|:: The "Lower" Mississippi River Route ::
|© 1993 - 2012 CaptainJohn.org
The "Lower" Mississippi leg of your voyage is 954 miles - it begins at the
convergence of the Ohio River at Cairo and goes south past New Orleans to the Gulf ICW and
into the Gulf of Mexico.
For navigational purposes
The Mississippi River is divided into
From Cairo, IL to the Gulf of Mexico,
the Mississippi River is referred to as
the Lower Mississippi river.
North of Cairo, the Mississippi is
referred to as the Upper Mississippi
of the Mile Markers on the
If you are indeed Tom Sawyer traveling with Huck Finn, and neither of you hesitate to jump into
the muddy water, or climb up a the river's muddy banks carrying enough jerry cans to refuel
your vessel, or hike out to get ice and provisions as needed; and you love your solitude, you
will most likely be thrilled boating down the full length of the Mississippi.
If however, you are Captain Clean cruising with Ms Manicure, and both of you are social
butterflies; you are likely to be miserable voyaging down the Lower Mississippi.
Most Loopers (even those that have the fuel range, bid farewell to the Mississippi in Cairo,
and take the Tenn-Tom route - and they do so for good reason.
Understanding how to use the Mile Markers on the Mississippi River -
The USACE (Army Corp of Engineers) has divided the Mississippi River into two halves. The
Upper Mississippi is one half, and the Lower Mississippi is the other. Cairo is the dividing
The Mississippi River's mouth is located 95 miles south of New Orleans at the Gulf of Mexico.
From this point, distances on the Mississippi River are measured in statute miles. The mouth,
or "Head of Passes" as it is referred to, is the point from which all mileage on the Lower
Mississippi River is measured.
Cairo, Illinois, is at Mile Maker 954 on the Lower Mississippi. That means it is 954 miles from
the Gulf of Mexico. It is also the end of the Lower Mississippi River; and the beginning of the
Upper Mississippi. Therefore Cairo is also Mile 0 (zero) on the Upper Mississippi River.
The Mississippi above Cairo, IL is the Upper Mississippi, therefore all Mississippi River miles
above Cairo give you the distance from Cairo.
Of course, the Mississippi River has to start somewhere. For Great Loopers, the Mississippi
starts at Grafton, IL where the Illinois River joins the Upper Mississippi at Mile 219. Grafton of
course, is Mile 0 on the Illinois River, but it is also Mile 219 on the Upper Mississippi.
To determine Grafton's distance from the Gulf of Mexico, simply take Grafton Mile Marker
219 (the distance north from Cairo) and add it to the Cairo Mile Marker 954, and you get the
distance (219 + 954 = 1,173) Grafton is from the Gulf of Mexico.
Sadly this is NOT the romantic, carefree voyage it once was. . .
Your decision to cruise the full length of the Mississippi River to New Orleans and
the Gulf of Mexico ICW vs taking the Tennessee-Tombigbee to Mobile Bay and the Gulf ICW is
not so much a matter of safety or experience, as it is fuel capacity, lifestyle and comfort.
Despite what you may have heard or read, if you are a "safe boater" then "experience"
should not be a factor in your decision to cruise (or not to cruise) the Lower Mississippi River.
Trust our experience on this one. . . When it comes to boats, boating, bugs and barges - both
routes are equal opportunity hazards. Both routes require your utmost attention to safety. And
neither route should be cruised after sunset.
What matters most in making the choice of what route to take, is your vessel's fuel
range - as well as your lifestyle and comfort zone. In order to cruise the Lower Mississippi, your
boat's fuel capacity must provide you with a fuel range of 352 miles if you use diesel, or 449
miles if you use gasoline. This difference in fuel distance is a result of optional "trucked in"
diesel fuel deliveries which is not available for gasoline users.
There are not any Marinas between Hoppies Marina at Mile Marker 158.5 on the
Upper Mississippi, and Mud Island Marina on the Wolf River Harbor off the Lower Mississippi
River (Memphis) at Mile Marker 737. This is a distance of 376 miles.
If you use gasoline, there are no Marinas or fuel stops between Mudd Island Marina at
Mile Marker 737 and Greenville Yacht Club 7 miles into Lake Ferguson from Mississippi Mile
537. This is a distance of 207 miles.
If you use diesel fuel: You have the option of having diesel fuel delivered to you by
truck in at both Cape Girdeau Mile 51.9 and at Vicksburg Mile 437, From Mudd Island Marina
this is a distance of 305 miles.
There are also no Marinas between the Greenville Yacht Club at Mile 539 and New
Orleans until you pass through the Harvey Lock at Mile Marker 93 and proceed 3 more miles
east on the Gulf ICW to SeaBrook Marine. This makes your distance from Greenville Yacht
Club to Seabrook Marina a total distance of 449 miles. For gasoline users this is the
farthest distance between fuel stops on the entire Great Loop.
For diesel users, your distance from Vicksburg to Seabrook Marina is 352 miles.
This is your farthest distance between fuel stops on the entire Great Loop.
Regardless of fuel, in both cases, from Hoppies Marina you have:
1. Mud Island Marina,These two marinas are the only shore access points and Marina services for over
2. Greenville Yacht Club
1,000 miles. So, if you need fuel, showers, laundry, ice, beverages, provisions, or any kind,
you will NOT find them between Hoppies and Mud RIver, between Mud River and Greenville, or
between Greenville and Seabrook Marina. This distance, on average) takes us 12 to 15 days.
Therefore you will be anchoring out in places with no shore access for 12 to 15 days (provided
you don't get caught in bad weather). So plan ahead, and plan accordingly.
Now, if you have the fuel range, the Lower Mississippi can be a very exciting and enjoyable
voyage - if anchoring out and spending that amount of time exclusively on your boat - fits well
into your lifestyle. If you can carry the provisions you want and need, and you enjoy your
solitude, it will be a voyage to remember.
While I know it sounds as if we are being negative about this, our intention is not to encourage,
or discourage - only to inform. Fact is, the severe floods over the years have simply washed
out all the riverfront restaurants, marinas, fish camps, and shore access . Now, all of that has
been replace with high levies on one side and shallow swamps on the other.
|Cruising the Upper Mississippi River - click next.
|:: Capt John's America's Great Loop ::
Trip Veto Factors
LACK OF FACILITIES
(WITH ONLY 2 MARINAS)
LACK OF SHORE ACCESS
FEW SAFE ANCHORAGES
NO RIVERFRONT RESTAURANTS
HEAVY COMMERCIAL TRAFFIC
|:: Cruising the "lower" Mississippi Route ::
"Lower" Mississippi River
for those that want to
it down the river.