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Lower Mississippi

River Dispatch

Vol 8 No 5 - May 2012

Announcing:

River Gator: the Paddler’s Guide to the Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

and:

Inauguration of the Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

June 1, 2012

www.rivergator.org goes live

June 1-8

Week-long adventure: 100+ miles of the Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

This will be the official inauguration of the Lower Mississippi River Water Trail with a guided 100+ mile river journey by canoe, kayak and SUP from the mouth of the St. Francis River to Choctaw Island and a final take out at Arkansas City.

Quapaw Canoe Company will be running its big voyageur style canoes, but any paddler is welcome to join in using their own vessel for any particular section of the trail. See end of email for itinerary and details.

See story in the May 1st Helena Daily World:

What is the River Gator?

Written for paddlers with photos, text, and maps, the River Gator describes the 1100 mile trail of free-flowing water between St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico.

Who is the River Gator written for?

The River-Gator is written for canoeists, kayakers and stand-up-paddleboarders -- and anyone else plying the waters of the Lower Mississippi River in human-powered craft.

Who is the River Gator written by?

The River-Gator was written by John Ruskey who has been paddling, photographing, and documenting the islands, landings and channels of the Lower Mississippi River since 1982.

Why?

I am hoping to share the secrets for safe paddling on this often mysterious and confusing waterway -- and at the same time dispel some of the myths about paddling the Big River.

Note on title:

The name "River Gator" is inspired by the best seller The Navigator first published in 1801 by Zadok Kramer. Mr. Kramer is the same guy who numbered the islands and installed the nomenclature system that we we still use today.

Publication:

Initially appearing as website covering 100+ miles of the 1100 mile trail (the free-flowing water between St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico), additional 100+ mile sections will be added on until the entire trail is carefully documented for paddlers with photos, text, and maps (and eventually video & sound clips). The website address is www.rivergator.org. Text, photos and maps will eventually be published hard copy as the “River Gator: the Paddler’s Guide to the Middle & Lower Mississippi River.”

From the rivergator.org intro:

There are 24 million paddlers in North America; very few of them know about the Lower Mississippi, and even less use it. The river is a mystery to even its closest neighbors. The River Gator will create the missing link between paddlers & the river: routes, river descriptions, good maps & paddler-friendly information. River Gator is written for the audience of America’s paddlers and illustrates the potential of the Lower Mississippi as a paddler’s destination. The Lower Miss should be as popular a destination as the Boundary Waters of Minnesota or the Allagash of Maine, and yet it remains as little known & little used as the most remote of American rivers like the Yukon. Millions of paddlers every year get on the Buffalo and other Ozark rivers in Arkansas & Missouri, and yet only a few hundreds at most get on the Lower Mississippi. Why? Because it is a big wild river and there is no guide available for paddlers. The River Gator is a comprehensive one-stop resource for all aspects of safe paddling & wilderness camping on the biggest river in North America.

For the long-distance paddler the River Gator includes information and links to provide a completely integrated visit to the mid-south (obviously centered on the big river). Good supporting land conveniences & services (such as food, libraries, wifi, post offices, accommodations, and groceries) and superb cultural enhancement (such as Mud Island Riverpark, the Tunica Riverpark, the Delta Cultural Center, the Delta Blues Museum, and the Vicksburg National Military Park) are found in all towns & cities along the route. This website will list them all in side bars or separate pages for easy access.

River Gator Samples:

Excerpt from “Intro to Paddling the Big River”

The beautiful word Mississippi is derived from the Ojibwe name misi-ziibi, meaning "Great River", or gichi-ziibi, meaning "Big River." The awe-struck DeSoto expedition called it “El Rio Grande” the big river. You often hear it called the “Father of Waters,” but I prefer the name “Mother River” on the Lower Miss because it runs so wild and has so many moods, and simultaneous gave birth to the productive Lower Mississippi Valley. Paddlers in Natchez have named it the “Phatwater” and celebrate its greatness with an annual forty-five mile challenge.

