Lower Mississippi River New Orleans To Memphis
On this 9-day Lower Mississippi River between New Orleans to Memphis aboard the 245-passenger American Countess, 166-passenger American Duchess, and the 428-passenger American Queen, embark on more than just a cruise, and return with more than memories: experience, understanding, an enlightened perspective.
Mississippi River Camping Beaches & Sandbars
So why do I mention all this before talking about Mississippi River camping? Because you want to consider if youll be dropping in below or above the dams and what direction you want to travel! If you are travelling by boat, travelling through the lock is an option, but if you happen to arrive at the same time as a barge, you could well be waiting 2 hours until its free!
There are roughly 30 miles of river between dams. Some good options to consider on the Iowa side would be either:
- Dropping in at Guttenberg landing ABOVE the dam and travelling northbound up towards McGregor.
- Below the dam at Guttenberg and travelling south towards Dubuque or alternatively, drop in at Dubuque above the dam and travel north towards Guttenberg
- Launch below the dam in Dubuque and head southbound towards Bellevue.
All these options have sandbars and islands without the need of having to travel through one of the locks.
I absolutely love going on boat trips to the sandbar beaches. Its almost like having your own private little island! If someone else comes along, simply jump back in the boat and travel to the next one! My first experience was at the end of summer season. Yes it was cold, but the river was calm and almost completely deserted. We passed one old fashioned Mississippi River boat and two barges that were hauling cargo further north up the river.
Mississippi River Cruising Perfected
Cruise the legendary Mississippi River aboard the newest riverboats in the region and enjoy perfect comfort and modern amenities as you travel to each historical destination. The fabric of the region is brought to life through our delicious regional cuisine, live onboard music, and customized excursions. Choose from nine amazing Mississippi River itineraries including the Lower Mississippi River Cruise traveling from festive New Orleans to soulful Memphis, the Upper Mississippi River Cruise which explores from fascinating St. Louis to welcoming St. Paul, MN, or the Complete Mississippi River Cruise which traverses the entire length of this amazing and historic river.
New Orleans, LA to New Orleans, LA
- Pre-CruisePackage and Complimentary Hotel Stay
- Day 1New Orleans, LA
- Day 2Oak Alley, LA
- Day 3Natchez, MS
- Day 5St. Francisville, LA
- Day 6Baton Rouge, LA
- Day 7Houmas House, LA
- Day 8New Orleans, LA
Memphis, TN to New Orleans, LA
- Pre-CruisePackages and Complimentary Hotel Stays
- Day 1Memphis, TN
- Day 2Day of River Cruising
- Day 3Vicksburg, MS
- Day 5St. Francisville, LA
- Day 6Baton Rouge, LA
- Day 7Oak Alley, LA
- Day 8New Orleans, LA
St. Louis, MO to St. Paul, MN
- Pre-CruisePackages and Complimentary Hotel Stays
- Day 1St. Louis, MO
- Day 2Hannibal, MO
- Day 3Fort Madison, IA
- Day 4Davenport, IA
- Day 7Red Wing, MN
- Day 8St. Paul, MN
New Orleans, LA to St. Paul, MN
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Golden Age Of Steamboats
The historical roots of the prototypical Mississippi steamboat, or Western Rivers steamboat, can be traced to designs by easterners like Oliver Evans, John Fitch, Daniel French, Robert Fulton, Nicholas Roosevelt, James Rumsey, and John Stevens. In the span of six years, the evolution of the prototypical Mississippi steamboat was well underway, as seen by the introduction of the first vessels:
The steamboat was an ideal solution for the growing country while America boomed in the age of President Andrew Jackson. In the 1810s there were 20 boats on the river by the 1830s, there were more than 1200. By the 1820s, with the Southern states joining the Union and the land converted to the cotton plantations so indicative of the Antebellum South, methods were needed to move the bales of cotton, rice, timber, tobacco, and molasses. A large portion of the population had moved west, and more farms were established. In the 1820s, steamers were fueled first by wood, then coal, which pushed barges of coal from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. Regular steamboat commerce began between Pittsburgh and Louisville.
Mississippi River Cruise Tips
Prepare for small towns. Itineraries might incorporate major cities like New Orleans and Memphis as cornerstones, but your experience will also focus on smaller towns along the way.
Prepare for calm waters. Inland waterways are much calmer than those on ocean-based trips, which is great news if you’re prone to seasickness.
Listen up. Because of the short distances between ports, full days of river cruising are rare. However, when you spend time sailing, there is usually commentary from a “riverlorian” over the public address system explaining some of the sights you pass.
Mother Nature rules. The same way a hurricane might force an oceangoing cruise ship to change course, bad weather on the rivers can alter itineraries. In particular, heavy rain and droughts can make or break a river trip. For instance, one year’s drought along the Mississippi River kept waters so low that riverboats couldn’t sail upriver, and operators had to push some of their Upper Mississippi sailings onto the Ohio. Another year, too much rain flooded the river, making it impossible for riverboats to get under bridges and forcing the closing of several locks. The result was the same as during the drought. Boats scheduled to sail the Upper Mississippi were diverted onto the Ohio.
