The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Bluff Beat

Like a deep earth drumbeat, the river and the bluffs resound in a profound resonance, the biggest river in North America periodically bouncing its muddy belly against the biggest piles of earth in this region.  If you make note of the Mississippi River mileage in accordance to where the river comes closest to the bluffs, a simple pattern becomes evident.   From the Vicksburg Bluff downstream it’s 28 miles to the Big Black Bluff at Grand Gulp (409).  Then another 15 to the next bluff at Petit Gulf Hills (394).  31 miles to the Natchez Bluffs (363).  16 to the Ellis Cliffs (347) above Old St. Catherine Creek.  35 to the Clark Creek Bluffs (312).  Around Angola 20 miles to reach the Tunica Hills (292).  37 miles more to the next bluff at Thompson Creek Bluffs(255) below Thompson Creek, near Port Hudson.  20 miles further brings the river past the very last loess bluff, Istrouma Bluff, which Baton Rouge is built on.  So there is some pattern there: 28 – 15 – 31 – 16 – 35 – 20 – 37 – 20, a repeating rhythm of a strong beat followed by a softer beat, kind of a like a blues shuffle, a strong beat followed by a backbeat, the sound of horse-hoofs clopping down a cobblestone alley, or the hammering piston arm of a stern-wheeled steamboat steaming up the Mississippi valley.  Why would the river and the bluffs create this kind of repeating pattern?  Some geologist or hydrologist will have to answer that question.  If you have any input, please leave a comment online on this page, or write me, or 291 Sunflower Avenue, Clarksdale, MS, 38614.  Thank you! 


The Nine Mississippi Loess Bluffs

Mississippi Loess Bluff #1 — Walnut Hills (Vicksburg)

Mississippi Loess Bluff #2 — Big Black Bluff (Grand Gulf)

Mississippi Loess Bluff #3 — Petit Gulf Hills (Bondurant)

Mississippi Loess Bluff #4 — Natchez Bluffs (Natchez) 

Mississippi Loess Bluff #5 — Ellis Cliffs (Old St. Catherine Creek)

Mississippi Loess Bluff #6 — Clark Creek Bluffs (Fort Adams)

Mississippi Loess Bluff #7 — Tunica Hills (Angola)

Mississippi Loess Bluff #8 — Thompson Creek Bluffs (Port Hudson) 

Mississippi Loess Bluff #9 — Istrouma Bluff (Baton Rouge)


No Levees

There are no levees on the Mississippi side south of Vicksburg due to these loess hills, along which is found a series of towns (Port Gibson, Lorman, Natchez, Fort Adams), and many farms, trailer parks, stores, ranches and homesteads in between.  The loess bluffs are lacerated by a large family of noted Mississippi streams like the Big Black River, Bayou Pierre and the Homochitto River.  In between Vicksburg and Baton Rouge paddlers will find these loess bluffs crowding up along the river’s channel like a return of the Chickasaw Bluffs or the Kentucky Hills, and then retreating in the distance nowhere to be seen.  In fact they never retreat too far back over the forests.  Highway 61 rides along their edge not ten miles back from the river in most places.

436.5 RBD City of Vicksburg Riverfront Park

Another possible landing for paddlers needing resupply in Vicksburg in low or medium water levels is the Riverfront Park left bank descending at 436.5 (directly below the Washington Street Louisiana Circle Overlook).   Primitive landings only on shelves of rock, mounds of hardened mud, or if you’re lucky (and perceptive) one of the small beaches that usually form here in between the mud and the rock.   Make your landing and pull vessel completely out of the water (or risk capsize – the waves get big here).  Your gear should be safe here, no one else uses this location.  Scramble your way several hundred yards up the bluffs to the park.  Some bushwhacking might be necessary. 


Riverfront Park has a drinking water fountain, bathrooms and free electricity (outlets within the pavilion.  Within walking distance of the park (up the hill and down Washington Street) you will find a Kangaroo Gas Station, Shell Gas Station with a Subway attached, Waffle House and Ameristar Hotel, Days Inn and Suites and other economical hotel choices.  If you stay at the Dixiana you might be awakened out of your sleep by some of the all-night activity that seems to take place.


Not a good place to meet your shuttle (long portage up steep bluffs).  Use the Yazoo River Vicksburg Boat Ramp instead.  The physical address City of Vicksburg Riverfront Park 4100 Washington Street, Vicksburg, MS 39180.  For more information call (601) 634-4514.


435.7 Vicksburg Bridges: US80 and I-20

I-20 Bridge at Vicksburg is a 12, 974 foot cantilever style bridge built in 1973 that connects Delta, Louisiana with Vicksburg, Mississippi.  It is 60 feet wide with 116 feet of clearance at low water (0 VG) and 73 feet at high water (43 VG).


The old Highway 80 bridge over the Mississippi River at Vicksburg is now closed to vehicular traffic although the railroad still uses it. It is so narrow that big cargo trailers routinely had to rub tires on the siderails and then only cleared each other by inches. This often happened at speeds that made being anywhere close to them dangerous. The towboats have to shoot two sets of piers (the old bridge and the new I-20 bridge next door). Going upstream is no problem. However, going downstream means negotiating a ninety degree bend just above the bridge and then lining up to make it under the two bridges. I watch in utter amazement as the captains make the bend and shoot the bridges without slowing down. It is equally amazing watching those with less experience try to make the turn and thread the eye of the piers. Once in a while a tow hits the old bridge and scatters barges for miles downriver.  (From Bill Strong’s Eclectic Mississippi Photo Tour).

The US80 and I-20 bridges make parallel crossings one right after another.  They  present one of the most difficult challenges for towboat pilots on the entire Lower Mississippi.  Fast turbulent waters accumulate speed and focus as they come sliding around Brown’s Point and past Delta Point Dikes, and then gain even more turbulence as they are forced into a ninety degree bend to the South.  As they make the bend the waters ricochet off the Vicksburg Bluff and are focused into a single tongue of furious commotion.  The river here is deep and chaotic.  Paddlers can get an advance view of this stretch of river from the National Park turnoff at Louisiana Circle or the Mississippi Visitor Center at the Navy Circle Overlook.  Large upwellings of rising water hit the surface and blossom open into a train of giant boils, an endless train of boils that roll downstream like a sea full of giant jellyfish.  The channel narrows down to half mile wide, and during low water less.  Downstream tows have to slow their engines to a dead halt, and sometimes go into reverse to make the proper presentation for safe passage under the bridge.  Some tows are over 2500 feet long and 210 feet wide.  They have to maneuver a bridge span 870 feet wide.  They usually pass under the bridge at a slight angle as they try to make the turn.   They have little room for error, and will most certainly opt running over any ignorant or foolhardy paddlers rather than risk hitting one of the bridge abutments and possibly causing a collapse of the bridge.


Extreme caution should be exercised while navigating this stretch of river.  As discussed above use left bank spans (east side of bridge) in normal water conditions with no upstreamers.  Use right bank spans in the event of approaching upstreamers, or in case of strong south winds.

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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