Holly Springs, Tombigbee, Delta, Bienville, De Soto, and Homochitto National Forests
100 West Capitol Street
Jackson, MS 39269
The National Forests in Mississippi offer some of the best outdoor recreation opportunities in the South.The six forests: Holly Springs, Tombigbee, Delta, Bienville, De Soto, and Homochitto provide the largestholding of public land in Mississippi.
A short drive south of Memphis is the 147,000-acre Holly Springs National Forest. This Forest is richwith numerous lakes and excellent fishing and camping facilities.
In northeast Mississippi is the Tombigbee National Forest. This 66,000-acre Forest offers two largedeveloped campgrounds, a horse trail, excellent hunting and many other recreational opportunities.
The nation's only bottomland hardwood National Forest is the Delta. This 59,000-acre area is rich inwildlife. With its system of green tree reservoirs it is especially attractive to migratory waterfowl.
The 178,000-acre Bienville National Forest, in the center of the state, offers a variety of sports, fromhorseback trails to swimming and hunting. This Forest was named after Jean Baptiste Bienville, thefounder of Mobile, Natchez, and New Orleans.
The largest National Forest in the state, with over 500,000 acres, is the De Soto. The De Soto is mostly"pineywoods" covering a gently rolling terrain with stands of longleaf, slash, and loblolly pine. There arewinding streams, slow moving most of the year, which form bottomlands that grow excellent hardwood.These are"black-water" streams, tinted by tannic acid from decaying vegetation on the forest floor. Thisis where the Black Creek flows: famous for its float trip, hiking trail, and wilderness.
The Homochitto National Forest was named after the Homochitto River, meaning "Big Red River,"received its name from the Indians. This 189,000-acre forest in southwest Mississippi is rich with deerand turkey.
The National Forests in Mississippi include over 276 miles of hiking trails; more than 230 campsites; 140picnic sites; eight swimming beaches; boating; and excellent hunting and fishing.
With few exceptions, camping is permitted in the general forest area, year long. Camping is allowedanywhere in the Forest unless posted otherwise and/ or obviously blocked to prevent access. Camping onForest land within some areas is restricted to designated primitive camp sites during hunting seasons, andmay require a permit. This is true for the Delta, Tombigbee, and the Yalobusha Unit of the Holly SpringsNational Forests. Other Forest land managed as part of the Wildlife Management Area system may alsohave similar restrictions. Hunters and campers should check with local Ranger Districts for particulars.
No permits are needed nor are fees required for camping in undeveloped areas of the Forest except asmentioned above. While many developed sites are open year-long, some are seasonally closed to conserveoperating expenses. There are no cabins on the National Forests in Mississippi.
No permit is required for campfires however, you are responsible for your fire or any damage that mayresult from improperly tending it. Only dead and down wood may be used for campfires.
Most campsites are available on a first-come-first-serve basis. Some developed recreation areas offer aportion of their campsites for advanced reservations. Reservations may be made by calling 1-800-283-CAMP. There is a fee for reservations in addition to the nightly camping fee. Persons who also want toreserve picnic pavilions may contact the District Ranger's office nearest the campground. A fee is alsorequired for the reservation.
For more information on camping in Mississippi National Forests, refer to the Bienville, Delta, DeSoto, Holly Springs, and Homochitto National Forest Campground Guides provided by the U.S. National Forest Campground Guide.
Hunting and Fishing
Hunting on the Forests is permitted in all areas except developed, administrative, and recreation sites, orunless prohibited by posted warnings or regulations. Fishing is allowed in all areas unless postedotherwise. All state hunting and fishing regulations, seasons, and fees apply to National forest lands.
For information about state regulations, contact the nearest office - or the state headquarters office of theMississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, PO Box 451, Jackson, MS 39205, phone 601-362-92112.
Off-highway vehicles (OHV), which include trucks, utility vehicles, motorcycles, 3 wheel and 4 wheel all-terrain vehicles, are used in many areas of the Forests. The Delta, as well as parts of other Forests, allowthe use of OHVs on designated trails only. There is also a 68 mile Bethel A.T.V. trail on the De SotoNational Forest. OHV's are welcome in areas where there is no resource damage potential or whereadministrative policy allows.
Horseback riding opportunities on Forest roads and old logging trails are plentiful, forest wide. Inaddition, there are four developed trails offering a total of 63 miles for riding. Trails designated for foottravel only will be signed to indicate this restriction. No pack or riding stock is permitted on these trails.Additionally, if dogs are taken on any trail, they should be reliably obedient or leashed.
Recreation - Bienville National Forest
Shockaloe Base Camp I: Located adjacent to the Shockaloe Horse Trail. This site provides parking,camping. and picnicking for trail riders and other users. The terrain is fat in a delightful"piney-woods"setting. Nearby Raworth Tank (pond) supplied water for steam locomotives in days past. Base Camp I isopen April through October.
