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Outdoor Recreation

Playtime is naturally more fun in the Hills.

Fishing on Columbus LakeVisitors to the Mississippi Hills invariably and immediately note the friendly and outgoing nature of the people here.  Funny thing is, it doesn’t take long before visitors themselves become outgoing in nature — that is to say, out going in Nature as they hike, bike, fish, hunt, play tennis, golf, go camping, boating, birding, skiing, horseback riding, rope and rock climbing... Of course, sometimes visitors stop going because they like to just stand and breathe in the stillness of a hardwood forest, or gaze out over the shimmering surface of a crystal blue lake.  Sometimes they want to drink in a sunset or just sit and soak up the beautiful scenery.

And that’s fine, too.  Because the Mississippi Hills packs everything under the shining sun, not to mention the pale moon, into a magnificent bounty of recreational and scenic offerings.  When you’re ready to play, this is the place to be.

You’ll be in good company, too. Love of the outdoors is a thing bred in the bone for the folks of the Hills.  Some of our greatest artists have been inspired by the natural world of the Hills, and today, it’s no exaggeration to say that the Hills outdoors is one of our greatest masterpieces, with terrific recreational opportunities artfully sculpted from beautifully preserved natural landscapes.  We love the earth and it shows.

We also love to have fun.  So come along, pack your toys and be sure to bring along your sense of wonder.  It’s going to get quite a workout in the Mississippi Hills:

THE GREAT LAKES OF MISSISSIPPI

Whether you angling at the edge, or floating your boat through the middle of one, you can scarcely believe that the lakes of the region weren’t carved from the earth at the beginning of time.  Yet while these majestic bodies may look as old as the Hills, in fact they are twentieth century man-made marvels.   Another paradox:  these fun-filled playgrounds are hard-working, too, providing flood control and navigation, generating power and preserving vital natural habitats.   But let’s not talk about work — you’re here to have fun.  In that category, here are some of our greatest liquid assets:

Tri-Lakes

Grenada LakeAfter the 1929 flood ravaged the state, a massive federal flood control and dam project resulted in three impoundment lakes — Grenada, Enid and Sardis — that spread out for miles, their glittering waters offering a haven for wildlife and sportsmen, and even a certain Nobel-winning writer who found inspiration as he floated in his houseboat on Sardis Lake.  Today, visitors of all kinds are inspired, if not to write, certainly to enjoy a terrific range of activities, from boating, fishing and hunting to hiking, camping, swimming and more.

Sardis: An ideal sporting destination — a permanent pool of nearly 10,000 acres, where crappie and bass are plentiful, and nearly 100,000 acres of shoreline encompassing hardwood forests, pine plantations, wetlands and open fields.  Hunters and fishermen love Sardis, of course; naturalists also flock to the lake’s mid-winter annual bald eagle survey.  But then anyone angling for a good time will appreciate the serene scenery and amenities:  both primitive and Class A campsites, six swimming beaches and more than 475 picnic sites.  
East of Sardis — 29049 Hwy 315
Phone: 662.563.4531
www.mvk.usace.army.mil

Enid: Bald eagles are also one of the species of high-flyers at Enid, where carefully managed shoreline acreage planted in grain, millet, peas and sunflowers, with two wetlands management areas, make an avian haven.  Fish thrive here, too; the world-record short nose gar and white crappie were caught at Enid.  Camping, swimming and hiking are also excellent; you can even bring your horse to take a trot along the equestrian trails.
Northeast of Enid in Yalobusha and Panola counties Enid & Oakland, MS
Phone: 662.623.7356 or 662.563.4571
www.mdwfp.com

Grenada: Here’s another great opportunity to get up close and personal with nature along the mile and a half interpretive trail at the 330-acre Haserway Wetlands, one of four managed wildlife areas at Grenada Lake, including one where visitor can learn proper quail management and even bring along a dog to train for hunting.  Swimming, camping and hiking are also excellent, and there’s even rope climbing to enjoy and nearby restored Confederate fortifications to explore.
East of Grenada
Phone: 662.226.5911
www.mvk.usace.army.mil

Pickwick Lake
Its original landing named by a Civil War era postmaster with a fondness for the Pickwick Papers, this massive lake, part of the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway, is a tale of not two states, but three, with a shoreline stretching nearly 500 miles, from Mississippi into Alabama and Tennessee.  While the Pickwick Landing Dam is a significant source of hydroelectricity, the reservoir pool is a powerhouse of recreational delight, where water skiers carve graceful parabolas and fishermen get "jiggy" to haul in record-size small-mouth bass and catfish.   Other chapters in the epic adventure of Pickwick are camping, picnicking and wildlife-watching.  The amenities are excellent at Pickwick and include a marina.
613 County Rd. 321
Iuka, MS 38852
Phone: 662.423.6515
home.mdwfp.com

