The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

St Louis to Cairo

116-111 LBD Opposite Cherokee Dikes

During low water good camping could be found in along most of the length of the Dike Field Opposite Cherokee, a floodplain stretch, which starts at the base of the Pawnee Hills, Illinois side, and runs down to Menard Corrections Facility, the Illinois State Pen. As the water rises the sand gradually disappears. At medium level the choices are narrowed down to a thin strip along the forest edge. If you wake up in the night and hear strange noises behind you in the woods, remember you are camped near the largest maximum-security prison in Illinois!


110.5 RBD Access to St. Mary’s Boat Ramp via Old River Channel/Saline Creek

Six miles up the Old River Channel/Saline Creek found above Horse Island will bring you to a good boat ramp in heart of the town of St. Mary, Missouri. This access makes for a dynamic journey as a put in or take out for visitation into many distinct and varied habitats afforded in the Middle Mississippi Valley, from woods to fields, from bluffs to floodplain, from small tributary to big river.


110.5 - 109.7 RBD Horse Island

Opposite the town of Chester at RBD 110.5 Saline Creek enters the Mississippi at the top end of Horse Island through an old channel of the Mississippi. This creek channel is worthy of exploration. There is a landing 6 miles upstream at St. Mary. The creek becomes a slackwater passage at low water, and the paddler will be endlessly rewarded by wildlife and fantastic vegetation. It can be flowing strong after heavy rainfall or high river, but normally it is a tranquil waterway into the heart of the Missouri bottomlands. Enter from the Mississippi above the 2nd Dike above the bridge. Historically the old channel of the Mississippi ran westward from Beaver Island (5 miles above on present channel) and made a fifteen mile loop around Kaskaskia Island. The river upstream rolled past Ste Genevieve and the around Moro Island to slam headlong into the Pawnee Hills at Beaver Island, which forced the river back on its heals 180 degrees to course back across the floodplain and then smack dab into the Missouri Hills, the Missouri Hills turned the river around again to return back to the Pawnee Hills above Chester. Such is the game of cat and mouse played by the big river and highlands along most of the Middle Mississippi. On November 27, 1803, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and their party camped on Horse Island. The next morning, Lewis left them to travel by land. Clark and the men pushed on to Kaskaskia via the Mississippi River.


Saline Creek

Saline Creek rises in western Perry County, Missouri and flows into Ste. Genevieve County, emptying into an offshoot of the Mississippi River across from Kaskaskia Island, just north of St. Mary’s roughly six miles south of Sainte Genevieve, at an elevation of 361 ft. It has a watershed of 75 sq. mi. A number of tributaries flow into Saline Creek including Brushy creek, Coldwater creek, Greasy creek, Johns creek, Little Saline creek, Madden creek, and South saline creek. The stream's original name - La Rivière de Saline - is French meaning The River of the Saltworks and refers to the two natural salt springs found in the area, which also gave name to the nearby creek and its tributaries called Saline Creek or Saline River. The French colonials knew Saline Creek as La Rivière de la Saline or La Petite Rivière de la Saline. The Spanish referred to the creek and its tributaries as Las Salinas. In 1541, Spanish explorer De Soto had sent Hernando de Silvera and Pedro Moreno from Capaha, with Indian guides, to obtain a supply of salt from a saline stream to the north, presumably the Saline Creek in Ste. Genevieve County. Later, during the French Colonial Period, both French and Illinois Indians came to the site of Saline Creek to get their salt.


The settlement of Saline Creek began in the early 1700s. In 1715, a small party of French were reported to be making salt at La Saline. This early encampment on Saline Creek was temporary, but over time became permanent. Two settlements grew up along Saline Creek: Grande Saline, located near the mouth of the creek, and Petite Saline, located at the upper end of the creek, along a tributary. The purpose of the settlement was the manufacturing of salt which was used for meat preservation, skin tanning, and fur processing. Water from the salt springs was boiled in ovens the French built; when the water boiled away, the salt remained. French Colonial authorities also set up a post at La Saline in 1788. By 1800, French and Americans (Kentuckians) extracting salt from Saline Creek had set up four or five furnaces used for boiling off the salt for extraction, earning Saline Creek the name La Saline Ensanglantèe (The Bloody Saline). These men were sending approximately thirty-five hundred barrels of salt to New Orleans each year.[10] As well as producing salt, La Saline's location along the Mississippi River meant that it served as a lead-shipping point. Lead from Mne la Motte, opened in the 1720s, came by animal or cart over ridge roads and then down the Saline River Valley to its mouth at La Saline to be loaded on Mississippi River boats. In 1822, some seventeen workers were still using 100-150 kettles to extract salt, but by 1825, all production had ceased. (Adopted from Wikipedia)

Switching to the Middle Mississippi Chester Gage (ChG)

Now that we are entering Chester we will leave the St. Louis River Gage and switch to the Chester Gage, which can be found online at:


Middle Mississippi

Chester Gage (ChG)

Extreme Low Water: -4 to 3

Low Water: 4-12

Med Water: 12-20

High Water: 20-26

Flood Stage: 27

Extreme High Water: 28 to 50

1993 Flood: 49.74