Goodbye Mississippi River, Hello Red River

“Louisiana is a fresh-air mental asylum.”-James Lee Burke

Saturday, October 4th

A glorious afternoon, a sun splashed Mississippi River and a northwest wind.  I started early and canoed to Natchez, MS, a distance of 50+ miles.  In all likelihood, this will be the last time I canoe close to this distance for the remainder of trip.  I pulled into Natchez, just prior to dusk, walked up the boatramp to a racuous scene at one of the local pubs. Patrons were still buzzing about Mississippi State and Ole Miss.   It’s definetly an adjustment going from the serenity of paddling all day to a “nightlife” type environment.  Tonight, I didn’t feel like participating in a throwdown so I paddled back around the local casino boat and found a camping spot near the Natchez-Vidalia bridge.  This wasn’t an ideal location, but it worked out well.  I took advantage of the local buffet and called it a night, I was exhausted after paddling 50+ miles and spending all day in the sun.

Today was also unique in that one of the towboat captains exited his cockpit and informed me that two “very large tows” are coming upstream, and these tow captains had a limited line of sight.  This was a first, I had not communicated with any of the captains prior to this afternoon.  It was a nice paddle down to Natchez and I was able to make significant distance because I started early and enjoyed a strong tailwind. With today’s miles and with good conditions expected tomorrow, I should be at the Red River by Monday afternoon.  I am soaking up the fact I will be with the current a few more days.  It’s hard to believe I have been on the Mississippi for 3 weeks, it seems just like yesterday I was passing The Arch.  It’s been fun to paddle the Mississippi, especially the camping, and surviving the storm from Thursday night will definetly stand out. It’s like a rite of passage when you get through one of those type of storms.

Rise and shine!!!

Rise and shine!!!

Not a cloud in the sky, only steam.

Not a cloud in the sky, only steam.

Does Just For Men work on facial hair?

Does Just For Men work on facial hair?

Getting closer to Natchez, MS

Getting closer to Natchez, MS

I slept almost under the bridge

I slept almost under the bridge

Sunday, Ocober 5th

I started out a little later this morning since I was still recovering from yesterday’s miles and I had the opportunity to recharge my electronics in Natchez during breakfast.  I did have to scramble across a muddy, rocky riverbank and walk around the casino boat to get to the main road in Natchez.  It was particulary comical when I returned to my boat and the security guard indicated the area where my boat (and campsite) was “restricted”.  I explained that I am a canoeist and they reluctantly allowed me to return to my campsite.  I departed around 9:30 and immediately reazlized I would be heading into a southeast wind.  Today was only the second day on the Mississippi that wind was a factor, I have been fortunate from a weather perspective.  Outside of  last Thursay, I really haven’t had much bad weather or rain.  This definetly allowed me to make nice progress down the Mississippi.

I spent today battling it, I think I was still fatigued from yesterday.  I decided to canoe until just about dusk, arriving about 20 miles from the Red River.  As I was scouting out campsites for the evening I met another Mississippi River paddler, Awot from Belgium.  Awot started at the source of the MS on August 4th and hopes to reach the Gulf of Mexico in another 3 weeks.  It was a pleasant turn of events to have someone to paddle (albeit for only about an hour) and camp with.  Awot was inspired by Delta Blue’s, Mark Twain, and other stories about the Mississippi River and decided to travel to the U.S. and paddle the Mississippi.  We found a back channel to camp for the night, it was a fitting last night on the Mississippi, a campsite worthy of my last night on the Mississippi.  Tomorrow will be a significant day, I will take a right on the Red River and begin my upstream segment.  I am certain I will miss being with the current…but I am excited to experience the Red.

Here it is in the morning

Here it is in the morning, campsite around the boat

dealing with wind

dealing with wind

Awot and his canoe

Awot and his canoe

last night on the Mississippi

last night on the Mississippi

Good night Miss.

Good night Miss.