Bay Springs Lake
White sandy beaches in the middle of the Mississippi Hills?  Incredible but true at Bay Springs, the only deep water lake on the TennTom Waterway.  After you wriggle your toes in the sugar-white stuff and stretch out for some sun, there are still 6,700 acres of water to enjoy as you boating, swim, water ski or cast for largemouth bass, spotted bass, walleye, sauger and crappie.  Hiking, bird watching and hunting are also popular around the more than 130 miles of shoreline.
West of Dennis
82 Bay Springs Resource Rd.
Dennis, MS 38838
Phone: 662.423.1287

Columbus Lake
Columbus LakeAnother Tenn-Tom beauty, Columbus Lake stretches out over 9,000 acres for some outstanding water sports and fishing; it’s a hot spot for bass and crappie, and also well-stocked with bream.   For wildlife lovers, the Lake’s Plymouth Bluff area is a special delight, teeming with deer, wild turkey, raccoons, beavers, rabbits, squirrels and armadillos, with foxes and coyotes making occasional appearances. 
West of Columbus; North to Aberdeen, MS
3606 West Plymouth Rd.
Columbus, MS 39702
Phone: 662.329.1191 or 662.327.2142
Toll-Free: 800.327.2686
www.columbus-ms.org or tenntom.sam.usace.army.mil

Arkabutla Lake
A sailor’s haven, a fisherman’s dream and a draw for hunters, campers and hikers, Arkabutla Lake is just 20 minutes south of Memphis, Tenn. in DeSoto County, Miss. Created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the Coldwater River, this 33,000-acre lake has prevailing westerly winds which makes it one of the best sailing lakes in the nation. It has eight boat ramps and 333 campsites, nature trails, picnic areas, hiking and biking trails, playgrounds and swimming beaches. More than 35,600 acres of land surrounding the lake are open to public hunting for waterfowl, small game and large game. Fish in the lake include largemouth and white bass, black and white crappie, channel and flathead catfish, and is rated one of the top-five crappie fishing locations in the U.S. Because of the lake’s turbidity and lack of depth, all game fish tend to stay shallow.


NATCHEZ TRACE PARKWAY

Natchez TraceThe dimensions of the Natchez Trace Parkway are pretty amazing:  extending 440 miles from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee, and stretching back 7,000 years in history, all the way back to the time when mastodons and giant bison crashed through the underbrush to create the first trail.  Following in their path were the native peoples of prehistory who were in turn followed by the tribes of the Chickasaw and Choctaw who first hunted on the trail and later began trading with the trappers.  The "Kaintuck" boatmen came later, a rough and tumble group who would float down the Mississippi to sell their goods, flatboats and all, in Natchez or New Orleans and then tramp north home on the Natchez Trace.  A lot of history happened on the Natchez Trace, and thanks to the creation of the Natchez Trace Parkway in New Deal legislation in the 1930s, both the history as well as the phenomenal natural beauty of the Trace have been preserved.  So well preserved, in fact, that here in the Hills, in Tupelo, a portion of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail allows you to actually follow on foot the same path those Kaintuck boatmen took.   Those fellows would march as much as 500 miles in a month.  No doubt you’ll wish you could spend a month on the Parkway, but with marching orders that would also include these outdoor highlights:

  • Biking: Often cited as one of the nation’s Top 10 Roadways, the Trace offers scenic vistas free from advertising clutter and three bicycle-only campgrounds in the Hills.
  • Camping: Located at the peak of Little Mountain, Mississippi’s highest point on the Parkway, the Jeff Busby campground is also a great place for hiking and picnicking.  More campsites can be found in the Tombigbee National Forest.
  • Horse-back riding: Saddle up and explore the horse trail that has been developed in conjunction with the Tupelo portion of the National Scenic Trail.  Or trot over to the staging area for Tombigbee National Forest’s Witch Dance horse trail, also located on the Natchez Trace

Natchez Trace Parkway Headquarters
2680 Natchez Trace Parkway, Milepost 266 on Natchez Trace Parkway
Tupelo, MS 38804
Phone: 662.680.4027
Toll-Free: 800.305.7417
www.nps.gov/natr

TENNESSEE TOMBIGBEE WATERWAY

Tenn-Tom WaterwayAs far back as 300 years ago, explorers saw the need for a waterway to connect the Tennessee River in Tennessee with the Tombigbee River in central Alabama; U.S. Grant also considered the possibility.  However, it wasn’t until the 1930’s that the idea became feasible, and it still took a half a century to bring it to fruition.   The Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway was a massive project, a 234-mile water route, and while its planners and builders may not have moved heaven, they certainly moved a lot of earth, and eventually moved environmentalists to recognize the project’s worth.

