The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Osceola To Shelby Forest

Third Chickasaw Bluff

The only view you will get canoeing or kayaking the river of the 3rd Chickasaw Bluff is coming around Island 35 before the top of Dean Island, and looking downstream over the face of the river, and then over the furthest bank, and then back to the furthest line of trees.  That last line of hazy blue trees in the distance is the top of the Third Chickasaw Bluff, and yes, that’s the only view you’ll get of it!  Years ago the Mighty Mississippi River ran closer in, and surely exposed it much as it is presently doing at the base of the upper bluffs one and two.  But now it has moved away.  The river runs two or three miles away from its base.  No worries, however.  Everything is always in flux here.  Probably in another 1,000 years the river will return and be clawing away again at the muddy heights of the 3rd Chickasaw Bluff (and will possibly have moved far from the 1st and 2nd).


After coming around Dean Island canoeists, kayakers and surfers (stand-up-paddleboarders) have three choices for route of travel below the 3rd Chickasaw Bluff when the river is medium high or above: 1) stay main channel, 2) go LBD and paddle behind Densford Bar Archipelago, AKA the Hen and the Chicks, or 3) stay RBD and dive into the Back Channel of Brandywine Island.  In times of low water, however, all travel will have to remain within the main channel.


Main channel brings you quickly down around Densford Bar (possible camping, but very exposed) and then along the forested lowlands and bottomland hardwood forests that extend towards the river below the Meeman Shelby Forest State Park (which straddles the tippy-top of the Third Chickasaw Bluff).  Many historians argue that this is the site of Rene-Robert Cavelier de la Salle’s Fort Prudhomme, named for one his men who got lost for nine days before eventually wandering back to camp here in 1682 (no doubt confused by the convoluted landscape of the bluffs with steep ravines and zigzag ridge lines that follow no compass).  La Salle and his men paddled the Mississippi in giant voyageur style canoes made of birch bark from the Great Lakes looking for the mouth of the Mississippi.


LBD 758-754 Densford Bar and Dikes/Hen and Chicks


Main Channel vs. Back Channel

Main Channel: 4.75 miles (1 hour at medium water)

Back Channel: 4.91 miles ((1.5 hours at medium water)

(Note: assuming average paddler with favorable conditions and no stops)


The Hen and the Chicks refers back to the Sultana Disaster, which occurred twenty miles above Memphis near a grouping of islands known as the Hen and the Chicks. The river today follows a radically altered course than the river of 1856.  This is not the same location, and these islands are not the same islands. But they are found the same distance upstream of Memphis and they have the same size relationship, big island and small islands, and thus have acquired the same name.