The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Some Natchez Stories

You would expect any river landing anywhere to have more than a few stories tucked under its belt.  True to form Natchez-Under-the-Hill’s reputation far exceeds even its colorful name.  I’ll just stick to the few that I have personally heard, and leave out the rest.  When I first paddled into town several decades ago, a grizzled pilot named Andre grabbed my ear shortly after I entered Natchez-Under-the-Hill, as if he had been waiting all night for me.  Without any provocation on my part, he launched into several humorous tales concerning the unusual expeditions he had seen coming down the Ol’ Man.  There was the girl from Wisconsin.  She paddled it alone in her kayak.  A couple of days after she left Natchez, some men in a canoe arrived, and inquired about her.  They were trying to catch up with her, but she was the fastest paddler anybody had ever seen.  “Maybe those poor men are still chasing her somewhere across the Caribbean,” surmised Andre with a grin.


Then there was Effie and her crew of Germans,”  said Andre.   He picked up his cell phone and put it to his ear.  “All of the tugboat pilots had their VHF radios like this and were telling each other about those Germans, and each was hoping for a view.”  Seems those Germans liked to raft au natural.  They stayed in Natchez a while, and then pushed on.  The next day they rounded Carthage Point, where the river widens several miles.  “It looks like the river goes both ways,” said Andre, “they went the wrong way.”  The Germans had bottomed out in the shallow water of the chute behind Carthage Towhead.   “Effie sent for me.  She told them to get Andre down here and pull them out.  So I got my boat, and a big winch, and I asked the boys if anyone would come help me get them out.  I had so many volunteers, we couldn’t fit them all.”  Andre grinned like a walrus at the recollection, and then continued his narration.  When they got close to Effie and the breached raft full of Germans, Andre anchored his boat, and began winching.  His men eagerly got out in the water and pushed the raft from behind, alongside all the au natural German women.   “It was the most motivated group of volunteers I ever had,” he said, pleased with the recollection. 


“Then there was Mr. Oregon,” said Andre, and grinned again like a walrus, sobering quickly to proceed.  “Mr. Oregon was a golden gloves boxer.  One day he got an idea.  He went to the ‘Y’ and learned to swim.  After becoming the best swimmer anyone had seen, he went to the headwaters of the Mississippi (Lake Itaska, Minnesota) and stood there in a wet suit, in the middle of the river, and then lowered his body into the current, and began to swim.”   Mr. Oregon swam through the Twin Cities.  He swam through the Quad Cities (Moline, Davenport, Rock Island, and Bettendorf), through St. Louis, through Memphis, and kept going.  He must have been some kind of superman.  


(note: I’ve swam across the Mississippi.  It’s no easy feat.  You end up far downstream of where you started, and there are all kinds of boils and eddies to contend with.  One time I couldn’t get back to shore.  It was on the edge of the river, near island 63.   The boils were pushing against me.   In fact, it took about a half hour of hard swimming to get back to shore, and I was only thirty feet away from it.  It was quite frightening.  In the end, I only made landing by swimming back out into the current and floating around a large eddy which eventually brought me back in close enough to make landing.   Some people say I’m crazy for canoeing on the Mississippi.  What would they say about swimming the length of it?   Just when you draw the line you’ll always find someone on the other side.)


Andre continued: “I was standing at the landing one day and there came this black thing that looked like a pile of trash, like inner tubes and tires…”   It was Mr. Oregon.  He was an insurance salesman for New York Life.  As he made his way down the river – swimming, mind you, every stroke of the way – he would call ahead and arrange accommodations with the NY Life salesman in every town he came to.  “He left Natchez with a plan for a pickup and ended up sleeping with the mosquitoes on Warnicott Bar!”  Andre grinned big at this one, “he had to bury himself in the sand to get away from the mosquitoes!  Stayed all night buried in the sand.”


What happened was that Mr. Oregon had made plans with the Natchez NY Life representative to meet him at Such-and-Such a Point at such-and-such a time.  But one of them got confused, and poor Mr. Oregon was left  standing on Warnicott Bar in the darkness, the mosquitoes becoming ravenous. Warnicott-Esperance is an amazing smattering of islands arranged neatly left bank descending along the main channel, any one of the half dozen or so places would be a spectacular campsite (keep reading below for more about these islands).   Mr. Oregon swam up to what he thought was the agreed-upon rendezvous point.  And so he waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Sunset came and went, and still no pickup.  And then the mosquitoes came out.  Mr. Oregon was swimming the length of the Mississippi River, but he was no match for the ruthless Mississippi mosquitoes.  He ran from place to place, but they kept finding him.  There was no breeze.  The skeeters got worse.  In desperation, Mr. Oregon dug a hole in the sand, and covered himself with sand. 


Of course, he couldn’t carry a tent or any sort of protection with him as he was swimming.  So, he dug a hole and covered himself with Mississippi Valley sand, still warm from the relentless sun of the day.  Finally relief…  that is except his nose…  The only part not covered.  There was no way to slap the skeeters because his arms were buried.  It was a miserable night.  Mr. Oregon discovered that there are as many bugs in the sand as there are in the air.  The sand became itchy.  The skeeters were attacking his nose.  He waved down a passing fisherman the next morning and caught a ride back to Natchez to recover from his miserable night.  But he was in such miserable condition he couldn’t swim.  And his nose…  well it was the biggest puffiest nose you’d ever seen.  He looked like the elephant man.  But the following day he returned to Warnicott Bar, and the intrepid Mr. Oregon continued his journey.


A more sobering tale involves a local reporter named Danny Richardson who one night got lit up like a Christmas tree and bet everyone in the bar that he could swim across the Mississippi River over to Vidalia.  No one took him seriously as he made the bets. He walked out the saloon door, down the ramp and dove into the dark river, never to be seen alive again.  They did recover his body three days later.


Danny is the author of many a good Natchez story, including this one about the dangers of messing with a Loess Bluff.


The Natchez Bluff — Mississippi Loess Bluff #4

Natchez Democrat. MUDSLIDE RIPS APART U-T-H.

By Danny Richardson. March 30, 1980


NATCHEZ – A mountain of mud swept into Natchez Under-the-Hill Saturday afternoon, killing at least two people and destroying two buildings….Rescue workers dug their way into the debris throughout the afternoon, fighting to get to the victims through the brick and timbers but the mass of material stymied officials in making an actual count of victims or determining if anyone else [was] still trapped…


Killed were Amy Russell, 26, a barmaid in the saloon and Carrie Smith, 34, a waitress at the deli.


Sheriff William T. “Billy” Ferrell said …it would be early Sunday morning before rescue workers could clear the tons of mud and brick to determine additional fatalities.

Amid the roar of chain saws, the rumbling of gasoline powered generators and with television lights glaring, the last body was removed at 9:20 pm.


Ms. Smith’s body was removed around 5 pm. The deli in which she worked had just opened for business Friday. Her sister, Mary Ann, also a waitress at the deli, was injured and was hospitalized…with multiple injuries.


The mud apparently started its descent down the hill at approximately 3 pm.  Steve Stephens, owner of a boat dock, said he looked up and saw the huge wall of mud and an 80-foot tree sliding down the bluff.  “I started to yell like hell,” Stephens said.  “But nobody in the bar could hear me.”  Stephens said he watched helplessly as the mud crashed into the buildings, sending people literally flying out the door.  “I thought for a minute the whole thing was going to come on down the hill into the river,” Stephens said.


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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