Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Grand Lake Cutoff/Worthington Cutoff/Kentucky Bend

Marker ID:  37
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 Lake Cutoff/Worthington Cutoff/Kentucky Bend
Panel #37 Mississippi Riverwalk

A. Grand Lake Cutoff
Mile 511.0 AHP

An oxbow lake two miles west of the river, Grand Lake, was removed from the channel by this natural cutoff in the 1700’s. The small river town of Princeton grew up on the west bank, with a busy landing. In 1838, the steamer Oronoko was stopped at the landing when a boiler flue collapsed. Passengers, crew, and cargo were blown overboard by scalding steam. Those not killed, were taken to homes in Princeton and the most severe cases were sent down river to Vicksburg, MS. This disaster and another fatal wreck the same week led to the adoption of the Steamboat Act of 1838, the first of river safety legislation. The town of Princeton was later abandoned by the river and disappeared.

B. Worthington Cutoff
Mile 514.5 AHP

Mathews Bend which curved west in this rich of the river, was threatening to wash out its levee when the Worthington Cutoff removed it from the river in 1933. The new artificial channel also embedded Island No. 88 in the Arkansas shore. In the 1800’s the island was well known to river travelers as a seasonal sanctuary for geese, swans, ducks, pelicans, and sandhill cranes.

C. Kentucky Bend
Mile 518.0 AHP

One night in February 1846, the sound bound steamer, Saladin stopped to put a passenger ashore at Kentucky Bend. The northbound Congress suddenly steamed around the lower bend and crashed head-on into the Saladin. The Congress’ boilers cracked, sending steam sweeping across the decks, and the boat sank within five minutes. The Saladin, undamaged circled cautiously through the darkness, trying not to run over survivors and eventually pulled thirty of the Congress’ fifty passengers to safety.

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.