The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Shelby Forest to Memphis

Paddling into Memphis: Three Distinct Routes


Landing & shuttling considerations: At this point you are fifteen to twenty miles from the heart of Memphis, four to five hours of paddling, and it’s time to make plans for final approach.  If you are meeting someone Mud Island Upper Landing LBD 738.5 is probably the easiest location.  If you are taking out go for the same, or continue three miles further under the M Bridge to the Memphis Yacht Club Marina, which is about a half mile up the Memphis Mud Island Harbor LBD 736, or the Coast Guard Boat Ramp which is about a mile up the Harbor.  An advance warning: the harbor opens up river left just beyond the first Bridge, the elegant M Bridge.  When you can look down Beale Street turn left and paddle hard!   Don’t go past the Harbor.  There is no public landing for Memphis further downstream.


The paddler canoeing or kayaking into Memphis has three distinct choices for route of travel into the city.  1) The first and most obvious is staying Main Channel (which has its advantages and disadvantages).  2) The Second is the back channel run behind the archipelago of up to 9 islands behind Hickman Bar. 3) The third is the long run behind Redman and Loosahatchie Bars.  All are described in great detail below and you can visualize the journey by viewing the Rivergator routes drawn on Google Maps.   You can of course mix and match any combination of these three, but for now the Rivergator will treat them as three separate routes. 


The advantage of Main Channel is that you’ll get there faster with less paddling, and you won’t have to worry about any surprises like “is the water high enough to get over that dike?”  or “Is that channel going to be blocked by driftwood?”  The disadvantage is that you’ll miss all of the beauty and wildlife of the back channel, as well as the shade afforded by tall trees along the narrow channels, the protection from the wind on a windy day, and from severe storms on a stormy day, the chance for a mid river swim or nap in the canoe.  Not to mention the quietness and elegance found there. The peace and the grace.  The reflection and tranquility.  If the river is your church, heaven seems a little bit closer in the back channel.


Warning: if you go through the back channel of the 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.


Description of Three Routes (see


1) Main Channel (17.5 miles)

2) River Right behind Redman, and Loosahatchie (19.7 miles)

3) River Left Behind Hickman (18.2 miles)