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CanoeKayak.com - Why paddle the Mississippi River: Part 5

     Published: 08.24.15

By Chris Staudinger
Photos by David Hanson

One of the easiest things about paddling the Mississippi River is that you can’t really get lost. You can start way, way upriver, in say, Billings, Montana, or Little Valley, New York, and all you have to do is follow the flow, and you’ll eventually get to the Gulf.

But south of Natchez, Miss., amber lights flash and an air-horn blares in the vast empty country along west bank of the river. The US Army Corps of Engineers is letting you know about the lock sucking hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of water away from the Mississippi every second, and that an unknowing paddler could get sucked away too.

Of course, lots of long-haul Mississippi River paddlers like to willingly follow that water through the Old River lock and into the Atchafalaya beyond. It’s the first place on the Mississippi that the river changes from a collector of water to a distributor. The gateway leads to an 800,000-acre floodplain of wilderness. It’s why John Ruskey and his team from the Lower Mississippi River Foundation have been mapping the Atchafalaya (uh-CHAFF-uh-lie-ya) as a part of their Rivergator paddling guide. The free online resource shows good camp spots at several water levels, as well as put-ins, takeouts, and re-supply points on the Lower Mississippi River Water Trail. In the Rivergator guide, Ruskey writes that the Atchafalaya is the wildest and safest route to the Gulf. He calls it a paradise.

Continue reading this story at http://www.canoekayak.com/canoe/why-paddle-the-mississippi-river-part-5/#cYcaFbevmGwba6ge.99.

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