Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mud Island in Memphis, Tennessee

After spending several days in Chattanooga, Tennessee along the Tennessee River, we drove back home for 4 days and started driving again. This time we went to Memphis, Tennessee to visit our daughter who has moved there from Long Beach, California. Below are maps showing the state of Tennessee and also the town of Memphis, which is in the lower left side corner, at the juncture between the states of Tennessee Arkansas and Mississippi. Chattanooga is about half way between Atlanta and Nashville where we also drive often to visit our other daughter and her family. (Bottom map courtesy Ezilon – click on collage to enlarge.)

It only took us about 2 hours 15 minutes to come back from Chattanooga, but about 8 hours or more to drive to Memphis. Atlanta-Memphis is about 631 miles or 392 kilometers – which is a bit more than the distance between Paris and Stuttgart, Germany - 610 kms. I do not count missing the freeway exit in Memphis and driving to Arkansas then driving back to Memphis…. Actually downtown Memphis is bordering the Mississippi River and half way across the bridge is the Arkansas state line. We drove through Birmingham, Alabama, then the state of Mississippi. We stopped at the Tupelo Mississippi Welcome Center. It is a nice center looking very southern. I was given a map there and directions to visit Elvis Prestley’s birth place in Tupelo – but that will be for another visit. A large room on the left of the Center entrance is furnished with southern style furniture. I took pictures. (You can see my reflection in the mirror as I take a picture of a painting of the Center.)

A portrait of Elvis is in a prominent place as well as a painting of General Robert E. Lee. Local furniture and artworks are also displayed.

Our daughter lives in Mud Island, which is in downtown Memphis. It is a small peninsula surrounded by the Mississippi River.  After crossing the A. W. Willis Bridge you are about 2 miles from the downtown business center and the famous Beale Street, home of the Blues.  With this name in my head “Mud Island” I was a bit worried about what we would find. I was very surprised. A bridge was completed in 1987 linking to downtown Memphis and a Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) was built on the island. Below is the Willis Bridge providing the entrance to the island.

The north end of the island contains about 500 houses, some apartments, a small private school, several town greens, a marina and yacht club, nature trails, ponds and walking trails. A small center called Harbor Town includes a grocery store, an inn, several restaurants and shops. The houses have a diverse architecture but most of them have decks and balconies – they are very pretty. The south end of the island is occupied by Mud Island River Park and an amphitheater seating 5,000 but we did not see the south end this time. The bottom right picture is my daughter’s house upstairs balcony. There is another balcony on the first floor as well.

I tried to find the history of the island. It seems that the flow of the Mississippi River is irregular in this area sometimes flowing upstream and other times downstream. By 1889 a small sandbar was formed by sediment deposits. The sandbar kept growing and floods in 1912 and 13 helped to build the sandbar even more. In addition, around 1910, a Spanish-American War gunboat headed upstream to St Louis ran aground on the sandbar. It was left there for a couple of years which made the sandbar grow even larger into an island. In 1917 to avoid more flooding the Corps of Engineers dredged a channel between the Tennessee shore and the island. By 1930 the city realized that this island could be an asset and built a large dike to protect it. Then highways were built and finally a bridge. We strolled along the banks of the Mississippi River on the island which looks like a pretty, open park.

Many benches invite people to rest and look at the river. Joggers and parents pushing baby strollers walk on the paved trail.

People in houses fronting the Mississippi have a wonderful view.

I went closer to take some pictures.

Walking back along the river, I admired the big, old trees and sat on a root of a big one.

Looking to my left I could watch the vehicles on the bridge driving to Arkansas.

Looking to my right it seemed a tugboat pushing a barge was motionless – but no, it was slowing coming toward me. As it came closer I waved to it and was surprised and pleased when I got an answer – a couple of horn blasts. I followed its path with my camera until the tugboat faded away.

While I was taking pictures of the tugboat, my husband was also taking pictures - but of me. I was using my little Panasonic Lumix camera which has a strong telephoto lens.

Then we walked up to one of the restaurants in Harbor Town – my daughter had an engagement that Friday evening and could not join us. The restaurant is aptly named “Tug’s - a casual grill.” Entering the restaurant your eyes are drawn to a colorful stained-glass artwork of a riverboat on the wall above the bar. It is from a Currier and Ives print called “Midnight Race on the Mississippi.” Many photos of riverboats are hung on the walls.

