From The End Of The Lower Mississippi – Cairo, IL
Just wanted to take a moment to reflect on the first leg of our Great River Road journey before we begin the second leg. Our journey began eight weeks ago today; April 1, 2011. During this time we have traveled 1,135 miles from RV park to RV park but have put 4,944 miles on the truck since leaving Pearland 56 days ago seeing the sights along the river thus far.
Our trip so far has taken us into seven states……LA, MS, TN, AR, KY, MO and IL. Out of these seven, we have called three of them our home base on one of the first six stops along the river…….LA, MS & KY. It was our last stop in Paducah that we reached the end of the first leg of the journey when we traveled to Cairo where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers converge marking the end of the Lower Mississippi River and the beginning of the Upper Mississippi River.
At the point of this confluence the river traveling south; the Lower Mississippi River, has been measured beginning at “zero miles” at a place called the “Head of the Passes” about 96 miles below the city of New Orleans. Therefore at Cairo, IL the Mississippi River has traveled 954 miles after having the waters of the Ohio River join it until it reaches its end at the Gulf of Mexico.
At this same point of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers merging, the length of the Upper Mississippi River begins at “zero miles” and all markers above Cairo give you the distance from Cairo not from the point the river ends south of New Orleans.
An example of this mileage would be that Hannibal, MO is located at mile marker 309 on the Upper Mississippi River meaning it is 309 miles from Cairo, IL. Since Cairo, IL is 954 also mile marker 954 on the Lower Mississippi River, Hannibal, MO is (309 + 954) 1,263 statute miles from the Gulf of Mexico. By the way all Mississippi River miles are posted and mapped as statute miles not nautical miles.
The Lower Mississippi River has many physical differences than the upper. The land along the river is mostly flat with high levees along the shoreline to protect the towns behind them. A lack of marinas for great distances makes travel for power boats of any travel distance impossible. In this lower course, the river is generally anywhere from a little over one-half mile to a mile wide with the navigation channel being anywhere from 9 to 12 feet deep. Everything is big on this portion of the river including the sight of towboats pushing twenty or more barges at a time navigating them around the huge sweeping bends common on the Lower Mississippi River.
An experience that only this year of 2011 could offer someone traveling the Great River Road is the tremendous flooding along this river…..setting records that have not been broken for many decades. As we traveled the Lower Mississippi River we have witnessed this devastation as our travels have coincided with this record breaking flood year.
At this point in our travels along this Mighty River, we have encountered the antebellum mansions standing as great monuments to the old south when cotton was king, the roots of Blues music in Memphis and rural Mississippi and some of the Civil War’s most famous battlegrounds. We are looking forward to exploring the “Second Leg” of the river as we continue this journey. Our trip still has another eight stops before reaching the “Head Waters” in Minnesota in late July and I know many new sights and discoveries lay ahead of us.