The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Cairo To Caruthersville

934 LBD Chalk Cliff Bluffs (3rd Kentucky Loess Bluff)

Every one of the Kentucky Bluffs is unique and worth a visit for any of you naturalists or explorers amongst the paddlers. The 3rd bluff first comes to view as you round Belmont Point past all of the Ingram fleeting. This bluff has a small sliver of yellow/orange/red coloring in the jungly canopy above South Columbus Island, but its biggest expression is a large stark white cliff several hundred yards long found below the Wolf Island Dikes (below the base of S. Columbus Island), which gleams brightly in the afternoon sun, but is shaded in the mornings. As you pass the Columbus Boat Ramp horizontal layering becomes apparent in the bluff, and several deep ravines which divide the chalky cliffs into a series of elephant-shaped domes. Downstream of the white elephants is a low shelf (which is present in low or medium water levels, but disappears in high water).   Dive through the Wolf Island Dike (notched one both sides of dike) and cut over left bank to make a landing on this shelf. Excellent platform for exploration, and a truly inspirational place to stop for a picnic. In extreme low waters this bluff is not accessible by water.


934 - 933 RBD Sandy Bluffs Opposite Wolf Island Bar

There are two sandy bluffs opposite the top end of the Wolf Island Bar, one at 934 and one around 933 RBD, both would be good protection in north wind.


935 - 930 LBD Wolf Island Bar

Wolf Island is the first “big island” below the mouth of the Ohio River, with a tall bluff of sand that forms along top end and is dry up to flood stage, and a long, long tail of sand that emerges in low water levels. The tail extends a full two miles downstream in low water. You can also find smaller and steeper sandbars thrown up along the outside edge of the island along most of the main channel, where you will find sand up to high water levels.


Wolf Island is one of the big mid-channel islands that splits the river cleanly in two (during high water).  When you come upon it from above in high water it’s hard to tell which side is main channel and which side is back channel.  Back channel remains open year round through some hefty dikes except when the water drops below 5CG when it closes up and becomes reattached to the Kentucky shore.  Wolf Island is fat and wide, shaped like a well-fed seal.  It is a private hunting club.  Respect private property. Stay on the sand, and out of the woods, especially during hunting season.  Best camping is top end at high water, along its outside edge during medium water, and bottom end in low water.   There is a high shelf of sand with mature willows along the bottom end, which makes for an ideal protected winter camp. Of course you can camp anywhere you find sand at low water, but as always keep an eye on the horizon for any approaching storms.  Wolf Island is considered to be a “first order island” on the Lower Mississippi River.


935 - 930 LBD Wolf Island Chute

The top end of the back channel is cut off by a long wall dike angled upstream which reaches halfway across the channel and forcefully shoves the majority of the river away from its old channel into what used to be the back channel of the island. Due to several notches in the dike, the back channel is always open except in extreme low waters. You can follow the flowing waters into the back channel to reach a giant plateau of sand that forms topend in medium water below, but be forewarned there is a second dike another half mile downstream that runs side to side, and you will have to go over it to continue downstream. This middle of this dike has a two low spots (or is notched) which makes them the best route at low to medium water levels. A nice blue hole forms below 2nd dike in low/med water levels, best at 15CG. Watch for where most of the water is going, and then look for the tell-tale V-pattern in the tongue of water, and follow the “V” through the notch. One of the notches is situated closer to the island, and one closer to the Kentucky shoreline LBD near the Chalk Cliffs (3rd Kentucky Bluff).


First Order (Big) Islands on the Lower Mississippi River

In the scale of the Lower Mississippi the “first order” (big) islands average 1-2,000 acres. Some islands boast 4,000+ acres (such as Island No 8 and Montgomery Island). And some 8,000+ acres (Choctaw Island).   The single biggest island on the Lower Mississippi River is appropriately named Big Island, and sprawls over approximately 20,000 acres. It is created by three rivers, the Arkansas, the White and the Mississippi. Big Island is said to be the biggest island between the coasts in the continental United States. First order islands are so big they create their own environments, and often provide habitat for unique species not found on the shore in the batture, and not found on any other nearby smaller islands.  First order islands on the Mississippi are those with 1,000 acres of forest or more, and typically exceed 2,000 acres of dry land in medium water (adding sandbars and gravel bars to the forests). Like most big islands on the Lower Mississippi, Wolf Island is privately owned. Best protocol is to respect private property and stay on the sandbars. Avoid the woods, especially during hunting season. 


930 - 927 RBD Moore Islands

Archipelago of low lying islands covered with lines of young willows that go under in medium water, around 25 CG. Hence good low and medium water camps, up to 20 CG, but underwater otherwise.


930 - 928 LBD Williams Landing Bar

Low water bar emerges only in lowest of water levels. Two blue holes formed in 2011 flood, one in armpit of river near LBD 930, and one behind Samuel’s Landing at LBD 928. The high bank forest is a jungle of berries, greens and flowering flora. We gathered lamb’s quarters and nettles for to cook up for greens in high water 2014.


926.6 LBD Samuel Light Sand Dune

A broad sandy bluff wth god protection from SE storms or winds grows below the Samuel Light. This sand dune is dry in all water levels.


926 - 924 LBD Beckwith Bend Bar

Great campsites can be found all around Beckwith Bend Bar at all water levels up to bank full 35 CG, but the only protection is found in a small piece of woods isolated on a hump of sand at top end, near LBD 925.7, below the 1st dike. Lots of birds and amphibians during the day, and lots of stars at night. In medium water sandbars extend a mile downstream, and in low water two miles. Follow your fancy and stop wherever your heart desires for ocean sized beaches that make for lovely mid-summer picnics. Big blue holes and inlets are found throughout bar, and refill with crystal clear waters that have filtered out of the sandy aquifers. Notable blue holes emerge below the 2nd dike in low water. A long inlet is created along the bottom end (opposite the Dorena Boat Ramp) in low water. ANother inlet is found bottom end between sandbar and the forested Kentucky shore. Note: beware open sandbars in approaching straight-line winds! Places like Beckwith Bar would be best avoided on windy or stormy days. Likewise in a fast rising river. Beware where you camp!   Big, low-angle, shallow bars like Beckwith can lose surprising amounts of dry sand in a rising river. You might wake up with water coming in your sleeping bag and your canoe floating away.