290 RBD Tunica Bar Towhead
291.9 LBD Little Hollywood
291.8 LBD Como Bayou
289.8 LBD Polly Creek
289.5 – 289 RBD Greewood Bar
287.5 LBD Greewood Dune
287.5 – 284 LBD Little Island
283.3 LBD Sebastopol
281.5 RBD Below Burnette Point
281.5 – 280.5 RBD New Tex Landing
281 – 278 LBD Morgan’s Bend (Iowa Point)
278.5 – 277.8 LBD Iowa Point Bottom End of Morgan’s Bar
279.6 – 279 RBD Morganza Spillway Entrance
278.8 RBD Cement Silo
277.2 RBD Morganza Crevasse
276.6 RBD Protected Dune
275.5 RBD Before Boies Point “Hidey Hole”
276 – 275 LBD Collapsing Muddy Banks
275 – 270 LBD Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge
Cypress-Tupelo Swamp  
Bottomland Harwood Forests  
Wading Birds  
Wintering Waterfowl  
273 – 270 RBD St. Maurice Island
274.4 LBD Hardwick’s Ditch / Access to the Co-Champion Cypress Tree
270 LBD Double Silo Hunting Club “Cajun Condo”
268.5 – 268 RBD Graveyard Landing
266.2 LBD Bayou Sara
266 LBD Old St. Francisville Ferry Landing
St. Francisville, LA  
St. Francisville History  
265.5 LBD Army Corps Work Ramp
265.5 LBD St. Francisville Mat Casting Field
264.8 LBD St. Francisville Boat Ramp
St. Francisville to Baton Rouge
Paddling Through the Narrows Below St. Francisville  
264.7 LBD Small Bayou
263 – 261 LBD Sandy Dunes Dugan Landing
263 RBD Big Cajun Power Plant I and II
261.8 John James Audubon (New Roads) Bridge
260.1 LBD Crown Vantage Outflow
259.9 LBD Transmontaigne Docking
259 RBD Big Cajun I Power Plant
259 – 256 LBD Fancy Point Towhead
257 RBD Hermitage Dune
256 – 255.5 LBD Fancy Point Sandbar
255.5 – 253.8 RBD Point Menoir
255.5 LBD Thompson Creek
255 LBD Georgia Pacific Port Hudson Paper Mill
257 RBD Hermitage Dune
Water Quality  
The Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper  
Environmental Reporting Phone Numbers  
255 – 254.2 LBD Thompson Creek Bluffs (Mississippi Loess Bluff ##8)
253.6 LBD Amoco Pipelnie Dock
252.2 – 246.5 LBD Profit Island
252.8 – 252.2 LBD Profit Island Chute (Entrance)
Profit Island Chute Weir  
Profit Island Chute (Industrial Area)  
250.3 RBD Bald Eagle Nest
250.2 RBD Wreckage of Crane Boat
247.2 RBD Smithfield Boat Ramp
246.5 – 246 LBD Profit Island Chute (Exit)
The Monmouth Disaster  
246.2 RBD Small Dune
246.5 – 245.8 LBD Sandbar at Bottom of Profit Chute
First Sighting of Baton Rouge (Still 12 Miles Downstream)  
245 LBD Devil’s Swamp Bayou
“The Very Bottom”  
Baton Rouge Crossroads  
241 – 239 LBD Thomas Point (Mallet Bend)
239 – 235 LBD Allendale Reach (Thomas Point to Wilkerson Point)
239 – 235 LBD Allendale Reach: Fleeted Barges
235.8 LBD Devil’s Swamp Bayou
235.8 LBD Bayou Baton Rouge
235.2 LBD Baton Rouge Harbor
235.2 LBD Baton Rouge North Wastewater Treatment Plant Outfall
236 233 LBD Mulatto Bend (Wilkerson Point)
235 RBD Point Place Landing (Wilkerson Point)
234.2 RBD Wilkerson Landing Boat Ramp
235 – 234.7 LBD Southern Univ., Istrouma (Scott’s) Bluff, Mississippi Loess Bluff ##9
233.9 RBD US 190 and Railroad Bridge (Old Bridge)
Navigating Baton Rouge Harbor  
233.7 LBD Monte Sano Bayou
Supertankers? Welcome to Chemical Corridor Monte Sano Bayou
232.9 RBD CSS Arkansas
233.8 LBD Formosa Plastics Corp., Baton Rouge North Wharf
233 LBD Kinder Morgan (Exxon Petroleum Coke)
232.2 LBD ExxonMobil
232.2 LBD ExxonMobil Graffiti Wall
231.8 RBD Placid Refining
231.9 LBD Sunrise, Louisiana
230 LBD Welcome to Baton Rouge: Downtown Riverfront
Baton Rouge Sites and Services of Interest to Paddlers  
230.1 RBD West Baton Rouge Tourist Commission, Court Street Landing
229.6 LBD City Excursion Wharf AKA “The Paperclips”
229.6 LBD USS Kidd
229.4 LBD Argosy Casino
229.3 LBD I-10 Highway Bridge “New Bridge”
229.1 LBD Glass Beach (Baton Rouge Boat Ramp)
229 LBD Old Municipal Dock
229.1 RBD Greater Baton Rouge Dock No.1 Wharf: Community Coffee
How to Brew a Great-Tasting Pot of River-Rat Coffee  
228.3 RBD Intercostal Waterway (Port Allen Lock & Dam)
Resupply from Intercostal Waterway Boat Ramp (Under HWY 1)  
227.4 LBD LSU
Baton Rouge Gage (BG)  
Water Levels According to the Baton Rouge Gage (BG)  
Leaving Baton Rouge and Heading Downstream  
Welcome to Sola (South Louisiana)!  
Baton Rouge to New Orleans to Venice  
Venice to the Gulf  
About “Cancer Alley”  
Possible Campsites Along the Lower Mississippi River  
Baton Rouge to New Orleans  
220 LBD Duncan Point
214 – 215 RBD Manchac Point
210 LBD Bar Above Plaquemines LBD > 20
209 LBD Plaquemines LBD > 30
195 LBD Bayou Goula Sandbar LBD > 25
194 LBD Point Claire LBD > 35
177 LBD Eighty-One Mile Point LBD > 30
171 LBD Point Houmas > 30
154 LBD College Point > 30?
149 LBD Pauline Bar (Magnolia Landing) LBD > 30
143 LBD Belle Point LBD > 30?
132 RBD Bonnet Carre Island > 25?
130 LBD Thirty-Five Mile Point LBD > 30
129 LBD Bonnet Carre Upper LBD > 40
127 LBD Bonne Carre Lower LBD > 40
109 LBD Opposite Twelve Mile Point RBD > 35?
95 LBD Algier’s Point
94.7 LBD The Moonwalk — French Quarter and French Market
11 LBD Mouth of Baptiste Collette Bayou
10 RBD Mouth of Grand Pass
Atchafalaya River 159 – 0 SIMMESPORT TO MORGAN CITY
Louisiana Delta 229 – 10 BATON ROUGE TO VENICE
Birdsfoot Delta 10 – 0 VENICE TO GULF OF MEXICO