The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Reading the Rivergator:

The Rivergator reads like a big river expedition, starting in Caruthersville and following the Lower Mississippi downstream mile-by-mile.  (Note: we are currently in the second year of a four year project: ultimate start place will be St. Louis, with end place in the Gulf of Mexico, almost 1200 miles of free-flowing river)  The descriptions are factual and the information is the most up-to-date available, but I have tried to enliven the writing with “the feel” whenever possible.  Each piece is titled with headings in bold that include 1) the name of the important features along the way, 2) which side of the river it’s on, and 3) its mileage.   For example, “The Mouth of the Caruthersville Harbor 849 RBD.”  849 is the mileage above the head of passes near the Gulf of Mexico.  RBD=right bank descending and LBD=left bank descending.  Paddlers are offered many route choices beyond the main channel in the plethora of sluices, back channels, secret passages, and tributaries along the way, using Google maps for illustration.  On your laptop or home computer you could open two pages, one for the text and one for google maps.  On the river you can switch back and forth on your smart phone.  Or you can print the text and use the US Army Corps Lower Mississippi Maps hard copy or online.  The Rivergator is actually three guides wrapped up into one, because every island, landing and riverbank has to be described in three different water levels, low, medium and high.  The Mississippi fluctuates 40-50 vertical feet in any given year, with enormous changes as result, whole islands disappear in high water, while some good landings become fields of mud at low water.


Panel of Experts:

All writing is reviewed by a panel of paddlers, naturalists and other river experts including Dr. Ken Jones, big river pilot and Dyersburg biologist; Jim Stark, Dyersburg kayaker; Diana Threadgill, director of the Mississippi River Corridor-Tennessee; Keith Kirkland, big river canoeist, trailblazer and Wolf River Conservancy outdoors programs director; Bruce Van Wyngarden, big river pilot and founding editor of the Memphis Flyer;  Joe Royer, pioneering Memphis kayaker and founder of Outdoors Inc;  Dale Sanders, big river kayaker and adventurer extraordinaire;  Terry Eastin, Director of the Mississippi River Trail;  Colton Cockrum, river canoeist and founder of the Memphis River Warriors;  Bayard Morgan, canoeist and river advocate;  John Gary, big river pilot and all-around river-rat; Mike Beck, big river kayaker; Mark River Peoples, big river guide, and Chris “Wolfie” Staudinger, big river guide, Braxton Barden, avid paddler and mariner.  I, John Ruskey, am the primary author.  I have been taking notes, photographs and documenting the river since my first raft trip down the Mississippi in 1982, and so the Rivergator is the culmination of 30 years of exploration.  I have paddled the Mississippi on anything that floats including a log!  To verify all information I have been making “refresher expeditions,” (I last paddled this section with a team of explorers during the June rise, 2013).  I’ll try to keep myself out of it as much as possible, and let the river speak for herself.  But I’ll also spice the journey with stories and vignettes from my adventures along the way - and those of others who have first-hand experience.  Other important Rivergator sources include the National Weather Service “Lower Mississippi River Gauge and Week Forecast,” the US Army Corps 2007 Flood Control and Navigation Maps: Mississippi River, Google Maps Satellite View, Marion Braggs’ Historic Names and Places on the Lower Mississippi River,Teresa Tidwell’s Caruthersville, Missouri: 150 Years,, The Wolf River Conservancy, The Mississippi River Corridor-Tennessee, The Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee, Wikipedia, Quapaw Canoe Company and Wild Miles.  See “Sources” for complete listing and suggestions for further reading.