Whatever you call it, the big muddy river dominates the landscape more proudly and pervasively than any of the many forces which combine, multiply & divide over the middle of America. The sun rises and sets. The moon rules the night sky for a time and then is reduced to a sliver, and then ends its cycle as a pale ghost. The wind blows itself into gusts and gales and then subsides and stills. The forests explode in greenery through the warm months and then become naked barren brown & blacks in the cold. The passage of severe thunderstorms comes & goes. Hurricanes threaten for a season. Only the river remains present -- forever strong, unruly, unstransmutable. It fluctuates in scale, from low water to high water to flood, but its inherit character remains constant.

Excerpt from “Arkansas River Confluence”

Below the mouth of the Arkansas River everything increases proportionately: the face of the river, the pools between shoals, the size of the islands, the sweep of the sandbars, the length of the willow forests, the depth of the muddy banks. Even the narrows are less narrow. As you look downstream you will find an enlarged expanse of muddy brownish greenish water rolling & tumbling through incrementally bigger river bends. There are a few smaller tributaries downstream, notably the Yazoo and the Big Black, but none effect the scale of the big river as significantly as the Arkansas. Here the Mississippi River swells to its mature fullness and happily fills its wide valley with the gurgling waters of a nation, everything in between Montana and New York State, everything from the Rockies to the Appalachians, from the Smokies to the Alleghenies, from the New Mexican Plateau to the Cumberland Plateau, from the Great Plains to the Eastern Woodlands, and through the heartland, the midwest, the mid south and deep south, and most famously from the North Woods (Lake Itasca) to the Coastal Marshes of the Gulf of Mexico (Birdsfoot Delta).

Excerpt from “Below Hurricane Point”

Island 70

LBD 605 - 610

Following the main channel of the river past Hurricane Point/Dennis Landing you will be thrust out mid channel with slower water left bank descending (and the large eddy at Dennis Landing). At low water levels you must continue main channel because there is no other choice, but at higher water levels if you feel like exploring stay closer to the LBD (left bank descending) shore and enter the back channel of Island 70 which opens through a large mouth over some long dikes. This channel flows merrily along above 25HG and rejoins the main channel several miles downstream. There is a high ground top end of Island 70 that goes under around flood stage. Like a classic “towhead” island it then descends in elevation gradually through willow/cottonwood forests to the bottom end which is considerably lower, and goes under completely around 30HG.

Sticking to the main channel the river runs strong past Laconia (RBD 608) and through Henrico Bend and is then thrust out again center channel for a crossing back to the Mississippi shore as you approach Smith Point. Use long-range vision and scout the river as far downstream as you can see for upstream barges, which will also be crossing somewhere in this area. The river feels bigger in this area, and it is. The channel has been enlarged by the ancient influence of the Arkansas River, which is now not far off to the West. In previous river epochs the Arkansas confluenced above this area and the Mississippi basin still retains the extra width. On a clear day from Henrico you can see clear down the middle of the main channel all the way past Smith Point into Scrubgrass Bend where upstream tows can be vaguely seen chugging along below the tall trees lining the north bank RBD (right bank descending). At low water tow pilots like to hug the slower waters LBD along Island 70 Dikes and then cross over well into Henrico Bend.

The River Mirage effect

As you paddle along you will enjoy a striking long view downstream over the face of the river deep into Scrubgrass Bend as it bounces back and forth between slight variations of the banks and slides along in continental sheets of water over the hidden contours of the river bottom, in places seen as moody pools of water, in other places as fields of roiling agitation. The juxtaposition of these various expressions of water make for some unforgettable riverscapes, the likes of which might not be possible anywhere else on earth for this unique combination of elements found only in the deepness of the Lower Mississippi Valley. On very cold days river mirages are common here. A river mirage occurs when there is a steep temperature gradient between the river and the atmosphere above it. When the air temperature is much colder than the river these mirages are formed on the face of the river making strange distortions in the view downstream (or looking behind you upstream). Sometimes these distortions appear as layers of a blue-grey substance something like water that undulate, sometimes rolling into waves that slowly & silently uncurl themselves in horizontal crests & troughs. This can be a little un-nerving to an experienced paddler. If it really was a wave, it would be a giant wave, like a tsunami sized wave. But the paddler’s fears are quickly dispelled as the “wave” uncurls and then flattens out and everything assumes its “real” shape again.