That recognition is largely due to “mitigation.”  Of the nearly 200,000 acres of public lands the waterway encompasses, nearly half of the acreage includes preserved hardwood bottomland and carefully managed wildlife habitat.  “Mitigation” is not just about preservation, however, it’s also about people pleasing, and with a $50 million investment in the development of lakes, parks, campgrounds—even white sandy beaches—the TennTom has floated to the top of favored recreation destinations, particularly here in the Hills, where in addition to those spectacular lakes of Columbus, Pickwick and Bay Springs, the Waterway also offers:

  • 12 Prime fishing areas—Great places to snag bass (largemouth, spotted bass and hybrid striped), walleye, sauger, and crappie, as well as a number of prey species.
  • 17 Delightful day-use parks and picnic areas—Nature trails for hiking, beautiful picnic sites, multi-use courts for games, great beaches, pavilions and more.
  • 5 Class A campgrounds—Convenient to boat ramps and offering water and electric hookups, playgrounds and multi-use courts, and other amenities.
  • 19 put-ins for boats

Northeast Mississippi and West Central Alabama
Columbus, MS 39701
Phone: 662.327.2142
www.tenntom.sam.usace.army.mil/

STATE PARKS:

Tishomingo State ParkIt’s no mystery why the state parks of the Hills are so popular.  The answer is quite elemental:  verdant land, sparkling waters and supremely fresh air, three key elements that are just the beginning of an adventure that’s all over the map, from the southern Hills to the northeastern tip, with activities that are just as far-ranging, from tent-camping to tennis, from watching birds in the sky to whacking birdies on the green, from swimming to swapping lies about the size of your fish—which might actually be the truth given the record-setting hauls from state park lakes!  Hiking, biking, rock-climbing, horseback riding, water-skiing—the list is endless, the experiences priceless.  Camp-outs are a special treat at all of the parks.  So get packing, or just hop in the car, because there’s always s’more fun ahead at these great destinations:

Wall Doxey State Park—Holly Springs
Centered around a 60-acre, spring-fed lake, Wall Doxey is action-packed—hiking, boating, fishing and camping, with 64 campsites, 18 tent camping pads and 9 cabins.
3946 Hwy 7 South
Phone: 662.252.4231 * Toll-Free: 800.467.2757
www.mdwfp.com

J.P. Coleman State Park—Iuka/Pickwick Lake
Perched on a rocky bluff overlooking the Tennessee River, J.P. Coleman puts the wind in your sails, for real.  In addition to sailing, there’s swimming, skiing, and great fishing, especially for smallmouth bass in Pickwick Lake.  Camping and wildlife viewing are also highlights.
613 County Rd. 321
Iuka, MS 38852
Phone: 662.423.6515
home.mdwfp.com

George Payne Cossar State Park—Enid Lake
The hunting and fishing are superb at Cossar; the world-record crappie, weighing in at over five pounds, was caught here.   Or just come catch some rays, take a spin on your bike, watch the birds or the sun going down.
Northeast of Enid in Yalobusha and Panola counties Enid & Oakland, MS 
Phone: 662.623.7356 or 662.563.4571
www.mdwfp.com

Hugh White State Park—Grenada Lake
Jet skis and powerboats are welcome at Hugh White, where above par recreation includes a state golf course, in addition to swimming, boating, hiking camping and more.
Hwy 8
Grenada, MS 38902
Phone: 662.226.4934
www.mdwfp.com

John Kyle State Park—Sardis Lake
Another state golf course is located at John Kyle, where biking, swimming, and tennis are just a few of the options to keep you in the swing.
4235 State Park Rd.
Sardis, MS 38666
Phone: 662.487.1345 * Toll-Free: 888.833.6477
www.mdwfp.com

Lake Lowndes State Park—Columbus
Horse trails, hiking and biking trails winding around a 150-acre lake, along with athletic facilities for a range of sports, are part of the appeal of this Columbus mainstay.
3319 Lake Lowndes Rd.
Columbus, MS 39702
Phone: 662.328.2110
www.mdwfp.com