I had “Fish & Chips” - Beer battered cod, fried golden brown, served with tartar sauce and shoestring french fries – but I requested sweet potato fries instead. My husband had “Blackened Mississippi Pond Catfish” – served with red rice and fresh grilled vegetable. At $10.95 each this was pretty good and with a beer it was even better. Then we went back toward the river as the sun was setting.

Some people were walking along the river, some children playing and others just watching the sunset. An older gentleman, dressed all in white, was walking toward the water with a photographer in tow. I watched them for a while.

The sun was slowly moving down and everything was turning gold. It was not too warm with a soft breeze blowing.

Then we left.


DJan said...

With a name like Mud Island, I too would wonder what it might be like. It's really very lovely, and such a fine place to live. Thank you for the tour, and I enjoyed (or would have enjoyed if I had been there) the beer with the fish and sweet potato fries. :-)

Kittie Howard said...

I really enjoyed your tour of Mud Island (and the history). It really is lovely! And your photos of the Mississippi at night are breathtaking!

My hub's in Memphis on a business trip. Will mention it to him. When we were in Memphis last, I saw the island but hadn't a clue. Thanks!

The Broad said...

Honestly, Vagabonde, I learn more about America and its geography and history from your blogs than ever I have from anywhere else! What a beautiful part of the world -- that part of the Mississippi is so peaceful looking. You would think though that they could have come up with a better name than 'Mud' wouldn't you?

GaynorB said...

Fantastic pics and interesting info.

My son recently did a big road trip from Chicago to New Orleans via Memphis. One of the highlights was a wet shave with a cut throat razor for about 20US. He thought it was a bargain!

chlost said...

Oh, you were just downriver from us! Our part of the river is not nearly as wide, and because it flows from west to east here, we do not see such wonderful sunsets! Your photos of the sunset are stunning. Thanks for bringing us along with you.

Gail Dixon said...

My daughter lived on Mud Island after she graduated from Rhodes College! It's a beautiful area. Loved the tour here!

Thérèse said...

It looks really pretty and a nice place to live. What a drive!

Pondside said...

I like to read unusual place names. Chattanooga has always been a favourite and Mud Island is new to me.
I am going to have to look up Red Rice as it isn't something that I know.

ruma said...

Hello, Vagabonde.

  Your exquisite work leads my impression.
  The passion for the art.  It is universal.

  The prayer for all peace.

Have a good day. from Japan, ruma ❀

Pat said...

Well done for providing maps. I usually long for them to get my bearings.
What a delightful place to spend some time and the bonus of family as well.
Those evening shots are heavenly.
No dessert? I suspect you don't have my sweet tooth:)

Fennie said...

Wow! I so wish I had a pocket version of me that you could fit in your pocket. I am learning so much from these blogs that you are giving me itchy feet. The US Department of Tourism ought to be paying you a large retainer!

Down by the sea said...

Hello, Vagabonde,
That sunset is amazing!
It's wonderful learning more about America from reading your blog. That seems such a long way to drive!
Sarah x

Lonicera said...

Love this post Vagabonde, not just for the information, but for the lovely photographs. I often find myself wishing you would give each of them its own space rather than group them together, so I can see them bigger (though I do 'biggify' as you put it). Stained glass has a true fascination for me (I nearly bought a house once because there was a huge oval stained glass window as you went up the stairs - just as well someone offered more and got it... what a daft reason to buy a house!). If I have my camera with me I've only got to see stained glass and I wake as if from a dream about 100 pictures later!!! Weren't there some pictures of yours from an exhibition of stained glass going back a year or two?? There were such stunning pieces that I wanted to jump on a plane and go there.

Reena said...

What a lovely tour. Mud Island looks beautiful. Love those sunsets!

Al said...

That looks like a beautiful place, certainly much nicer than the name would suggest. Nice photos, they make me want to visit. That river is huge!

Nan said...

I so enjoyed this. It sort of felt like I was there alongside you. I love your pictures. Very artistically presented. The houses looked beautiful but it seemed awfully empty there. Like a movie set closed down for the day. I found it a little eerie.
We went to Memphis in 1998 with our Arkansas cousins, and went to Graceland. It was really great, and our kids still talk about it.

schmidleysscribblins, said...

Beautiful photographs of a lovely place. Oh the Mighty Mississipi, I love it.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.


Cloudia said...

what a lovely post

Have a GREAT Weekend!

Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral
> < } } ( ° >

Anonymous said...

Voilà encore un très beau reportage qui m'a beaucoup intéressé.
Merci et bravo!

claude said...

