The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Introduction

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: Leaving Vicksburg

Leave from the landing at the foot of Clay Street and float out of downtown Vicksburg on the river that drains the Mississippi Delta, the Yazoo “the River of Death.” Enter the main channel of the Mississippi with the best views you’ll ever have of the I-20 Bridge and the scenery around Centennial Bend. Unparalleled views of the Vicksburg Bluffs, the Bluffs at LeTorneau, Grand Gulf Bluff and the islands and back channels along the way including Sargent Point, Togo Island, and the mysterious mouth of the Big Black River. Sweeping views of Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Plant. Float past ecologically-diverse Yucatan Lake, a rich habitat for everything from songbirds to alligators! Paddle around Hardscrabble Bend past the mouth of Bayou Pierre and Civil War site Bondurant (Petit Gulf Hills), and continue downstream in the strong current of the Mississippi as it winds between islands and sandbars, back channels and bayous (accessible depending on river level). Below Waterproof, Louisiana, the river meanders along with spectacular views of the Natchez Bluffs, an ever-changing scene of unending skies, jungle forests, Victorian mansions and moody riverscapes.

 

Vicksburg Gauge (VG)

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/lmrfc/?n=lmrfc-mississippiandohioriverforecast

 

Water levels according to the Vicksburg Gauge

 

Low Water = 0 to 20 VG 

Medium Water = 20 to 33 VG

High Water = 33 to 43 VGVG

Flood Stage = 43 VG and above

VG = Vicksburg Gauge

 

Flood Stage Warning: above 43 VG paddlers are advised to stay off the river.  Limited access.  Most landings and approach roads will be underwater.  Most islands will be gone.  No easy camping.  All sandbars will be covered.  Fast waters with many hazards.  All islands and landings will be surrounded by flooded forests full of snags, strainers, sawyers and all other dangerous conditions associated with floodwater moving through trees.  Docks, wharves, dikes and any other man-made objects will create strong whirlpools, violent boils, and fast eddies.  Towboats will create large waves.  The Rivergator will not describe the river and its islands at any levels above flood stage. 

 

Water Levels and Dikes

In the Vicksburg area you can use the following scale to gauge water flowing over dikes, although some dikes vary in height.  Also some have been “notched” in recent years as result there will be a middle notch that you can paddle through at much lower levels of water, some places down to 0 Vicksburg Gauge.

 

Using the Vicksburg Gauge:

5-14 VG water flowing through notches only

15 VG - rocks still exposed on all dikes 

16-17 VG dikes starting to go under, some flow through breaks & low spots

18 VG dikes completely under, but little flow

20-25 VG good flow and lots of boils & turbulence

25 VG strong flow, some turbulence, no dikes exposed anywhere

35 VG river bank full

>43 VG Flood Stage

 

Warning: above 43 VG paddlers are advised to stay off the river.  Limited access.  Most landings and approach roads will be underwater.  Most islands will be gone.  No easy camping.  All sandbars will be covered.  Fast waters with many hazards.  All islands and landings will be surrounded by flooded forests full of snags, strainers, sawyers and all other dangerous conditions associated with floodwater moving through trees.  Docks, wharves, dikes and any other man-made objects will create strong whirlpools, violent boils, and fast eddies.  Towboats will create large waves.  The Rivergator will not describe the river and its islands at any levels above flood stage.

 

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