Sheriff’s office patroling along river

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 2, 2008

NATCHEZ — For many in the Miss-Lou, a trip across the Mississippi River Bridge is as close as they get to the river.

But for some members of the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, the Mississippi River just became a part of their regularly patrolled area — again.

When Ronny Brown was elected sheriff five years ago he developed a patrol unit to police the river when it reaches flood stage.

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When the river rises, many access roads to hunting camps and other places along the river flood and can only accessed by boat.

Brown said during this time the camps are largely unused and often fall victim to looters.

The enterprising thieves also patrol the river in search of unattended hunting camps.

“It’s our job to protect and serve the public,” he said. “So we get out there and patrol the river.”

On Tuesday morning Deputies Charles Feltus and Ron Jinkins set off in a pair of boats from the Port of Natchez to patrol the river.

The first stop was a hunting camp off of Carthage Point Road.

The river was so high, Feltus, the camp’s caretaker, and a member of the Adams County Search and Rescue Unit were able to dock their craft at the camp’s front steps.

The camp, like many others, was built with the river in mind.

The first floor acts as a carport and storage area while living quarters are confined to the second floor.

“Most of these (camps) have been built up for super high water,” Jinkins said.

Feltus and Robert Waldrop, the caretaker, stepped from the boat to the front steps and inspected the camp.

Feltus said it showed no signs of being tampered with and the floating caravan continued up river.

While Feltus and Jinkins agreed that spending a day patrolling the Mississippi is better than a day in the office, the trip is not with out its perils.

Jinkins said as the river continues to rise it loosens everything that has been settling along the river’s banks and brings it into the river.

“There’s lots of debris out here right now,” he said.

As the boats travel up stream, the drivers keep constant watch for logs and tangles of branches floating in the river.

At another stop, an oil field pumping site across from Natchez Island, Feltus startled a small heard of deer resting on high ground nearest the water’s edge.

Jinkins kept the boat idling in the channel that separated land and Natchez Island.

According to the depth finder, the river’s recent ascension becomes very apparent.

It shows the channel is approximately 44 feet deep, Jinkins said it’s normally between 3-4 feet deep.

And from the perspective that can only be gotten once in the river, its changes are almost startling.

Curtis Gibson, the driver of the second boat, points to massive hunks of earth that have recently eroded and been swept away by the river.

The deputies headed north in the river, where logs from a logging company rest dangerously near the river’s edge practically waiting for the river to rise just enough to claim them for driftwood.

But perhaps most impressive is the speed at which the river moves.

This phenomenon is best seen at the pilings that support the bridge.

The concrete pilings offer resistance to the river and generate large waves that swell under the bridge.

The last stop of the day’s patrol ended at Giles Island.

Giles Island, a hunting camp, had several feet of water covering what’s normally dry ground.

The camp’s lone hunter, Clyde Neely, has been hunting at Giles Island for three years.

“I have never seen it so high,” he said. “It’s kind of strange to see.”

On the way back to the port, houses along Old River showed perhaps the most severe damage.

Some not built above the river sat in water that came almost to the roof.

Back at the port, deputies were not deterred by the day’s lack of action.

“We’ll be out here later,” Feltus said. “We’ll just keep looking.”