Monday, October 6th

I made it to the Red River!! Awot and I departed around 8:00 and after an hour of paddling together, we said our goodbyes as I was wanting to move ahead in order to make the Red by early eftenoon.  The last hours on the Mississippi were emotional, almost more-so than the Missouri.  Today represents the completion of the Missouri-Mississippi leg, a significant accomplishment. I finally arrived at the cutoff for the Red River around 12:00.  I called the lock and dam lock master and passed through without issue.  This was my first lock and dam experience, I was a bit apprehensive about getting through.  The lock master explained they would blow the horn 3 times and then I should enter the lock, which is designed for barges as well as other recreational boats.  It was eerie being in the lock and dam, I was the only vessel in the lock and dam, clouds had thickened and I felt like I was in canoe jail.  They closed the doors behind me and lowered the water level, then the doors ahead of me opened after about 10 minutes and I was on my way to the Red River.

I had to navigate an 8 mile channel before taking a right on the Red River.  I stopped about halfway through the channel to process the completion of my Mississippi segment.  I enjoyed another conversation with myself, telling myself I can canoe 700 miles upstream.

I arrived at the Red River and crossed to the other shore (ascending river left) figuring the current would be slower on the inside bank.  The current wasn’t as strong as I had anticipated, in fact I was able to paddle much faster against the current than I figured.  I spent about 2 hours paddling upstream finding a nice camping location around 4:00.  I expect this section of the Red will have the strongest current, hopefully the current by the shore remains relatively slow.

The best approach to paddling upstream is to find the slowest current which is typically right by the riverbank.  The current on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers were very strong so I was nervous about the Red…so far, so good.  Tomorrow and Wednesday will be a better barometer.

Also, I have made arrangements to meet my wife in Alexandria, LA this weekend.  I will take the weekend off, it now appears I may be able to make Alexandria by Friday…we’ll see.

last morning on the Mississippi

last morning on the Mississippi

turning to The Red

turning to The Red

Lock and Dam

Lock and Dam

The Red is that way.

The Red is that way.

The final approach

The final approach

Taking a right on "The Red"

Taking a right on “The Red”

campsite (1 of 3)

campsite (1 of 3)

campsite (2 of 3)

campsite (2 of 3)

campsite (3 of 3)

campsite (3 of 3)

Let’s canoe upstream!!!

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13 Responses to Goodbye Mississippi River, Hello Red River

  1. Christoper Reagh says:

    Congratulations on making the Red and completing the Mississippi leg. I hope the river is not too hard on you and maybe I will see you somewhere along its course.

  2. Michael Callaway says:

    You are moving super fast, it looks like you will be in Shreveport by the weekend of 10/18. I had thought with upstream speed it would be 10/25.

  3. Donald Zinter says:

    What a great accomplishment to finally make it to the Red River, so many miles and experiences behind you and so few yet to travel. Keep on paddeling and I will see you at Thanksgiving if not before.

  4. Dana TeCulver says:

    Really amazing trip behind you! The Miss. current looked pretty strong. You got to the Red a lot quicker than I thought you would. Watching with excitement as you paddle the final legs!

  5. Kent Schreyer says:

    Keith, it’s a good thing that you were not on the river today. It looked like the storm moved through western Louisiana today. Looks like the rain is gone for the next week, so you can make some progress towards Shreveport. Good Luck. See you soon.

  6. bacaruda73 says:

    Wow Congrats Keith! This will most likely be the toughest part of the Journey. That is a long way upstream. You can do it! Keep paddling.

  7. Thomas kimball says:

    I am so happy for you it seams like just a couple days ago we were riding out the storm, and now your already to the red river you have not much more to go then it will be over no more canoeing but I hope you have loved every minuet on the river or the lakes.

  8. Kerry says:

    You can sing Red River Valley along the way. BTW, Christopher is reading Huck Finn.

  9. Michael Callaway says:

    A normal human being might have their first canoe voyage be Lake Roberts to Lake Grapevine (54 miles), Keith decides to man up and go over 3,000

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