Holly Springs National Forest Overview

Chewalla Lake

Holly Springs National Forest is a 147,000-acre mix of public and private land. Located in northern central Mississippi, it is only an hour's drive south of Memphis, Tennessee, and attracts many of its citizens escaping for the weekend. The park's 50 or so lakes (dug by the Soil Conservation Service) were originally intended for flood prevention and erosion control, but are today also used for warm-water fishing, boating, swimming, and more.

As with Mississippi's other six forests, the lands of Holly Springs National Forest were once used by the native populations. As the first European settlers arrived, they cleared the land of its old growth forests to make room for farming. By the 1930s, when the Forest Service took responsibility for managing and rehabilitating the land, the earth had been badly scarred. These same grounds are now well covered by pines, oaks, and dogwood trees. Wildflowers, when in season, provide vivid flashes of color. Stocked game abounds and mingles with the migratory waterfowl.

Hike a "Supreme" Trail
Departing from near the picnic pavilion in the day-use area of the Chewalla Lake Recreation Area, the Chewalla Lake Hiking Trail runs for three miles into the hills southwest of the lake. The word chewalla comes from the Choctaw Indian name chihowa-la, which means "the Supreme Being." A hike in these surroundings will help you understand why. This trail is for foot traffic only.

Catch Some Cats
Holly Springs National Forest has approximately 50 small lakes. With an average surface area of about 30 acres each, they provide for superb warm-water fishing. Largemouth bass, sunfish, and catfish are local anglers' delights. There are concrete boat ramps on Wagner, Bluff, Curtis, Cox, Cypress, Mount Olive, Brent's, Chestnut, Curry, Wood Duck, Mill, Walker, and Organ Lakes.

Observe Winged Commuters
Once intended as an interpretive center, Bagley Bottoms Environmental Interpretive Area hasn't quite grown to the stature of its name. However, a short hike off the main road will drop you into this open-to-the-public protected zone where you can enjoy up-close opportunities to observe migratory waterfowl.

Get Good and Muddy
Much of the forest is open to mountain bike and ATV use. A variety of trail markers and road closure devices govern access. Please contact the forest for its detailed policy.

Camp by a Lake
Chewalla Lake was originally intended for flood retention. Plans were eventually expanded to create the Chewalla Lake Recreation Area. Daytime and overnight facilities are available, including a 42-site campground, lake access for swimming and bass fishing, picnic grounds, and more. Tillatoba Lake and Puskus Lake also have associated recreation areas, although they are both more primitive and remote. Backcountry camping is allowed throughout the forest.

Move on to U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 13 Sep 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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