The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

St. Francisville to Baton Rouge

Water Quality

In many places, the Lower Mississippi is as wild and pristine a river as you will find anywhere in the continental United States. However, the mighty Mississippi also serves as a super highway of commercial transportation and industrial manufacturing; increasingly so as you paddle further downstream toward the Gulf. With that in mind, the Lower Mississippi river paddler should be aware of environmental hazards that may be present from activities that contribute possibly harmful pollution into the river. Leaks and spills from barges and commercial vessels as well as outfalls from municipalities and industrial facilities have the potential to introduce dangerous pollution into the Mississippi River within the vicinity of paddlers. It is important to be aware and avoid these sorts of hazards. As a general rule of thumb, if you notice an unusual / unpleasant smell or water that just doesn't look right, AVOID IT!  Dangerous pollution can sometimes produce pungent smells, unnatural foaming, very dark or unusual colored water and oily sheen.  In extreme instances, the pollution a paddler may encounter on the Lower Mississippi could produce harmful fumes that irritate the lungs and eyes and water that could irritate the skin if contact is made. These sorts of environmental hazards should be given a wide berth by paddlers.  Do not swim, drink, wash clothes or dishes or even paddle within the immediate vicinity of these pollution sources.  This sort of pollution not only poses a risk to paddlers but diminishes the health of the Mississippi River and all it's important uses downstream, including drinking water for cities like New Orleans.  As paddlers, you are part of a small group of people that witness all the nooks and crannies of the greatest river in North America.  If you see something of concern on the Mississippi river be sure to report it to the appropriate authority, such as the United States Coast Guard or the Mississippi or Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.  If you have a camera or smart phone, take a picture (with GPS if possible) and be sure to write down where and when the picture was taken.  The Mississippi River gives us many many blessings.  As paddlers we have the unique opportunity to safeguard the Mississippi by being its voice and speaking up when we see pollution or other concerns that need to be improved. (LMRK)

The Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper

The Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper (LMRK) is a non-profit organization in Louisiana that works to identify and reduce pollution into the lower Mississippi River.  Contact them anytime to report a concern, or if you have questions or need help in addressing a problem you see along the river.  Contact LMRK through their website,, email or call (225) 928-1315.


Environmental Reporting phone numbers: 

United States Coast Guard

Anyone witnessing an oil spill, chemical release or maritime security incident should call the National Response Center(NRC) hotline:



Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality

(601) 961-5797


Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality

(225) 219-3640

 or toll free: 1-(888)-763-5424


255 - 254.2 LBD Thompson Creek Bluffs (Mississippi Loess Bluff #8)

While the smallest yet seen of the Mississippi Loess Bluffs, the Thompson Creek (or Port Hudson) Bluff is nevertheless easy to access and almost as interesting as any of the others.  I am surprised by bald eagles almost every time I paddle past this area.   Also a sanctuary for osprey and buck deer, paddlers can make landing along the base of this Eighth Bluff and explore it convoluted geology and fascinating biota.  Cut by several small ravines, and rising 75 to 100 feet above the river (depending on water level), tall pines and deciduous trees crowd the loess ridge and provide habitat for a plethora of vines and underbrush.  We found an extensive population of legumes along its base in Dec 2014, an invasive brought from India as a soil stabilizer called Showy Crotalaria (Crotalaria spectabilis).  They were prolifically crowding the base of the bluffs 4-5 foot tall with oval shaped leaves, thick green stems, yellow flowers and thick but short beans.  Crotalaria is another example of the river’s productivity, even with invasives.  When something takes root on the Mississippi, it does it in a big way.   Crotalaria are toxic to livestock, so you should avoid also.


Four miles to the east (LBD) is Port Hudson, scene of the longest siege in US military history, now just a name on the map, the port and town long gone because the river meandered away from the bluffs here.