Canoeing the Mississippi from Shelby Forest to Mud Island

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Kevin Adams
  • Kevin Adams
A happy accident had me canoeing the Mississippi River Saturday morning from Shelby Forest to Mud Island on a perfect late summer day.

Kevin Adams supplied the canoe and the expertise. In March he took a solo trip in a kayak from Memphis to New Orleans. So this was nothing. It took us about four hours, including two short stops on sandy beaches to stretch our legs. It was my first time on the river in about five years and only my second time on the river in a canoe.

We saw a dozen upstream barges but none going downstream. Kevin says the downstream make bigger waves. The river was surprisingly clean as far as large trash and debris, a big change from March when the river was much higher and Kevin had to constantly be on the watch for floating trees and junk.

We still had to be alert. The river rocks and rolls from the wake of barges and the movement of water around dikes and underwater changes in depth and crosscurrents. There were a few tricky eddies and rough patches but nothing like the "death holes" Keven encountered on his solo trip when he could actually see the vortex of a whirlpool.

Other than the barges and a few fishermen we had the river to ourselves. From the boat ramp at Shelby Forest to a few miles above downtown there is nothing but sandbars and beaches marked by deer and turkey tracks and tree lines on both banks that were totally or partially submerged back in May. Too bad more people can't experience it.

The 20-mile or so trip is not especially strenuous or dangerous unless, of course, you tip over. Getting back in the canoe, assuming you can get it upright and floating, would be a huge challenge, and currents can pull you away if not under. Fortunately, we didn't experience that and our Saturday morning was damn near perfect.

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