One of the most striking distortions is the “enlargement effect.” Distant landmarks or objects get magnified over (or through) the mirages and appear much bigger or much closer than they actually are. You might be able to clearly read a channel crossing mile-marker that is actually very far away and normally indecipherable. You might see deer that normally would be impossible to discern walking along the river’s edge miles away. Recent maritime research has revealed that this kind of distortion over cold water might have led to the Titanic disaster.

When towboats are in the area this can produce an alarming reaction for a paddler caught in some exposed place, say at the edge of a narrows or making a difficult channel crossing. Imagine being halfway across the river in an unprotected place with fast water underneath and suddenly finding the tow that shortly before looked miles downstream now appears to be only a few hundred yards away and steaming directly for you! You can clearly see the foamy whitewater jaws of death being pushed in front of the leading line of barges. You paddle harder and harder but you cannot seem to get away from its line of passage. This is a dangerous position for a paddler to be caught in, there is no escaping the front of a line of barges this close headed your way. A cold clammy sweat envelopes you. You paddle harder and harder but can’t make any headway. Strangely there is no sound. And then inexplicably the air quality changes slightly, and the mirage disappears, and the towboat returns to its actual position miles downstream where you had originally seen it!

Of course when the temperature gradient is the opposite, i.e. cold water covered with warm air, fog forms over the river surface. This is a definite and very “real” hazardous condition. Go immediately to shore. On a still day with a thick fog descending, paddler’s beware! Fog creates your most dangerous situations. I’ve come close to meeting my maker more than once in the fog. [CLICK HERE: Paddling and Fog].

An archipelago of islands forms around the bottom end of Henrico Dikes. At the highest of river levels I’ve heard rumors of water connections via Half Moon Lake through various bayous into White River NWR such as Scrubgrass Bayou through the deep woods over to the White River, which would be well-worth exploring but would only be possible as the river nears flood stage.

Scrubgrass Bend

603-597

Scrubrass Bend makes an elegant 180 degree semi circle around Smith Point. Seen from the air the river channel scribes an almost perfect half moon. You enter it paddling west (into sunset) and exit paddling east (into sunrise). You might experience a common river illusion as you enter Scrubgrass from upstream from Henrico: it sometimes appears that the entire Mississippi River (the biggest volume river in this corner of the planet) dead ends into the wall of forest seen downstream. It might strike readers as strange that a half-mile wide big volume river could appear to disappear. But this is the way of the river. Mythic. Mysterious. Miraculous.

If you are intending to enter the White River, which is located at the base of the bend RBD, stay middle channel and then hug the right bank further down. Before you get there right bank descending at mile 599.5 is found a small pass into a bottomland lake which used to be the old channel and mouth of Scrubgrass Bayou, a White River distributary. Above HG10 you can easily enter through an intriguing channel bordered by overhanging willows, which creates a thick canopy and is a great place to take temporary shelter on a hot day or windy winter’s day. (Note: this place is marked “No Trespassing” but you’re okay staying on the water.) For all other routes stay middle channel at first past Smith Point and then return bank left staying closer to the giant sandbar that sprawls around Smith Point at all but the highest of water levels. Above 37HG an incredibly beautiful secret back channel can be found and followed behind Smith Point by staying right left and entering a narrow opening at the base of the Dike #1. Go to Smith Point description below for the rest of the story.

