Rivergator: Paddler’s Guide
to the Lower Mississippi River
goes live on November 1st, 2013
In celebration we are canoeing the Big River from Caruthersville to Vicksburg in a series of week-long trips. The first of these is described below. I hope you can join us. Special accommodation for anyone who will write, photograph, or share in some medium the Rivergator story! Southerners: you don’t have to go far to experience the wonders of the world. It’s right here in your own backyard. 1155 miles of free-flowing river between St. Louis and the Gulf of Mexico.
St. Louis to Memphis from www.rivergator.org
Caruthersville to Memphis
1st view of downtown Memphis: Upper Hickman Bar
Meet on Monday, November 4 at 9am at Mud Island Memphis. Park your car, shuttle to Caruthersville. Put in around noon. 5 days on river. Return to Mud Island around noon on Friday, November 8th. 113 miles of the big river out of the Missouri Bootheel and into the wild floodplain below between Tennessee and Arkansas, it’s so wild that no levees are needed for 60 miles along the left bank side of the river from Moss Island to Memphis! This section is full of tributary rivers with deep woody bottoms, strange colorful mud slides, and dozens of islands and back channels to explore, many protected within wildlife refuges and state parks. You’ve never seen downtown Memphis if you haven’t viewed it from the river!
The Big River meets the Chickasaw Bluffs
Monday, November 4th Meet at 12noon at Mud Island Memphis. Park your car, shuttle to Caruthersville. Put in mid-afternoon. Linwood, Boothspoint, Caruthersville Bridge. Camp: Island 18
Tuesday, November 5th
Island 18, Everett Lake, 20, 21, Mouth of the Obion River, Tamm Bend, Barfield Bend, Nebraska Point, Nucor, Tomato, Forked Deer Island 30. Camp: Ashport-Gold Dust.
Wednesday, November 6th
Osceola, Old Forked Deer, 1st Chickasaw Bluff, Fort Pillow, Mouth of the Hatchie River, Randolph, 2nd Chickasaw Bluff, Island 35. Camp: Dean Island.
Thursday, November 7th
Dean Island, Hen & Chicks, Brandywine Island, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, 3rd Chickasaw Bluff, Hickman, Redman Bar. Camp: Looshatchie Bar.
Friday, November 8th.
Loosahatchie River, Wolf River, Mud Island, M Bridge, Memphis Beale Street Harbor, 4th Chickasaw Bluff (Memphis). Return to Mud Island around noon.
Itinerary subject to adjustment depending on wind, water levels, and prevailing weather conditions.
113 miles of the big river from the paddler-friendly town of Caruthersville, Missouri to the thriving metropolis of Memphis Tennessee, the largest big river city south of St. Louis. Along the way you’ll paddle over mud that’s over 6,000 feet deep and an entire loess bluff caving into the river. You’ll see towboats and fishermen and a few crusty river towns like Osceola and Randolph. You’ll camp on beaches the size and feel of Caribbean beaches, and paddle through narrow chutes with lush overhanging willows and cottonwoods. You’ll be hemmed in by revetment and dikes in one place, and then released into long sections of the main channel with no levee -- where the floodplain forest/wetlands are still connected directly to the river, creating an incredibly vibrant ecosystem of bayous, sluices, chutes, pools, and back channels overflowing with wildlife. In some places you might think you’re in the Amazon jungle for all the mud and trees, in other places you might be overwhelmed by the large agricultural landscapes, or by a couple of sprawling steel plants. In one special location you’ll think you’ve discovered a land of the lost where the Mississippi River meets Utah (at the base of the startling candy-colored ridges and buttes of the 2nd Chickasaw Bluff).
