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  1. Default Planning a lower Mississippi River crossings road trip

    I drive by myself from Florida to Kansas every year at the end of September, and try to vary my route and sometimes take a few extra days for detours. This year I'm considering taking 3 days and crossing the Mississippi River as many times as practical along the way. I want to start in New Orleans and travel north to Cairo, IL where I'll need to turn west and finish the trip to Kansas.

    I'm interested in any comments or suggestions about my planned route. I've got 21 crossings mapped, 17 bridges and 4 ferries. I've been over quite a few of the bridges at some time or the other, but never paid that much attention. This time, I want to take pictures and make a journal of the trip. Also, I say 3 days, but I'm willing to stretch it to 4 days on the fly if necessary. Here are my maps.

    Day 1

    Day 2

    Day 3

    The destination points are the crossings. Here is a list of all the crossings except the last 2 in Cairo.

    I've found a wealth of information on the internet about these bridges and ferries. As an old fart, I am AMAZED at the ease of gathering knowledge these days. Kids don't know what they've got. :)

    Anyway, I've got 2 months to plan. Please speak up if you know these areas. I wouldn't mind doing some local history tourist things, especially in the Civil War battleground areas. Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Crossing the River

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Quote Originally Posted by heySkippy
    I...try to vary my route and sometimes take a few extra days for detours.
    There's no better rationale for a exploratory RoadTrip (as if one even needed an excuse) than covering the 'same ground'. And seeing how many times, and by how many different methods (especially ferries), you can cross the Mighty Mississippi is a theme I can get behind. So just a few comments.

    It would, I think be worth your time on such a trip to make the detour to cross the Lake Pontchartrain causeway, even if you have to do it as a round trip to maintain the rest of your itinerary. It's a unique water crossing and is something you shouldn't get this close to and miss. In Baton Rouge, a visit to the old State House would be in order. Besides the tributes to Huey Long, the view of the river frond the tower gives a good feel for its size and dynamism.

    North of Natchez, if you're not going to be crossing the river, think about taking a drive up some portion of the Natchez Trace Parkway before heading back to the river at Vicksburg. Again, this is a unique combination of road and historic national park that shouldn't be missed.

    Cairo will be interesting and is one of those places I've always wanted to get to but never seemed to manage. Despite its strategic position at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and its resulting history, it is reportedly becoming a ghost town. Just a heads up.


  3. #3

    Default Hickman, KY ferry; Cairo

    Hello heySkippy,

    I was intrigued when I first read of your plans. Sounds like something I'd plan myself. I hope to read your report when available.

    The Hickman, KY ferry has been on my radar for a couple of years primarily because of its small size. Regular news reports are saying the Port of Hickman is closed due to low waters. What that means for the Hickman ferry, or the others, for that matter, seems worthy of inquiries.

    It's been an even 10 years, nearly to the day, since the one trip I made through Cairo, IL. It seemed well on the way to ghost town status in 2002. Downright scary is as nice as I can say it. We were two big brawny North Carolinians driving a pickup truck loaded with camping and fishing gear, and we rolled the windows up and cancelled plans to stop in town because it didn't look safe.

    Two years ago I crossed the Ohio then the Mississippi right there at the confluence, avoiding driving through Cairo, which is a few miles north. The two bridges are alone a good reason to get up there. They're as steep and narrow as any you'll find anywhere--really cool old truss bridges. The Missouri side of the Mississippi River bridge carries the highway along a huge levee, the very one blown up by the Corps of Engineers in 2011 to activate a section of floodway and relieve pressure on levees at Cairo and elsewhere. I've been wondering what the floodplain looked like after inundation for weeks. The Missouri floodplain between Omaha and KC looked like a desert when I passed in January, following its inundation for months. They'll be rebuilding levees and moving millions of cubic yards of sand and silt for a generation up there.


  4. Default

    Thanks all. Planning is proceeding nicely, I've started writing a guide book for myself to take along on my iPad for reference. When I get back I might add my own pictures to it and put it up in Apple's bookstore.

    I have been through Cairo before, it's a scary mess. That was 2 years ago and I was making the whole trip staying off the interstate highways and my GPS didn't know how to get me through town, so I got a better look at it than I had intended.