If you’re continuing down Scrubgrass Bend towards Victoria Bend, Rosedale and points South, stay LBD. There is a series of underwater Chevrons that were placed by the US Army Corps to break up the strong currents around the outside of the bend and to make conditions more favorable for upstream tows. The water boils & swirls unpredictably over these chevrons, any wind or passing tows makes for big choppy waves. The water on the left side of the channel might seem slow at first but gradually it picks up speed, and past mile 600 it feels like the full force of the current has been shoved over LBD and it becomes the fastest side of the river (contrary to common river knowledge that the fast water stays on the outside of the bend).

At the base of Scrubgrass Bend new water enters the Mississippi from the White River, and then exits one mile downstream into the Old Channel of the White River! If this sounds confusing, don’t worry, this is just one of the amazing attributes of the mysterious Mississippi. Keep reading below for more description -- “Old Channel of the White River.”

During rainy seasons up to 40,000 CFS (cubic feet per second) flow out of the White River into the “mother river” the Mighty Mississippi and hug the right bank for hundreds of yards downstream. If you are paddling in this area you will see blossoming boils of creamy-colored water erupting through the browner/greener waters of the Mississippi. Both are muddy, but the mud tones vary enough that a distinct demarkation can be seen by the paddler. Watch out for upstream tows who will also be charging upriver in this same area of the river -- and remember that a few of them will cut into the White, usually to access the Arkansas River through the Kerr-McClellan Canal.

Smith Point Sandbar

LBD 601.5 - 598

Smith Point Sandbar is high enough and large enough paddlers will discover it to be the best camping in this area of the river and should be included in any itinerary. Of course, if the timing is off, or if it is very windy, you might chose elsewhere. As with most big bars Smith Point is wide open and subject to any winds, storms and other caprices of the weather.

The most protected campsites are top end around mile 600 along or near the base of the three rocky dikes which radiate outwards. As you paddle past the Smith Point Light 601.5 follow the tongue of water into Scrubgrass Bend and then start angling in Eastward LBD towards the giant sandbars you will see emerging from around the inside of the bend. Pick and choose your place. There are three miles of beach around Smith Point at medium water and more at low water. You will always find good landings and campsites on this bar all of the way up to flood stage. As the water rises above 35HG the choices become narrowed down to the sites found along the tallest plateau of sand that straddles the sandbar along the left bank behind the dike field. But don’t fret over finding something. This is a gigantic landscape: now instead of three miles of beach landings you now have two miles to chose from! At 40HG the bar is reduced further, to maybe one mile of beach, and then goes completely under around flood stage.

If you don’t find any camping to your liking top end continue around the perimeter of the sandbar to the bottom end for other choices. You will paddle past the shoaling area around the ends of the dikes below mile 600 and still hugging LBD look for the last possible landings & campsites along the abruptly falling bottom end of the Smith Point Sandbar. At low water this giant sandbar ends in a steep cut bank of sand thirty to forty feet tall. Its a long climb up a slippery sand cliff reaching the top at low water, but the view up into the White and down the Old Channel of the White is rewarding. After unloading gear be sure to remove your vessel completely out of the water and secure it well above river level plus three feet higher (at least). As the powerful tows begin their difficult ascent up the strong waters coming downstream around Scrubgrass they have to gun their engines full throttle and the resulting waves can wash high up the bank, sometimes as high as three feet above river level, and will immediately upset and pull back anything within their grasp. Of course as the river climbs higher this steep bluff becomes more user-friendly, eventually water reaches sandy floor height (around 35HG) and then overtops the whole bottom end.

After dark paddlers enjoy an excitement unique to the Mississippi River. While you are enjoying the beautiful skies and moody waters of sunset and your day is coming to a peaceful conclusion, on board the tows a much different scene is taking place. The crews are changing places and preparing for the overnight travel. While one shift is going on break the other is getting fueled up with plates of downhome southern cooking and gulping cups of coffee to help stay awake through the long dark cold night ahead. Everyone from the pilot to the engineer to the oilman to the deck hand switches places with the other man responsible. Tows run 24/7 not stopping for Christmas or any other man-made occasions. On the tow its go, go, go, go. As the tows continue running the river they fill the watery night with the colorful reflections of their running lights as they wend their way up and down the channel, reds starboard, greens port, incandescent blue midship forward, a vertical line of soft yellows behind. Using these colors the knowledgeable paddler can determine exactly what side of the tow they are seeing and which way it is headed, as could any mariner. At times tow pilots throw on their powerful stabbing spotlights which can illuminate a riverbank a mile away and make strange dancing white-light reflections whenever their lights cross your camp. After a few hours however the excitement wears off and then later as you lay in your tent and your sleep is interrupted by repeated explosions of brilliance it can become startling and then downright annoying. This is just life on the Mississippi, not as Twain knew it, but as we experience it today. Suggestion: don’t place your tent directly in the line of fire, such as below the channel signage, or at the end of long straight stretches of river.