Trace State Park-- Pontotoc
Just a few of the highlights include: secluded nature trails for hikers of all skill levels; mountain biking trails, and special arrangement with the Pontotoc Country Club that allows park guests to enjoy the club's 18-hole golf course without paying green fees.
West of Belden in Pontotoc County
2139 Faulkner Rd.
Belden, MS 38226
Phone: 662.489.2958
www.mdwfp.com

Tishomingo State Park
Named for the chief of the Chickasaw nation, Tishomingo takes visitors to dramatic heights with its Appalachian scenery—cragged bluffs, massive moss-drenched boulders, profusions of wildflowers.  The stone buildings were built by the Civilian Conservations Corps from stones quarried in the area.  Canoe rental and rock climbing are two special highlights, and the trails of the park offer variety for hikers of all skill levels.
2 miles South of Tishomingo off Hwy 25 or mile post 304 on the Natchez Trace Parkway
105 County Rd. 90
Phone: 662.438.6914 * Toll-Free: 800.467.2757
www.mdwfp.com

Tombigbee State Park—Tupelo
The 100-acre Lake Lee provides the water fun, with camping that ranges from cabins to primitive; plus a sand volleyball court, disc golf, hiking and more.
264 Cabin Dr.
Tupelo, MS 38804
Phone: 662.842.7669
Toll-Free: 800.467.2757
www.mdwfp.com

NATIONAL FORESTS, WILDLIFE REFUGES AND NATURE MANAGEMENT:

Preservation without reservations:  The Hills goes in big when it comes to protecting and preserving nature’s bounty in pristine paradises sprawled over the thousands of acres encompassed by our National Forests, Wildlife Refuges and nature management areas.  These destinations are just havens for wildlife, they’re also soul-soothing refuges for those ready to escape the mass-produced monotony of modern day.  Here is where the sidewalk ends, and the timeless adventure of a lifetime—yours and the wildlife—begins:

Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge
The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker relies on the Refuge for its existence in this area.  Other species who roam the more than 44,000 acres of bottomland and upland forest include quail, deer, and turkey. Four green-tree reservoirs, two major lakes and assorted wetland areas also make Noxubee a welcome home for the wood stork, wood duck, American alligator, bald eagle and wintering waterfowl.  Fishing is available on all Refuge waters, hunting in select areas.
Off Bluff Lake Rd., 15 miles South of Starkville
Brooksville, MS 39739
Phone: 662.323.5548
Fax: 662.323.6390
www.fws.gov/noxubee

Tallahatchie Wildlife Refuge/Malmaison Wildlife Management Area
This pair of preserved areas—Tallahatchie to the north, a national refuge, and Malmaison, managed by the state, to the south—encompasses nearly 14,000 acres and provides refuge to a variety of species, including a wealth of waterfowl.  Bisected by the Tippo Bayou, Tallahatchie is the year-round home for Eastern screech owls, barred owls, great-horned owls, loggerhead shrikes and red-tailed hawks, while flyovers include Peregrine falcon, bald eagles, merlin, least tern, black tern and wood storks.
2776 Sunset Dr.
Grenada, MS 38902
Phone: 662.226.8286
www.fws.gov/southeast/tallahatchie

Tombigbee National Forest
Davis Lake and Choctaw Lake are two of the highlights in this superb example of Southern hardwood forest, which covers more than 66,000 acres and offers excellent camping facilities.
Hwy 15 South
Ackerman, MS 39735
Phone: 662.285.3264
www.fs.fed.us/r8/mississippi/tombigbee

Holly Springs National Forest
Spread out over more than 155,000 acres and studded with loblolly and shortleaf pines and upland hardwoods, this lush forest boasts three different lake recreation areas, offering swimming, hiking and camping.
Higdon Rd.
Holly Springs, MS 38635
Phone: 662.236.6550
www.fs.fed.us/r8/mississippi/hollysprings/

Strawberry Plains Audubon Center
A splendid antebellum mansion centers this refuge—2,500 acres of carefully managed wildlife habitat, where more than 200 species of birds find a home, and where 15 miles of walking trails allow visitors to go deep into forests, fields and wetlands.  The annual Hummingbird Migration Celebration is a special highlight.
285 Plains Rd.
Holly Springs, MS 38635
Phone: 662.252.1155
www.msaudubon.org
strawberryplains.audubon.org

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