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Highlights Of The Mississippi
âEverything was wonderful. I cannot remember having such a great time. The entire staff was great and so accommodating. I loved this trip. I have been on cruises on big ships and there is no comparison. It was so much nicer on a smaller boat. We had the chance to meet and probably had a meal, a drink or excursion with almost everyone on board.â
â Cindy E. – Frederick, MD
The Biggest Wildlife Threat
The most significant wildlife threat is the tiny mosquito that may carry West Nile Virus, and more deaths are recorded from mosquitoes than all the other creatures in this list combined.
So, there is much more to a trip down the Mississippi than just sitting in a canoe and being carried by the currents.
It involves a lot of paddling, walking, and great care. It is perhaps these unexpected issues like Porterage areas, huge barges, and the logistics of picking up supplies that add significantly to the time involved on the trip.
I hope you enjoyed this article and it help you understand How Long Does It Take To Float Down The Mississippi River.
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Boarding Our Mississippi Cruise In The Gateway To The West
Next, we walked to the nearby Old Courthouse to have a look at exhibits from the Museum of Westward Expansion, temporarily moved there from the Arch during construction. Our visit to the Courthouse was enhanced with a performance by a string ensemble from the St. Louis Symphony.
Later in the day, we strolled around Lacledes Landing, a popular, and historic riverfront dining and entertainment district named after one of the French fur traders who founded St. Louis in 1764. An early dinner at Hannegans Restaurant & Pub found us making a big mess out of a delectable rack of St. Louis-style barbecued ribs.
Following a smooth and efficient boarding process the next morning, we were underway. We were soon passing through several of the 26 locks wed encounter on the way to St. Paul and the landmark confluence of the countrys two greatest rivers the Mississippi and Missouri near St. Charles, MO, where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out on their Pacific Ocean Expedition in 1804.
American Cruise Line Has Three Itineraries That Combine The Upper And Lower Mississippi:
Mississippi River Gateway Cruise from New Orleans to St. Louis, or reverse
This 11-day itinerary visits New Orleans, Louisana Baton Rouge, Louisana Natchez, Mississippi Vicksburg, Mississippi Memphis, Tennessee New Madrid, Missouri Paducah, Kentucky and St. Louis, Missouri.
Guests on this voyage will have a chance to visit the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, take a historic hayride in New Madrid, and visit Graceland in Memphis.
Great Heartland Cruise from St. Paul to New Orleans, or reverse
This 15-day sailing takes guests to St. Paul, Minnesota La Crosse, Wisconsin Dubuque, Iowa Davenport, Iowa Fort Madison, Iowa Hannibal, Missouri St. Louis, Missouri Memphis, Tennessee Vicksburg, Mississippi Natchez, Mississippi Baton Rouge, Louisana and New Orleans, Louisana.
Complete Mississippi River Cruise from New Orleans to St. Paul, or reverse
The longest itinerary weve looked at today, this 22-day sailing takes guests to eight of ten states on the Mississippi River. On this sailing, passengers will visit New Orleans, Louisana Oak Alley, Louisana Houmas House, Louisana St. Francisville, Louisana Natchez, Mississippi Vicksburg, Mississippi Greenville, Mississippi Memphis, Tennessee New Madrid, Missouri Cape Girardeau, Missouri Chester, Illinois St. Louis, Missouri Hannibal, Missouri Fort Madison, Iowa Davenport, Iowa Dubuque, Iowa La Crosse, Wisconsin Red Wing, Minnesota and St. Paul, Minnesota.
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Can You Boat Down The Mississippi River
The short answer is: yes, you absolutely can boat down the Mississippi river. You cannot, however take more than a kayak or rowboat on the upper 482 miles of the Mississippi river.
The navigable section of the river begins at Coon Rapids Dam in Minneapolis. You can use a motor boat from that dam down the remaining 1,838 miles of the river until you hit the Gulf of Mexico.
Traveling the Mississippi by boat could be a great adventure or it could be a horrible failure depending on your planning. If you just grab your boat and hit the water you would be fine in many areas but as you get closer to the mouth of the river the places to stop and fuel up are few and far between.
There is one section where it is over 400 miles in between places to fuel up on the lower Mississippi. If you dont plan ahead and make sure that you take everything into account your dream journey could turn into a nightmare of floating powerless down the Mississippi hoping to find a place to refuel.
Competition From The Railroads
Railroads were rebuilt in the south after the Civil War, the disconnected small roads, of 5-foot broad gauge, were amalgamated and enlarged into the extensive systems of the southern Illinois Central and Louisville and Nashville. The track was changed to the American Standard of 4 feet and 88.5 inches. With this track, cars could travel from Chicago to the south without having to be reloaded. Consequently, rail transport became cheaper than steamboats the boats could not keep up. The first railroad bridge built across the Mississippi River connected Davenport and Rock Island, IL in 1856, built by the Rock Island Railroad. Steamboaters saw nationwide railroads as a threat to their business. On May 6, 1856, just weeks after it was completed, a pilot crashed the Effie Afton steamboat into the bridge. The owner of the Effie Afton, John Hurd, filed a lawsuit against The Rock Island Railroad Company the Rock Island Railroad Company selected Abraham Lincoln as their trial lawyer.
