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Walnut Grove Rd. to Mud Island

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The Walnut Grove to Mud Island section is the most urban part of the Wolf River, but nonetheless beautiful and peaceful in many places.  Please note that the Kennedy Park boat ramp has been closed by the City, making this a very long paddle of 13.6 miles!  Also, there is a real possibility of dangerous “strainers,” or downed trees, near the I-40 bridge, where a log jam is often present. Otherwise, this is a relatively easy paddle. Under normal conditions, you can paddle this section without having to get out of the boat to portage or wade through shallow water. There are no trail markers, as the river is well-channelized and the route is clear. 

It is 5.1 miles from Walnut Grove Rd. to Kennedy Park, where there is a nice sandbar across the river from the closed concrete boat ramp.  On the way, you will pass under the Shelby Farms Greenline Trail Bridge - a recently converted old railroad bridge - as well as the I-40, Summer Ave., and Covington Pike Rd. bridges. When approaching the I-40 bridge and the potentially dangerous accumulation of logs usually found there, please paddle cautiously and choose the best route for conditions.

From Kennedy Park, it is another 8.5 miles to Mud Island. This portion of the Wolf River is its most visibly urbanized, passing beneath 13 major roads and highways. Because waters may be deep and swift, this section should be attempted only by experienced paddlers.
This part of the river was completely channelized in the 1960’s, resulting in downcutting of the riverbed, eroded banks, and multiple large sandbars caused by the increased velocity of water. Despite the dramatic alteration of the channel and the many signs of abuse and neglect, the Wolf River still retains much of its beauty, and wildlife such as birds, deer, turtles, and fish can be seen. One is struck by the urban river’s potential to be restored and appreciated as the treasure that it is.

The channel is straight and wide, but in low water conditions there may be obstructions such as sand bars and occasional downed timber. Several sand bars, such as the one near Jackson Ave. and the Old Austin Peay Highway bridge, afford beach-like conditions and are good places to disembark for a while. Close to the Thomas Street bridge, the river channel becomes much wider and deeper and the current picks up speed. The 2nd Street bridge is the last of 13 major roads and interstates which cross this stretch of the river. The mouth of the Wolf and its confluence with the Mississippi River can be seen from here, about a half-mile downstream. Until 1960, the Wolf flowed past Memphis along the east side of Mud Island, entering the Mississippi at the south end. The Wolf was dredged and dammed in 1960 to alter its course so that it entered the Mississippi at the north end of Mud Island instead.

The take-out point is to the left, about 100 feet from the Mississippi, at the Mississippi Greenbelt Park on the north end of Mud Island. Access is primitive, over riprap. There is a paved parking lot at the top of the hill. To reach the Mississippi Greenbelt Park by car, take A.W. Willis Ave. west to Island Dr., turn right and drive to the north end of Mud Island and the park, or take 2nd St. north to N. Mud Island Dr., turn left and drive to the end. Another take-out point can be found on the Mississippi River, around the corner from the mouth of the Wolf along the west side of Greenbelt Park. If continuing onto the Mississippi River, be VERY cautious of strong currents, eddies, barges and other boats.

To reach the launch ramp by car, take Walnut Grove Rd. east, cross the bridge over the Wolf, turn right at the first possible gravel exit and park under the bridge close to the ramp. If you miss this first right turn, go a little further east down Walnut Grove and turn right at the BMX Bike Park; continue right onto a gravel road leading down to the bridge and boat ramp.


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