The river here rolls out of the Missouri Bootheel and into the wild floodplain below between Tennessee and Arkansas, it’s so wild that no levees are needed for 60 miles along the left bank side of the river from Moss Island to Memphis! This section is full of tributary rivers with deep woody bottoms, strange colorful mud slides, and dozens of islands and back channels to explore, many protected within wildlife refuges and state parks. There is some heavy industry along the way, a couple of noisy steel plants and a giant power plant (below Osceola), and some busy grain docks and two harbors -- none of which you’ll want to camp near. Nevertheless your hard paddling will be rewarded again and again with fabulous views of the Chickasaw Bluffs along the Western edge of the state of Tennessee and adjacent bottomland hardwood forests, including the colossal cliff-bluffs at Fort Pillow (1st Chickasaw Bluff), the astounding colorful chalky glacier of mud above Richardson’s Landing (2nd Chickasaw Bluff), Meeman-Shelby State Forest (3rd Chickasaw Bluff) and finally the sweeping view of the Memphis skyline, including the Memphis Bridge and the Pyramid, and downtown Memphis (which straddles the 4th Chickasaw Bluff). The vista from the river is unparalleled! Points of interest include Obion RIver, Moss Island Wildlife Management Area, Nucor Yamamato Steel, Island 30/Osceola Back Channel, Hatchie River Bottoms, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, Hickman Bar, Loosahatchie and Wolf Rivers, the elegant “M” Bridge and finally the eye-popping view of skyscrapers over the Beale Street Harbor and Landing. The vista from the river is unparalleled! You’ve never seen downtown Memphis if you haven’t viewed it from the river!
By voyageur style canoe. No previous experience necessary, but must enjoy wilderness-style camping and must be willing to paddle! We are reserving 4 seats on every segment for writers, photographers and any journalists who will help us share the story about the beautiful and dynamic Mississippi River and the Rivergator Water Trail describing it!
Please contact John Ruskey, 662-902-7841 or firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your seat, and for more information. November 4-8: Caruthersville to Memphis; November 12-15 Memphis to Helena; and November 18-22: Greenville to Vicksburg.
Quapaw provides all necessary river gear & emergency equipment. Normally we prepare all food & refreshments, drinks include spring water, juices and milk. Alcoholic beverages BYOB. We will pack all necessary cookware and eating utensils, as well as camp tables and camp chairs.
Bring all personal gear and stuff into our waterproof drybags before launching (or use your own). These are backpack-style bags made of tough waterproof material - great for packing on a rainy day! It takes three complete fold to make them water-proof, be sure to lock all four buckles! If you have any questions, check with your guide.
Be prepared for rain or intense sun UV exposure! Sunlight is surprisingly intense on the river, even in the winter (you get the sun twice – once from above and once reflected from below). Sunburn is our number one complaint and has caused more than one Mississippi River paddler very painful days and sleepless nights. Be forewarned! Sunglasses, sun screen, long sleeve clothing and a wide brim hat are all good ideas, especially for anyone particularly sensitive.
We can supply tents & sleeping bags to anyone who needs them, $35ea/person/trip regardless of length. Otherwise, bring your own and pack with your gear into our dry bags.
Camping: Remote islands, sandbars, towheads, usually sandy places, sometimes it’s necessary to make a muddy landing. In inclement weather it might be necessary to find shelter within the forest. This is primitive camping on a river island, no services of any sort. Bring everything you need to make yourself comfortable. Bring your own toiletry. Bring a change of warm clothing, including summer months, when mornings can be cool. It’s always cooler on the river.
Charge is $125/day which includes canoes, paddles, lifejackets and all necessary river gear, first aid kits and emergency gear; and meals, which include all the food prep, campfire cooking, cookware and eatware, and cleanup. There is a separate shuttle fee of $100-200/person depending on which section of river. Shuttle fee covers transportation of canoes and gear plus our vehicles and drivers to and from Clarksdale for drop-off and pickup.
The Rivergator is overseen by the Lower Mississippi River Foundation which is dedicated to access, education, and the betterment of public outdoor recreation on the Middle & Lower Mississippi River.
Other Rivergator Trips:
Memphis to Helena
Meet: Tuesday, November 12 at 10am in Helena (or 9am in Clarksdale). Park your car, shuttle to Memphis. Put in at noon from Mud Island. 4 days on river. Return to Helena around noon on Friday, November 15th.
Greenville to Vicksburg
Meet: Monday, November 19 at 12noon at Warfield Point State Park, Greenville. Park your car. Board canoe to Vicksburg. 4 days on river. Arrive in Vicksburg around high noon on Friday, November 22nd. Shuttle back to Greenville (3pm)
The Mysteries of the Universe are at your Doorstep
Celebrating the opening of the Rivergator:
Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
Please contact John Ruskey, 662-902-7841 or email@example.com to reserve your seat, and for more information. November 4-8: Caruthersville to Memphis; November 12-15 Memphis to Helena; and November 18-22: Greenville to Vicksburg. Presented by Quapaw Canoe Company and the Lower Mississippi River Foundation.