A funny incident took place at this location one night with a group of people I was camped with. After landing everyone had chosen campsites. One young couple walked far down the main ridge a half mile or so for some privacy. After an enjoyable campfire supper and an evening of star-watching and story-telling, river-worn but happy paddlers wandered off for a incomparable sleep on the banks of the river. Eventually I did the same. Later I was awoken out of my sleep by the sound of running footsteps -- or better said, the feeling of the vibration of running coming through the sand. I could feel it coming under me. It was the man of the couple and he was out of breath. He had run half mile from their tent site because they had seen spotlights stabbing the darkness from across the sandbar. He was sure that it was the police looking for prisoners who had escaped from the state farm! They knew that we were fairly close to the largest penal colony in the North America, Parchman Penitentiary (30 miles to the East). Evidently this impressionable couple had seen too many movies like “Brother Where Art Thou” and jumped to immediate conclusions thereof about being in the south on a humid southern summer night! Some people pack pistols or other firepower due to fears like this but I never have -- and have never had cause for one.

At low to medium water levels this giant bar is connected to the forested mainland beyond (Concordia Hunting Camp) and periodically ATVs scurry across the bar, usually during hunting season. Above 30 water starts filling in a series of lowland holes and wetlands behind the central plateau and the sandbar becomes an island, as the water continues rising above 35 a spectacular back channel becomes accessible to the paddler, keep reading below.

Secret Channel behind Smith Point Sandbar

Entrance: LBD 600.5

Exit: LBD 598

When the river rises above 37HG an incredibly beautiful and wild-feeling secret back channel opens up behind Smith Point and is well worth entering and following down its two mile course behind the giant plateau of sand at the top of Smith Point Sandbar. It takes some expert paddling and orientation to find the narrow opening, but once you’re in anyone could follow it as it flows along lazily and happily behind the view of towboats and river traffic this secret channel full of turtles, birds and river-loving mammals like coyote and deer. This area is a favorite haunt of the notorious feral pig, the wild boar. Look for signs of it in grassy places that have been unprooted.

If the river’s above 37 HG the secret channel will be open. Here’s how to find the entrance: As you paddle past Smith Point Light RBD 601.5 roll around the big eddy below and then curve further inwards and than hard paddle all the way back to shore LBD and stay with the edge of the thick wall of willows as it rounds southward downstream. The opening is approximately one mile below Smith Point Light. Eventually you will find a break in this willow forest, an inlet below a boiling place. The boils are being caused by Dike#1 which is now overtopped by 20 feet of water. Paddle over the boils and follow the water into the inlet as deep as you can go, to the East. You will notice the river water is now flowing into a thin line of willows that block this channel at lower water levels. At first the channel is only 30 feet wide. If the water’s flowing in, that’s your sign, the secret channel is open. If there’s no flow its not open. Watching carefully for snags or driftwood strainers that sometimes pile up at the entrance. Use your best paddling technique and cut through the narrow opening and through the willows and then go with the flow as the water rounds a series of dunes and big hummocks of forested mud. After a few turns the channel opens up maybe doubling or tripling in width, and then turns southward along some broad beaches behind some lines of tall standing cottonwoods. Below the beaches it closes up again and gets broken by contours of the landscape, but then regains its shape around a few more bends and makes its way again southward along the last giant ridge of sand descending downstream towards the exit back into the main channel of the Mississippi. Towards its bottom end the channel opens up wider and wider, becoming shallower as it does and spreading out over the sandy desert of Smith Point Sandbar. Oftentimes I have happened upon herds of deer as well as flocks of geese, red-winged blackbirds, and various ducks. During the spring songbird migration this area is a birder’s paradise.