    I've read that one of the bridges in Memphis has a pedestrian walkway, so I'll definitely want to stop and take time to walk across the river and back. Probably not many people who've done that. :)

    It's sad that the river is so low. I hadn't thought of that affecting ferry crossings. I've found a webpage run by the state of LA that lists current status of all their ferries and bridges, so I'll keep an eye on that. I do hope the Hickman ferry is open. One thing I thought was funny, all the ferries in LA are either free or cost $1 to cross. The Hickman ferry is $14! :eek:

    I found another website that lists the inspection status of bridges and there are quite a number along my route that are listed as "Structurally Deficient" or worse. That's a bit sad, also.

    Another consideration - my car is very low, I need good roads. I would love drive some distances on the levy roads, but I have no idea of their condition. Also, the on/off to the ferries needs to be pretty smooth. I can't take a bump of more than about 4".

    I know I'm going to drive by about a hundred casinos. I thought it might be cute to take snapshots of as many of their signs as I can and then make a collage from them when I get back.

    Oh boy, I'm just full of dumb ideas this morning. :) I'd better knock off the daydreaming and get back to work. I will report back!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    I wouldn't worry much about the "Structurally Deficient." While it can mean that some parts of the bridge are in poor shape, it can also mean that it is simply designed significantly below modern day standards. For example, the steep narrow bridges that Foy referenced would likely be given such a label, because such bridges would never be built today, and its impossible to bring them up to modern day standards without completely replacing them.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Speaking of bridges.

    More than 50% of all construction I have come across has been on bridges. Guess these were all deemed as "Structurally Deficient", though the traffic was still rerouted onto the 'old' section, while work was going on on the other side.

    It's good to see though. I guess Minneapolis 2007 was a wake up call for many of the country's bridges.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Not really. Minnesota has invested heavily in bridge updates, but most other states haven't dramatically changed their inspections or spending on bridge work.

    Of course, the Minneapolis bridge was label "structurally deficient," before the collapse, but that really was not the reason for the disaster. It was mostly caused by a flaw in the original design/construction.

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    North of Natchez, if you're not going to be crossing the river, think about taking a drive up some portion of the Natchez Trace Parkway before heading back to the river at Vicksburg. Again, this is a unique combination of road and historic national park that shouldn't be missed.
    Looking at leg 12 of the trip, I see that I am mapped at least partly on the parkway.

    I am hoping the road I chose instead of the parkway for the first part out of Natchez is fun. It looks to be very curvy, and I like curvy roads quite a lot.

  9. Default

    I don't know if this is of any interest to anyone else, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, I have put together my own guide book for this trip.

    Most solo road trips, I have a general idea where I want to go and when I want to arrive and maybe some handwritten notes or a couple pages printed from Google maps and that's good enough. This trip, I am using Apple's iBooks Author software to create a professional quality (okay, maybe not that good, but pretty good nonetheless) guide book of the trip. Because I want to hug the river as closely as possible, I really need good maps and turn-by-turn directions.

    The book is centered around "crossings" of the river, so each crossing gets its own page, map, and photo gallery. I included a brief history and trivia, mostly from Wikipedia and a photo gallery on each page. Right now the gallery only has pictures found on the internet, but when I get home from the trip I will replace them with my own pictures that I took along the way. There is another chapter with turn-by-turn directions for each leg and yet more maps. I made everything on this page big enough that I can read it without my glasses so hopefully it will be very useful as I navigate. There are a lot of links in the book to other pages on the internet for more information, but I designed it to be useful without an internet connection.

    My plan is to take voice memos and lots of pictures along the route and when I get home I will update the book with my own content to supplement the stuff that's already there. I have a couple books already in Apple's bookstore, so if it looks really good when I'm done I might put it on the store to share with the world.

    If you have an iPad and would like to see it in it's current unfinished state, surf to this link with with your iPad and when it asks you what to open the file with, select iBooks.

    I would love to hear what other road trippers think of the book. I'm trying hard to make it useful for the trip. My wife and friends think it's crazy overkill, but I'm having fun with it.

    Note, all the maps and picture galleries are interactive and can be zoomed and viewed in various ways. Experiment with pinch/zoom/tap/etc!

  10. #10

    Default The Mississippi Creek?


    I had the pleasure of crossing the river on I-10 at Baton Rouge on Aug 2 and again on US 82 on Sunday afternoon. Water levels looked normal at Baton Rouge, but we were shocked to see how low it was at Greenville, MS. About 2/3rds of the width was sand and gravel bars with the channel snaking in between. Looked too narrow for barges to pass side-by-side there.

    I'm looking forward to following your trip.


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