Cruising the Mississippi River
In 1997 and again in 1998, we cruised the lower Mississippi River on our way home to Houston, TX. The first year we purchased our 44’Carver with twin diesel engines in Mystic, CT, and came through the Great Lakes and down the Illinois River. The next year we did a mini-loop through the Tenn-Tom, Tennessee River and Ohio. We used the Mississippi River because we wanted to go west at the Gulf of Mexico, and thought it would be a faster and shorter route. The first problem on the Mississippi River is finding enough fuel stops, even though we hold 500 gallons of diesel fuel. We filled up at Alton, IL, (just above St. Louis) and again at Cape Girardeau, MO, (115 or so miles below St. Louis). At Memphis we bought fuel again. Total mileage from Alton to Memphis was approximately 436 miles, and we got good mileage at 1.22 gals/mile. The Memphis Yacht Club (Mud Island Marina) downtown was a better stop than the Port of Memphis, which was a few miles off the river.
The other big problem on the Mississippi River is where to spend the night. In 1997 after leaving Alton and cruising through St. Louis, we spent the first night at the Kaskaskia Lock and Dam, just off the UMR (Upper Mississippi River) on the LDB (left descending bank) at about Mile 117.3. With the lockmaster’s permission, the tie-up to the floating guide wall was free. Mile zero of the UMR is at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, near Cairo, IL, which is Mile 953.8 on the LMR (Lower Mississippi River). The zero point of the LMR is at Head of Passes in Louisiana. The Mississippi was 12-20 feet deep until the Ohio; then it was 30-35 feet deep. Both trips we used the same anchorage on the LDB at Mile 857.2 LMR in an oxbow behind Island No 14, TN. Marinas exist at Memphis, TN and Greenville, MS, but our timing put us at both places at midday rather than dark. We ran a little after dark, but never all night, like the towboats do. We expected lots of oxbow anchorages, where the Corps of Engineers cut off a part ofthe curving river to straighten it out, but there were few to be found. Entrances appeared to be silted up on some oxbows we saw, which otherwise would have been attractive. The next night was spent below Memphis on the RDB at Mile 663.5 in Helena, AR (1997) and an anchorage on the RDB at Mile 625 LMR (1998). The first spot was marked on our borrowed charts, or we would not have seen it. The 1998 anchorage was marginal for depth, getting in and over a sand bar, but otherwise worked out okay. On both of our trips we stopped at Greenville to get fuel, thinking we would save money at the lower price there, but by 1998 prices had equalized. The fuel pump in Greenville was very slow and the run to the marinas at Greenville was time-consuming. We missed the turn into the channel. Having charts and keeping up with your location would help avoid the problem. The next night was spent at Vicksburg, MS, on the LDB at Mile 437.1, or 299 miles below Memphis. No marina or fuel dock exists, and the
tie-up was to a barge. Harrah’s Casino offered a good buffet within walking distance of the boat. Vicksburg is considered a must stop because a fuel truck will bring fuel to the boat. In 1998 the fuel truck delivered 100 gallons less than we had requested due to a mis-communication The run from Vicksburg was about 260 miles, and filling up at 5 p.m. and leaving early the next morning, allowed us to get into the Morgan City, LA, area at a decent hour. The turn from the Mississippi River into the Old River Lock is on the RDB at Mile 300, and we missed it in 1998. The lock dropped us 12 or so feet into a canal that led to the Atchafalaya River, and then on to the Morgan City area. We saw no marinas or fuel stops or anchorages in that distance. We ran below plane speed after dark to, hopefully, push aside any logs rather than running over them and damaging the underwater gear. Running over drift is the biggest hazard to the pleasure boat cruiser. The effect of that 100 gallons missed in Vicksburg was a nervous arrival into Morgan City. The Atchafalaya River was 90- 100 feet deep at the upper end and 12-20 feet deep at the lower end. The Mississippi River is huge, and there are many wing dikes protruding from the banks to keep the water moving in the center. Buoys are placed at the ends of these to keep boaters off the rocks, which may be under water. The level of the river may be 30 feet higher than we saw it, if you travel the river in the spring. The charts are interesting, confusing, helpful, and annoying; but I would recommend them for the cruise.

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