Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Grand Gulf, Mississippi/Yucatan Cutoff/Big Black River

Marker ID:  29
Location: Mud Island River Park, 125 N Front Street, Memphis, TN
County: Shelby
Coordinates: N 35° 8.968    W 090° 3.507
  35.14946666    -90.05845
Waymark: None


Grand Gulf, Mississippi/Yucatan Cutoff/Big Black River
Panel #29 Mississippi Riverwalk

A) Grand Gulf, Mississippi

Mile 407.0 AHP

A bluff jutting into the river at the old mouth of the Big Black River created perilous whirlpools that made Grand Gulf notorious among early flatboatmen. The town of Grand Gulf was established atop the bluff in 1828, and its landing quickly became one of the largest in the state. Cotton was shopped down the Big Black River from as far east as Jackson, and a railroad line ran to Port Gibson. Several years before the U. S. Civil War, the Mississippi River began to cut into the bluff and by 1861, much of the town had caved into the river. Confederate batteries at Grand Gulf made it a target for the Union Army and Navy, and during the U. S. Civil War it was heavily bombarded and burned. Attempts to revive the town failed when the river moved west, trapping Grand Gulf behind a large mudflat. The area has been made a state park, and a nuclear plant has been built nearby.

B) Yucatan Cutoff

Mile 407.3 AHP

In the early 20th Century, the Mississippi made a large westward bend around Yucatan Plantation, just below the current most of the Big Black River. At that time, the Big Black River ran south, emptying into the Mississippi downstream at Grand Gulf. The Mississippi began to erode its east bank near a bend in the Big Black, and the two rivers flowed together in 1929. The top of the cutoff became the new mouth of the Big Black River, and the Mississippi flowed into its tributary’s old channel, cutting off Yucatan Bend. Yucatan Cutoff was later closed and the main channel re-routed to the east.

C) Big Black River

Mile 408.6 AHP

In 1773, a group of American colonists loyal to England was granted a large parcel of land on the Big Black River. They proposed to establish a new British Colony, but the few settlers to reach the river were driven off by Native Americans. After the U. S. Took possession of the area, years of legal work were required to untangle the conflicting claims of Births, Spanish, and American settlers. Small boat novitiate the Big Black in 1800’s but snag, rocks, and overhangs had med the voyage difficult. A navigation improvement project in the 1860’s was halted by low bridges contraction over which blocked commercial traffic. The river rises and falls dramatically and the swamps and field along the banks.

A photo of this marker can be found on HMDB.org


AHP - Above Head of Passes, this is the distance from the mouth of a river when measured along the course (navigable channel) starting at zero.