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Can You Boat The Entire Missouri River
Knowing that you can boat the Missouri River is great but what if you want to boat the entire river, is that possible?
Yes, it is possible to boat the entire Missouri River but you would have to change boats at some point during the journey.
The upper section of the river is only deep enough for a canoe or kayak. There are also six dams that dont have a lock on the top portion of the river so you would have to carry your boat along the shore and then relaunch it once you get to the bottom of the dam.
Once you reach Sioux City you can then use a power boat for the remainder of the trip. You do have to be careful as there are many places that have sand bars or debris that could damage your boat or motors.
The time of year can be a factor as flooding on the river can introduce a lot more debris and some areas can become unnavigable or even be closed to recreational boats and barges.
Can You Float The Missouri River
The Missouri River does a lot of meandering and flows into a variety of lakes in the upper portions which makes simply drifting down the river a VERY slow process. Can it be done? Yes, it certainly can but I personally wouldnt recommend just floating.
Many people canoe or kayak the Upper MIssouri as there are many areas where you can go for 100-150 miles without encountering rough water. That meandering section or lakes would be difficult to float down but with amazing scenery it is excellent to paddle down.
Floating is possible on the lower Missouri River as the current will normally run 3-5mph but there is a lot of barge and large boat traffic so floating that section is an option but avoiding those large boats while simply floating would be difficult to do.
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Lets Not Forget About Crappie
White and Black Crappie are very popular catches in the Mississippi, especially because they make for excellent table fare. The Lower Mississippi, in particular, offers some great action.
The best spots to target Crappie are usually in oxbow lakes. These little lakes are affected by changes in the main channel of the river without becoming too turbulent. Youll find Black Crappie in clear waters, while White Crappie are more resilient and dont mind turbid waters as much.
Crappie are active on the river throughout the year, and the most productive time to go after them is in spring. This is their spawning period, when they move to skinny waters and hang around underwater vegetation. While spawning will begin in the main channel as early as March or April, it begins later in oxbow lakes, usually at the beginning of May.
Facts About The Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is 2320 miles long, starting in Minnesota and finishing up in Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico. It takes a drop of water 90 days to travel the length of the river! The river borders 10 States: Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana .
The top part of the river between Minnesota and St Louis Missouri is dammed by a series of 29 locks that are maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The primary use for these, is to assist with the transportation of barges and the elevation change of the river. The locks are fascinating to watch. At Lock and Dam 11 in Dubuque you can take a free tour on a Sunday during the summer season and they have an observation deck overlooking the dam.
The locks empty and fill up at roughly 1ft of water per minute. The Dubuque Lock and Dam 11 has a water level change of roughly 8ft but the biggest is 26ft and would take a lot longer to lock through!
The barges that travel this part of the Mississippi River are massive. Corn and beans are often travelling southbound down the river, with coal and fuel from the Southern state being transported northbound. The average size is 3 barges wide and 5 long plus the tug boat. If this size of a load was transported by truck, it would be the equivalent of 11 MILES of bumper to bumper trucks! Below St Louis where there are no dams, the tugs can push up to 50 barges!
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Can You Boat Up The Mississippi River
Barges and other large craft boat up the Mississippi all of the time so it is certainly possible to go up the river if you have a large enough boat/motor.
Boating up the Mississippi is a much taller order than boating down. If you have to boat up the Mississippi it can be done but it is difficult and would require a large boat with very large motors.
Not only would you have to fight the current while traveling up the Mississippi but you would also have to fight the debris flowing downstream as well as the other boats that would be going with the current at a much faster pace.
The real question would be, should you boat up the Mississippi not can you. Assuming you are planning on using a recreational boat, I would strongly advise against going up the Mississippi. Not only will it take a much longer time while fighting the current but it also wont be a very pleasant trip as you have to fight the other boat traffic, debris, and even worry about barges and large boats that will be going upstream much faster than you.
If you need to get to the upper Mississippi a much better route is taking the Great Loop rather than fighting the mighty Mississippi upstream.
Porterage Dams And Locks
Many people undertaking a trip down the Mississippi do not realize that it is going to involve a lot of walking an many hours a day above sea level.
For a start, at the very source of the river, the water is only six inches deep some of the time, and you are going to have to splash alongside your boat as you walk with it. Depending on the season, this might take three days.
OK, that will pass, but you are also going to have to do a lot of walking and carrying your canoe at later stages of the trip.
The spots where you have to remove your canoe from the water and carry it can vary considerably. Anything between 100 feet and a mile and a half! Often this is over terrain that is quite challenging.
Dams and locks are going to slow you down even more. If you hit a lock where there is a big barge going through, that can take over two hours of sitting waiting.
However, take your time and follow any guidance given. The locks and the waters before and after a dam can be some of the most hazardous water conditions on your trip.
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