Mouth of the White River

RBD 599

Like most Mississippi River tributaries and passes, the mouth of the White River angles downstream pushed by the implacable power of the big river. Even though this is the biggest right bank tributary between St. Louis and the Arkansas, it’s difficult to see the White River confluence as you approach from upstream, and unless you’re looking for it you may not notice the opening until you have paddled by and look back. In a mile wide river it might be too late to turn in if this was your intention! Looking back upstream from below the White River confluence grins wide open like the Cheshire Cat and the new lock and dam can be seen a few hundred yards upstream. If you are planning on turning up into the White for a paddler’s visit to the wilderness upstream, be sure to stay RBD as you come around Scrubgrass Bend. Make you crossing somewhere below Smith Point and paddle over the boiling waters to the Arkansas shore to gain entry.

The White River

The 722-mile long White River creates a wonderland of endless possibilities for the adventurous paddler. Upstream of its mouth lies the largest roadless bottomland hardwood forest in the center of the country, a sprawling morass of thick forests, caney bottoms, cypress bayous & swamps and the meandering channel of the White River itself. Not many paddlers will opt to paddle upstream and into such wild haunts, but its fun to dream about. Open up a map and let your imagination follow the maze of waterways and globs of land in between. Just thinking about the possibilities is enough to keep the armchair paddler amused for many long winter nights and maybe make plans for a summertime foray. You could paddle up the White and reach any number of upstream tributaries such as the the Bayou Des Arc, the Little Red River, the Black River, James River and Roaring River. The Cache River is one of the first big tributaries you’ll encounter. It recently made world news when the “Oh-My-God!” Ivory Billed Woodpecker was though to have been rediscovered. The fabulous Buffalo River, the first designated Wild & Scenic River in the nation is one of the White River tributaries.

On the other hand you could reach points westward, all the way up to the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains beyond, by paddling ten miles up the White, lock over to the Arkansas and paddle the Arkansas River up to Little Rock and from there to all points upstream through Oklahoma & Kansas & finally Colorado. This was once once a common trade & migratory route to reach the civilizations of the Great Plains, and the dugout canoe was the preferred means of travel.

Viewed from above using topo maps or from google earth the approximately ten-mile wide floodplain of the White River reminds one of the middle section of the famous Atchafalaya River Basin, the river of trees, being another very wide bottomland hardwood forest in which the primary river splits into a myriad of braided channels, back channels, bayous, and isolated lakes. The above mentioned Ivory-Billed Woodpecker was never definitely confirmed, but if it is to be found anywhere, it will be somewhere in this region. The forests and swamps so loved by this shy feathered giant run contiguously for hundreds of miles out of central Arkansas down to this confluence -- and beyond, over the forested bottoms of Big Island and the Lower Arkansas River.

On June 1st go to www.rivergator.com for the rest of the story -- along with detailed full-color maps, beautiful photographs and tantalizing web design. Public site, no charge, download or print any content.

Official Opening of the

Lower Mississippi River

Water Trail

www.rivergator.com

June 1-8, 2012

Buck island to Choctaw Island

RIVER ITINERARY

Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

www.rivergator.com

Friday, June 1 – Friday, June 8, 2012

Buck island to Choctaw Island

(Helena to Arkansas City)

