Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Snack and the Busy Mississippi River

The exploration of Natchez has to include some time along the mighty Mississippi River… We decided to have a snack and in the process we found another little historic area to check out and a way to get right down along the river itself.

This is a downhill view along the only street for the “Under-the-Hill” neighborhood in Natchez.   This little enclave literally sits right on the river just under the bluff where the center of town is situated.  The Natchez MS/Vidalia LA twin span bridges over the Mississippi are off in the distance. 
The "Under-the-Hill" area was once the entire town of Natchez…about 20 buildings at the time of the Revolutionary War. Gradually houses were built on the bluffs above and an "Upper Town" emerged.  The landing site area was where the Natchez Trace actually began.  The area was frequented by gamblers, river pirates, highwaymen and prostitutes.  In 1810 it was described as a place such that “...for the size of it, there is not, perhaps in the world, a more dissipated spot.” 

To learn more about the “Natchez Trace”, you can go to

This is a partial view of the Under-the-Hill neighborhood looking up the hill.  There are a number of shops and a couple of restaurants along the street.  We only visited one gift shop but it had better than average quality goods for sale.
Back in its bad old days, taverns, gambling halls and brothels lined “Under- the-Hill’s” principal street.  Allegedly, the only thing cheaper than the body of a woman was the life of a man.  Enslaved people were also sold at the landing at Natchez-Under-the-Hill, as well as on the city streets and especially at the “Forks of the Road”, which was the second largest slave market in the South.

To learn about the “Forks of the Road” slave market, which by city ordinance, was actually located just outside the city limits of Natchez, go to

This is the “Merrick Jones”, a towboat owned and operated by Canal Barge Company, Inc.  This towboat was built in 1981.  Its 33 feet tall, 140 feet long, has a beam of 42 feet with a draft of 11 feet.  The Merrick Jones’s engines produce 6,000 horsepower.

Canal Barge Company, Inc. is a family-owned, independent marine transportation company headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana.   The company was founded in 1933.  The name “Canal Barge” dates back to their early years when they operated one barge exclusively along the United States’ Intracoastal Waterway in the Gulf of Mexico.  This company owns 32 towboats and 800 barges.

This very large towboat is the Ron W. Callegan.  It was built in 1979 and, before being acquired by AEP River Operations LLC, it operated as the “Lily M. Freidman” and the “Norb Whitlock”.  This towboat is about 54 feet high, 46.5 feet wide and 190 feet long.  After purchasing the Callegan, AEP refurbished her.  They repowered her with 12,000 horsepower and they provided each of her 11 crew members with separate rooms and baths.  They estimated that a new towboat of this size and capability would cost $30,000,000 to build!

I found an article that reported that in early 2016 the Callegan and her tow of several dozen barges had struck the Vicksburg railroad bridge.  Nine of the barges containing coal broke away and four sank.

In 2015, American Electric Power sold AEP River Operations to American Commercial Barge Line.  The sale included 56 towboats, 2,300 barges and about 1,100 employees.  

This little boat that was hovering around the Under-the-Hill shoreline is an essential and valuable part of the barge/towboat traffic on the Mississippi River.  Upriver Boat Supply LLC provides groceries and other supplies for the passing towboats.  They also service heating and cooling needs, refrigeration repairs, welding services and other electrical and mechanical work.  Upriver Boat Supply’s list of available groceries plus meat and seafood put the selection at our local grocery store to shame!  Check it what they offer at

How about these 2 big American Commercial Barge Line towboats working in tandem headed upriver from Natchez!  The power needed to go upriver, especially with the Mississippi River in moderate flood stage is a bit mind boggling.   The nearest towboat is the relatively new (2011) 180 long “Michael G. Morris”.  The second craft, built in 1991, is the 168 foot long “Capt. Shelby House”.  She was formerly the “Cindy Celeste”.  Both towboats were built in shipyards located in Louisiana.

I included this photo even though it’s hard to see…just click on it to expand it.  The photo provides some context of size… It shows the Michael G. Morris and the Capt. Shelby House side by side working upstream with very long strings of barges.

FYI… The Mississippi River has the world's fourth-largest drainage basin.  The basin covers more than 1,245,000 square miles, (almost the size of India), and it includes all or parts of 31 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces.  The drainage basin empties into the Gulf of Mexico, which is part of the Atlantic Ocean. The total drainage basin of the Mississippi River covers nearly 40% of the landmass of the continental United States! 

Finally…onto our mid-afternoon snack!

While many of the ‘on the bluff’ and around Natchez restaurants are closed on Sundays, one big “Under-the-Hill” draw for visitors is that its dining establishments are open for business.  This is “The Camp” at Silver Street.
The Camp is basically a sports bar that serves basic items and which boasts a great beer selection.  They bake their own bread every day.  They have 18 beers on tap, most of which are from Southern breweries plus they frequently rotate beers bringing in new styles.

This is the cozy bar area at The Camp.  I noted that it was completely populated by the ladies…

We sat in this room.  The blackboard lists different drinks and beers available.  The Camp also offers outdoor seating in their Beer Garden at the back of the restaurant or seating on the porch overlooking the Mississippi River.

I admit to unimaginative tastes when it comes to beer and I ordered my usual Miller Lite. ($3.00) After the very helpful waitress brought us some samples, (no charge!), Laurie ordered a “Dark Saison” from the Southern Prohibition Brewing Company. ($5.50)

As per the Brewery, some dark fruit and caramel notes lay down support for the rich Bohemian Pilsner malt in this lucid projection that tastes much "lighter" than it would appear. It is hopped entirely with El Dorado and fermented with a blend of traditional Belgian yeast and French Saison yeast.  She did enjoy the beer but it was rather filling…

To learn more about this brewery from Hattiesburg Mississippi, just go to

Other than the beer, we weren’t that far from dinner time so we limited our snack to this huge basket of Fried Pickles with Ranch Dressing. ($6.95) They were very good. 

The menu at The Camp features Appetizers, Sliders, Burgers, Sandwiches, Melts, Tacos and Quesadillas, Soups and Salads, plus 3 entrees...a Catfish Plate, Chicken ‘N Broccoli and Chop Chop…2 breaded and fried pork chops.  Bread Pud’N and a Hot Brownie Sundae provide a sweet treat if desired.

The Camp is located at 21 Silver Street in Natchez Mississippi. Phone: 601-897-0466.  Website:

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by to see what we’ve been up to!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. I shivered when I read about the slave market. I love all the views in your photos, the buildings as well, and the fried pickles are something I hadn't heard of until now. Great post, Dave, thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Looks like you did Natchez up right - we'll check out that lower area

  3. I Loved this serene view of under the hill area ,absolutely gorgeous and worth visiting.
    you mentioned all about it magnificently and thank you for sharing it in virtual description