The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Shelby Forest to Memphis

If you stay Main Channel around Hickman you will have an easy downstream run, unless there are towboats, or its stormy, or windy.  In strong east or west winds you would do well staying out of the Main Channel in this area, and get behind Hickman.  In strong South or North winds the main channel is notoriously choppy.  Back Channel won’t help much, but you won’t have to worry about traffic. If you go behind all of the Hickman islands possible you will cross six, maybe seven dikes.  Regardless of your route, you will see, hear or paddle near or over rocky dikes.  There are nineteen of them river left between Shelby Forest and Mud Island, most found in this 10 miles straight stretch along and past Hickman to the mouth of the Loosahatchie River  Note: If you go river right as described further below, there are twenty six dikes!  Of course you can stay main channel all the way and avoid all dikes -- but then you miss all of the scenery and wildlife, and you will have to contend with any towboat traffic.


Hickman is a popular destination for Memphis boaters of all kinds, motorized and non-motorized.  If you picnic or camp anywhere along its length don’t be surprised if you have company.  On the other hand it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary if you didn’t see anybody at all.  Weekends, sunny warm weekends, are highlight of course.  Memphis is the biggest river city south of St. Louis, with the largest population of people, and probably the greatest concentration of paddlers.  And yet is only slowly discovering its river.  Canoeing and kayaking is a growing sport.  There are very few paddle boarders, however, even though paddle-boarding would be appropriate to anywhere on the river, and in many ways is safer than a canoe or kayak.  See safety section for more discussion [Paddle-Boarding vs. Canoeing vs. Kayaking].


Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation purchased a significant portion of Hickman Bar below Meeman Shelby Forest State Park with funds provided primarily through a federal North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant.  How much does a Mississippi River island cost?  The group paid nearly $450,000 for 296 acres encompassing the southern portion of Hickman Bar and bottomlands and bluff acreage on the mainland. The property is managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.


Picnicking & Camping on Hickman

As you’re paddling downstream from Shelby Forest the first possible camp or picnic sandbars appear at the top end of Hickman, near mile 746.5, at medium water look for small bluffy bars perched here and there along the front side and back sides of the islands, these bars disappear as the water rises, and are gone during high water, except in a few select locations, notably midway down Upper Hickman LBD 746 and topsides Middle Hickman LBD 745.  Choose your place as you paddle and float along.  If you’re camping you might as well stop at the first suitable sandbar.  The next one you reach may be inhabited.  The closer you get to Memphis, the more likely someone else will be there.  And they may be less happy to see you than you are them.