The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

St Louis to Cairo

Herculaneum Downstream: Mississippi River Hills

You are entering one of the most beautiful stretches of the Middle Miss, leaving suburban St. Louis behind, the towns retreating further back, the bluffs getting taller, and the islands bigger and bigger. This region is sometimes referred to as the Mississippi River Hills. For the paddler you can enjoy the sensation of floating through the cliffy bluffs of the Missouri Ozarks as sculpted by the wind, the water and the ceaseless scouring of the Mississippi River, the morphology of the floodplain defined by the last major flooding of the last ice age, a broad valley shaped violently and then left to dry out and be richly vegetated & grazed and then populated as mankind grew and adapted and became one with the land. Beautiful bluffs, rising forests and steep ravines, old houses and old institutions, Catholics & industry, power plants, lead smelter (Herculaneum), concrete yards, limestone quarries where the bluffs being pulverized and pushed elsewhere to be converted into roadbeds, dikes & harbors, the forest predominates over the ridges. Bald eagles swing into view and the glide over the tops of the bluffs while raccoons and squirrels forage through the woods, and beavers and river otters populate the banks along with countless varieties of turtles and snakes.


151.6 RBD Joachim Creek

You could dive into Joachim Creek at medium to high water levels above 12SLG for quick protection. But otherwise not very attractive for the giant lead mill located here. For wildlife and more interesting exploration try nearby Fountain Creek (156.3 LBD) or

Plattin Creek (148.5 RBD).


149.8 RBD Plattin Rock Boat Club (Hugs Landing)

Private Ramp. Plattin Rock Boat Club (AKA Jefferson County Boat Ramp, Hugs Landing) is a wide concrete ramp in good condition, great spot with a well-lit parking lot, but is also privately owned, and you may or may not be welcome.  


148.5 RBD Plattin Creek

Good place to jump off the main channel for interesting exploration, with possible close-up wildlife viewing. Also excellent place to get out of the weather quickly. If you have oncoming storms from any direction, you could find safe refuge paddling a short ways up Plattin Creek.


148.2 LBD Calico Island

The best low and medium water camping in the area is found at the top end of Calico Island, with good flow around the backside until the water drops below 10 SLG. No sand at bankfull, but forest camping until flood stage. If you’re coming downstream from St. Louis this would be an ideal low or med water camp. Persimmon trees are found at base, sure to attract deer in the fall after the first frost.


146.2 - 144.5 LBD Osborne Island

Extensive sandbars at low water surround Osborne Island, but no protection, and it will be a noisy camp due to all of the industry of Buzzi Unicem, a giant cement manufacturing operation downstream on the main channel. Both sides of the main channel are sometimes used for their fleeted barges. The main line dikes are notched along Osborne to assist fish migration to their natural spawning grounds. Fish like sturgeon, spoonbill catfish, and buffalo are sensitive when time to spawn having to travel long distances to reproduce. Best bet: dive into the back channel of Osborne Island (which opens up around 6SLG) and find a quieter campsite away from all of the hullabaloo. We found hree bald eagles feasting on gar on sliver island at the bottom of the back channel.


144 - 140.5 RBD Harlow Island Division Middle Miss NWR

In high water paddlers could dive into the woods at the top end of Harlow Island and bushwhack their way through to the bottom, where it re-enters the Mississippi just above the Truman Access Boat Ramp. Nearly 800 acres of this 1,255-acre tract was cropland protected by a private levee that was breached during the 1993 flood. The levee breaks have been left un-repaired, allowing the river into its floodplain during high-water periods. The former cropland has naturally returned to a forest of young silver maple, cottonwood and willow, wth poison ivy, dewberry, mulberry and piney mint n the understory. The remaining land is mostly bottomland forest, with a small side channel and mile-long slough.


140.5 RBD Saline Creek

Paddlers can paddle almost a mile up Saline Creek in medium to high water levels before it branches off into Muddy Creek for spectacular wildlife and vegetation typical to a bottomlands hardwood forest. Some of the noteworthy bluff flora includes lamb’s quarter, wild mustard, trillium, rhododendron, paw-paw, persimmon, milkweed and honeysuckle.


140.5 RBD Truman Access Boat Ramp

Good at medium and low water levels, but goes underwater at flood stage, and when the river drops becomes a muddy mess. The Truman Access Boat Ramp provides boat and fishing access to the Mississippi River and walk-in access to the adjoining Harlow Island which is part of the US Fish and Wildlife Service- Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge. The area is subject to flooding.   Truman Access is closed when there is high water, heavy mud, and flood debris on the road and ramp, but is usually cleared and opened again in the same week.


Driving Directions From Crystal City: take Higway 61 south 6.8 miles, Route AA east (left) 0.2 mile, then Big Hollow Road south (right) 0.6 mile. Turn east (left) to stay on Big Hollow Road for 1.9 miles. Continue across the railroad tracks to the river and access, which is adjacent to the Rush Island Power Plant.