Vous êtes de grands voyageurs et cela vaut le coup !
Mon Chéri a conduit 5000 km pendant que Julia et Larry étaient là.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

The Sunset Pictures are Soooo very Beautiful. It looks like an incredibly peaceful place to be....So very pretty during the day, too....! Our BIG BIG Country is always suprisingly amazing in all it's differences and in it's similarities, too....I've never been to this part of the country, ecept to drive through almost 60 years ago....! Thank you, as always, for the wonderful tour, my dear.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

"EXCEPT"....God Knows where the "X" Went...! (lol)

Kay said...

Amazing photos! I've never been to this part of the country so I appreciate your sharing it with us.

Shammickite said...

Is there any danger of flooding at your daughter's house. Sometimes reclaimed land can be a problem.
You are so lucky to be able to do so much travelling. So many places to go and marvellous sights to see.
One day I'll go to Memphis and visit Graceland.

livininlb said...

Great pictures and history of my new little home. Thanks Mother. I will have to forward the link to my friends so they know where I am these days.
And yes, Mud Island did flood last year. I think I may be far enough to be safe though. And there is a back entrance that is very close to my house unlike those that have to go over the bridge - it was closed during the flooding.

Anonymous said...

Of all of the times I have spent in that area, I never looked at it as you describe it. The description is so vivid and places me there with you. I am really missing all of the walks that I have shared with so many dear friends of mine along the river, in that park.


Elaine said...

I believe I'm in love with Mud Island! It is so very different from what the name implies. Your sunset shots are just gorgeous!

Friko said...

What a beautiful place. Now you will have reasons to visit more often.

Thanks for discovering the history of the creation of the island, it's fascinating how nature arranges herself.

Dee said...

Dear Vagabonde, your postings are always so satisfying. I often find myself sighing a sigh of contentment after I read them. And I learned so much geography from today's posting. The photographs enhanced the text--as usual. I especially liked the photos of the sun sinking lower and lower. Peace.

Mandy Southgate said...

What a beautiful post! Thank you for taking us on this journey with you, I love reading about all of the different towns and cities in the US and posts like this are fabulous.

This made me laugh: "I do not count missing the freeway exit in Memphis and driving to Arkansas then driving back to Memphis". That reminds me of one or two of my own travel experiences, especially the ones where I was driving!

Don said...

OK, now I want to go! Great place and I love the name.

Olga said...

This is a very informative post. The last photos with the sunset are magnificent.

Ginnie said...

OMG, Vagabonde. I can see it now...every chance you get you'll be driving to Memphis...and/or Nashville. I've never heard of Mud Island. The architecture reminds me of a cross between New Orleans and San Francisco. No wonder your daughter was drawn to it!

This is Belgium said...

reportage fantastique!
je connais cette région mais pas Mud island
toujours super d'apprendre un nouvel endroit
je vois que vous êtes également grand fan du tour de France
un plaisir de l accueillir en Belgique bien sûr. Les images de Liège étaient en effet splendides. Je compte prendre un jour cet été pour photographier cette ville pour mon blog.. et moi aussi , pour le street photography, j utilise un Panasonic Lumix : idéal
belle journée

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Wow, those sunsets on the Mississippi are gorgeous. Makes me miss when we lived in Vicksburg, which is also on the Mississippi River.

I haven't been to Memphis in years. Thanks for taking us along. I have cousins there and this makes me want to visit.

joared said...

Spectacular sunset photos. Friend often talks of Memphis visits to her son and family though she's never mentioned Mud Island. I'll tell her what she's missing if she hasn't been there.

Glad you and husband enjoy all these driving trips. My husband and I enjoyed cross country and driving trips which we'd looked forward to resuming after his retirement, but his health had other plans. I can only imagine where all we might have gone. Do enjoy your travels and each other.

CrazyCris said...

Lovely! But I too would be worried about living on "Mud Island", particularly with the history of flooding such massive rivers have...

Annabellelaxchick said...

Do you remember exactly where you were when you took those lovely photos of the Mississippi bank that looked like an open park. It looks like a beautiful venue for a wedding and I would like to know exactly where you were in Mud Island

Vagabonde said...

Hi Annabelle – I tried to see if you had a blog or email. I don’t remember exactly where we were but I looked on Google map – you would take the A. W. Willis Bridge from Memphis to Mud Island and turn right. There is a parking area on the left. Then we walked along the river. Another time we parked at the end, close to the Belle Harbour Apartments area. But if you drove along the river from the bridge to the end you would be along the bank of the river. At the end of my current post, dated April 5, 2014, I show a sunset from that area – the sunsets are always gorgeous there, click on You can email me at

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