The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail


VHF Marine Radio

Towboat pilots use VHF marine radios for communication between vessels, and also with harbor tows, lockmasters, the US Coast Guard, and recreational craft.  Commercial traffic uses VHF cannel 13 while recreational VHF channel 9.  Channel 9 is rarely used because they are so few pleasure boats on the river!  Some paddlers carry radios and monitor VHF channel 13.  Any frequent paddlers and any long-distance paddlers should carry one, at the very least for emergency purposes.  When in doubt alert tow pilots of your presence with simple statements like “canoe heading downstream right bank descending along green can buoys, crossing over and making landing left bank descending at Such-and-Such Landing.”  Most tow pilots will appreciate the information and respond with encouragement and good advice.  Others will swear at you and tell you to get the **** out of the way, which is not helpful at all, and might lead you to making bad decisions.  If you are using one, be a wise user.  Tow pilots know the river like no others.  But they don’t understand canoes or kayaks very well, and have little to no idea about how canoes & kayaks & stand-up-paddleboards move through the water, and what our special abilities are -- as well as our limitations.  So, if you have one, and can use it, great.  You are well-prepared.  But if you don’t have a VHF marine radio, or aren’t comfortable with using one, don’t worry.  Thousands of successful expeditions have completed their journey without one.  Note: Commercial Traffic use VHF channel 67 between Baton Rouge and the Gulf of Mexico.


Introduction: Greenville to Vicksburg

After leaving Greenville the Mighty Mississippi flows south in giant meandering loops through the verdant and fantastically fertile Mississippi Delta.  This is the land that gave birth to the Delta Blues, and was once the cotton kingdom of the world.  The blues musician Muddy Waters was born near Rolling Fork, and a thriving blues and arts scene survives in Greenville.  There are no tributaries along this 100-mile stretch of river, as result the water gets cleaner and cleaner the further downstream you go from Greenville (no point-source pollution), and by the time you enter Vicksburg the sandbars are almost completely free of trash and the water at its cleanest since leaving the state of Minnesota!  The Mississippi floodplain forest was once America’s Amazon, but millions of acres of trees have been removed for farmland.  Remnants of the deep woods are protected along the river between the levees by the extreme rises and falls of the big river.  Giant oxbow lakes are found on either side of the river, notably Chicot Lake (largest oxbow in North America), and the oxbow congregations found at Possum Chute/Old River and Chotard/Albermerle/Eagle Lake/Paw-Paw. The river carves elegant C-curves and S-curves through deep woods as it meanders through Kentucky Bend, Sarah’s Chute, Marshall Cut-Off and then wanders down through its deepest woods above the mouth of the Yazoo River, the “River of Death.”  Here the big river engulfs mind-boggling swaths of muddy landscapes as it is forced south-southeasterly by Macon Ridge, which parallels the Mississippi out of Arkansas into Louisiana.  The big river slams headlong into the towering Vicksburg bluff at the Yazoo confluence and here ends the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta.   Possible alternate route through Paw Paw Chute for expert paddlers only.   Vicksburg is the best place for resupply and reconnoiter.  Paddlers will want to visit the Mississippi River Museum located inside the MV Mississippi towboat, as well as the National Military Park, and Vicksburg’s other offerings.

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