The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Shelby Forest to Memphis

Redman Back Channel rolls along between the tall trees of a mature bottomland hardwood forest river right (Arkansas bank) and the shorter trees of a flooded willow/cottonwood forest river left on the island.  Lacking distinct landmark details so loving named above, this back channel is nevertheless equally enjoyed for its peaceful laminar flow, which is especially inviting in the long shadows of the afternoon with billowing thunderheads in the distance, or when the air is filled with a mid-June “snowfall” of cottonwood fluff -- or even in the crisp clear cold air of a winter’s day when the dark branches of the trees seem to scrape the dusty dome of the cobalt sky.


In the early decades of the twentieth century a Chickasaw man and his family lived on Redman Island 5 miles above Memphis and raised chickens and kept a garden.  He sold eggs to customers in the city, paddling downstream once a week in a dugout canoe, and returning upstream by the same.  He must have been a strong individual, one of the last of his kind living the old way, toughened by the river and living close to the earth.  But he was also a smart man.  He frequented the downtown library and taught himself Latin amongst other things!


Where the Redman Back Channel ends, the Loosahatchie Bar Back Channel begins.  If necessary you can exit hard left at the base of Redman and make a vigorous ferry crossing to get over the Loosahatchie Bar.  But unless you need to get to the Wolf River, or the top end of Mud Island, you might as well continue down the back channels and pop out further down at the base of Loosahatchie for your final crossing back to Memphis.


Warning: if you go back channel Loosahatchie Bar and intend to make a landing in the Mud Island Memphis Harbor, you will have a to execute a high pressure crossing that will require a combination of a long hard paddle and big river know-how.  Keep reading below.  If the weather is questionable, or you are uncertain about your abilities, avoid the lower crossing.  It will be just as hard to cross here on top of Loosahatchie Bar, but you will have much more time and many more miles to safely complete!


Memphis Upper Wastewater Treatment Plant

M.C. Stiles Wastewater Treatment Facility

LBD 739

If you’ve stayed main channel below Hickman, the obvious route is a simple southerly run into the city.  You’ll find fast water encroaching river left as it gets flung outward from the top of Looshatchie Bar which is now across the river.  The “M” Bridge is now visible downriver.   The further downstream you get towards the “M” Bridge the stronger the current.  Watch for periodic tow traffic around the Conoco Lucy-Woodstock Memphis Chemical Terminal Dock LBD 739.  Just below the oil dock is the outflow pipe of the Upper Wastewater Treatment Plant.  If the wind is blowing out of the South the aroma will be steadily enriched.  You won’t want to make a picnic or swim stop anywhere near.