The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Cairo To Caruthersville

885 - 883.8 RBD New Madrid Industrial Reach

Leaving the Wild Miles at New Madrid, paddlers will encounter a few grain elevators and a lumber dock downstream of the town behind the New Madrid Bar. But the real heavy duty industry comes five miles downstream right bank descending at the New Madrid County Port, where the giant smokestack of the New Madrid Power Plant dominates the scene. At 800 feet this is the tallest chimney in the state of Missouri, and one of the tallest smokestacks in the world. Next door is the Noranda Aluminum Plant. Every day of the year, every hour of the day, Noranda needs 485 megawatts of power — 10 percent of the power Ameren Missouri produces and roughly equivalent to the electricity needs of Springfield, Mo., the state’s third-largest city. How much does Noranda pay for this servcie? It has an annual electric bill $170 million.


The Noranda Aluminum Plant converts molten aluminum into continuous cast rod, extrusion billet and foundry ingot. The fabrication facility has the capacity to produce annually approximately 160 million pounds of rod (used mainly for electrical applications and steel de-oxidation); 286 million pounds of extrusion billet (used mainly for building construction and architectural and transportation applications) and 75 million pounds of foundry ingot (used mainly for transportation). During 2011, New Madrid produced 29% of the rod manufactured in North America and supplied 13% of the primary extrusion billet produced in North American primary smelter cast-houses. (From Noranda Aluminum website)


Once past the Noranda Aluminum Plant the wild feel of the Lower Mississippi quickly resumes, and with the exception of two grain elevators you will enjoy almost unbroken woods, islands and big river all the way down to Caruthersville.


883 - 879 RBD Island No 11

Island No 11 stretches four miles downstream at the bottom end of Bessie’s Bend, and offer good but unprotected low or medium water camping. Don’t camp here in a rising river or in the chance of high winds or storms. When the river climbs above 30CG you could possibly find high-water camping against the bank, especially towards the bottom of the bar, RBD 881 - 880.


882.3 Welcome to Tennessee

After meandering in and out of Tennessee (at Donaldson Point) the river leaves Kentucky for good and enters Tennessee on the downstream side of Bessie’s Bend at mile 882.3 RBD. The river here rolls along the state of Tennessee out the bottom of the Missouri Bootheel and into the wild floodplain below bordering the Arkansas Delta. It’s so wild that no levees are needed for 60 miles along the Tennessee (left bank) side of the river from Moss Island to Memphis!  This section is full of tributary rivers with deep woody bottoms, strange colorful mud slides, and dozens of islands and back channels to explore, many protected within wildlife refuges and state parks.  There is some heavy industry along the way, a couple of noisy steel plants and a giant power plant (below Osceola), and some busy grain docks and two harbors -- none of which you’ll want to camp near.  Nevertheless your hard paddling will be rewarded again and again with fabulous views of the Chickasaw Bluffs along the Western edge of the state of Tennessee and adjacent bottomland hardwood forests, including the colossal cliff-bluffs at Fort Pillow (1st Chickasaw Bluff), the astounding colorful chalky glacier of mud above Richardson’s Landing (2nd Chickasaw Bluff), Meeman-Shelby State Forest (3rd Chickasaw Bluff) and finally the sweeping view of the Memphis skyline, including the Memphis Bridge and the Pyramid, and downtown Memphis (which straddles the 4th Chickasaw Bluff). The vista from the river is unparalleled!  Points of interest include Obion RIver, Moss Island Wildlife Management Area, Nucor Yamamato Steel, Island 30/Osceola Back Channel, Hatchie River Bottoms, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, Hickman Bar, Loosahatchie and Wolf Rivers, the elegant “M” Bridge and finally the eye-popping view of skyscrapers over the Beale Street Harbor and Landing. The vista from the river is unparalleled! You’ve never seen downtown Memphis if you haven’t viewed it from the river! After bouncing below the last Chickasaw Bluffs at Memphis, the Mighty Mississippi flows southwesterly in giant meandering loops into the verdant and fantastically fertile Mississippi Delta and exits Tennessee to enter the state of Mississippi. Paddlers have 145 miles to reach Memphis from here. There are 167 miles of Mississippi River total flowing along the western border of Tennessee (175 miles if you add in the 8-mile piece at Donaldson Point).


880.2 LBD Kentucky Bend Crossover Portage

Just downstream of a 2-story house on the left bank descending near 880.2 there is a small indentation of the bank that is an inlet in high water, and a sloping drainage at low water. The drainage is paved, and can be used as a boat ramp. This is the easiest crossover point to or from Bessie’s Bend. But it is private property, and you will have to seek out the owner for permission to use this as a boat ramp.


879 LBD Tiptonville Chute

An old channel of the Mississippi River, the Tiptonville Chute can only be accessed by your canoe or kayak in the highest of water levels. But if the river is at flood stage, and you are ready for an adventure, you could jump off the main channel and enjoy a sinuous six mile run down this back channel. Follow the obvious flow in a predominately south direction as you meander gently, boxed in by big woods. The trees start out big and thick up top, mostly oaks, sweetgums and other high bank trees. By the time you re-enter the main channel six miles downstream you will be surrounded by flooded willow forests. You will come back out on the big river one mile above the old Tiptonville Ferry Landing following the back channel of Bixby Towhead (Mark Twain’s volcanic mentor famously narrated in Twain’s classic Life on the Mississippi). Note: Tiptonville Chute was almost reopened in the flood of 2011. A massive wall of rip-rap has been placed across the upstream mouth (879 LBD) as safeguard.