Description: This is a journey through some of the wildest & remote islands & forests of the Lower Mississippi. Great back channels & oxbow lakes to explore. Fossil finding & rock hunting at Buck Island, Knowlton Crevasse & Catfish Point. Great swimming throughout. Abundant wildlife, exceptional birding, world class fisheries, the greatest concentration of white tailed deer in the country, as well as the Louisiana black bear. No towns or industry. The only evidence of civilization is the tugboats on the river. We’ll pass by the mouth of DeSoto Lake, where nearby its namesake explorer Hernando DeSoto is thought to have discovered the “Rio Grande,” as he called it, the “Big River.” He and his men witnessed an armada of 200 Indian canoes on the river. Some of the canoes held 70 to 80 warriors. Opposite Smith Point (Camp II) is the mouth of the White River, through which commercial traffic can access the Arkansas River through the Arkansas Post Canal. This region saw the visit of explorers Jolliette & Marquette (1673), LaSalle (1681) and John James Audubon (1820). It was also the heart of the Quapaw Nation, the Siouan tribe who followed the rivers downstream out of the Ohio River Valley and settled within the forests of this dynamic confluence.

This section of river is a Water Trail being developed between two public-use Islands, Buck Island and Choctaw Island, with passage through or alongside St. Francis National Forest, Great River Road State Park, White River National Wildlife Refuge, and Choctaw Island Wildlife Area. The Arkansas River is the biggest Lower Mississippi River tributary, and also highest drainage, running 1475 miles from the 14,000+ peaks of the Central Colorado Rockies. The Arkansas River Confluence is a wild flood-prone archipelago of islands with superlative habitat for all wildlife.

Route: Put in at at the mouth of the St. Francis River (10 miles N. of Helena). 113 miles on the river. Take-out at Arkansas City.

Day I: Friday, June 1

Day I: Meet in Helena at 11am. Put in at Mouth of the St. Francis River, 12 noon

Float to Buck Island

Mileage: 6 miles

Camp I: Buck Island

Points of Interest: St. Francis National Forest, St. Francis River, Trotter’s Landing, Tunica Cutoff, Sinking of the Pennsylvania and death of Mark Twain’s brother.

Day II: Saturday, June 2

Day II: Buck Island to Is. 68

Camp II: Jug Harris Towhead

Mileage: 45 miles

Points of Interest: Friars Point, Montezuma, Kangaroo Point, Is. 61, Island 63, island 62, Burke’s Point, Modoc’s Pass, Island 64, Muscadine Vine Kingdom, Cessions Towhead, Island 69, Knowlton Crevasse, Hurricane Point, Mouth of DeSoto Lake, Mouth of Mellwood Lake

Day III: Sunday, June 3

Day III: Is. 68 to Mouth of the Arkansas River

Camp III: Arkansas Bar

Mileage: 40 miles

Points of Interest: Cessions Towhead, Island 69, Knowlton Crevasse, Dennis Landing, Island 70, Smith Point, Mouth of the White River, Big Island, Victoria Bend, Great River Road State Park, Arkansas Bar Wilderness

Day IV: Monday June 4

Base Camp at Mouth of the Arkansas River

Camp III: Arkansas Bar

Mileage: 0 miles

Points of Interest: Explore Arkansas Bar Wilderness including back channels and a foray up the Arkansas River to Cat Island.

Day V: Tuesday June 5

Day IV: Mouth of the Arkansas River to Choctaw Island

Camp IV: Choctaw Island

Mileage: 20 miles

Points of Interest: Napoleon Townsite, Lake Whittington, Catfish Point, Cypress Bend, Eutaw Bar, Chicot Landing, Choctaw Island Wildlife Preserve

Day VI: Wednesday June 6

Base Camp on Choctaw Island

Camp IV: Choctaw Island

Mileage: 0 miles

Points of Interest: Explore the wild & wonderful Choctaw Island Wildlife Preserve

Day VI: Thursday June 7

Base Camp on Choctaw Island

Camp IV: Choctaw Island

Mileage: 0 miles

Points of Interest: Explore the wild & wonderful Choctaw Island Wildlife Preserve

Day VI: Friday June 8

Break base camp on Choctaw Island

Mileage: 5 miles

Take-out 10am; back in Helena around 3pm

*Please Note: River itinerary is dependent on water level and prevailing weather.

Quapaw Canoe Company