Shockaloe Base Camp II: Also positioned along the Shockaloe Horse Trail, this camp provides anotherwaystop or beginning/ending point for trail users as well as camping and picnicking facilities for all forestvisitors. The path of Sherman's march from Vicksburg lies between the two Base Camps. Base Camp IIis open year-round.
Marathon Recreation Area: An especially scenic and quiet picnic area and developed campground of theBienville National Forest. Located on the site of an old Marathon Lumber Company Logging Camp, thearea offers one of the most pleasing forest settings anywhere. Open year-round.
Shongelo Recreation Area: A nice developed campground and picnic area open from April 15 to October15 located in an attractive setting of large shortleaf and loblolly pines interspersed with a variety ofhardwood trees.
Bienville Pines Scenic Area and Trail: The scenic area contains 180 acres and is the largest known blockof "old-growth" pine timber in Mississippi. Towering loblolly and shortleaf pines, many over 200 yearsold, continue to dominate the site.
The Bienville Pines Trail meanders through this area, giving hikers the opportunity to observe the plantsand animals native to mature pine forests, including the red-cockaded woodpecker, an endangered specieswhich nests only in living pines. The main trail is two miles long (shortcuts available) and is completewith interpretive stops and rest areas. Foot travel only.
Harrell Prairie Hill Botanical Area: An island of natural grassland surrounded by forest, Harrell Prairie isthe largest example of extinct "Jackson Prairie" on the Bienville National Forest. The characteristicallyalkaline soils support a plant community that is entirely different from the surrounding woodlands. This150-acre area is managed strictly to insure the protection and perpetuation of this rare vegetative type.Late spring and summer are the best times to visit the prairie while flowering species are in bloom.
Shockaloe Horse Trail: A National Recreation Trail, 23 miles of travelway, winds through much of thenorthern half of the Bienville Ranger District. The trail takes the rider through several different terrainsand vegetation types. Rides of varying length can be planned as the trail crosses Forest Service roads atseveral points along its path.
Marathon Trail: About a one-mile loop trail around Marathon Lake. The trail follows the shoreline of thelake, giving visitors opportunities to wind through a woodland of loblolly pine next to a shoreline whereglimpses of wading birds and marine life are likely.
Shongelo Trail: A 1/2-mile loop trail around Shongelo Lake. Trail follows the shoreline of the lakethrough slight hills on the upper end of the lake. Beautiful scenic views of the lake in a woodland ofmixed pine and hardwood.
Recreation Sites - De Soto National Forest
Big Biloxi Recreation Area: The banks of the Big Biloxi River are the setting for this recreation site. Itwas built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid 30's. Gulf Coast flora and fauna can be found inthe area. It is located only 14 miles from the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Airey Lake Recreation Area: This three acre lake site provides five camping units, picnicking, and bass,bream, white perch, and catfish fishing. It serves as a trail camp for the Tuxachanie National RecreationHiking Trail and receives a lot of use.
POW Lake Recreation Area: This recreation site lies beside a seven-acre lake at the southern end of theTuxachanie National Recreation Hiking Trail and serves as a camp for the trail. This is an abandonedWorld War II German Prisoner of War camp and Navy rifle range; the old ammunition bunkers are stillpresent. The lake provides fishing opportunities for bass, bream, white perch and catfish.
Black Creek Float Trip: A 40-mile float trip that covers one of the most scenic steams in Mississippi -Black Creek. Wide, white sandbars along the shores offer camping, picnicking, or relaxation in the sun.Floating speed is about one mile an hour unless you linger to fish the quiet pools along the way. Floatersshould always keep a sharp lookout for submerged logs and snags. The water level of Black Creek issubject to rapid rises due to heavy rainfall and can become quite treacherous. Floaters should keepinformed of local weather conditions. Five landings are in operation: Big Creek, Moody's, Janice. PressCreek, and Fairley Bridge.
Ashe Lake: is located just north of Ashe Nursery and consists of an eight-acre lake.
Tuxachanie National Recreation Trails: Tuxachine Trail, a National Recreation Trail, offers the hiker a22-mile hike through south Mississippi's vast forest. Rows of live oak, mark the trail's entrance onHighway 49. Off-highway parking is provided. The oaks were planted in 1935 by Posey N. Howell, aDantzler Lumber Company forester, who was locally recognized as the"Father of Mississippi Forestry".From here, the first five miles of the trail follow an old abandoned railroad which once served the sawmillof the Dantzler Lumber Company at Howison. The railroad was used to haul logs and navel stores to themill or major railhead and to take workers and their families to the "company store." The railroad bedand trestles were built in the early 1900's by Irish Immigrants using hand tools and mule-powered scoops.Remains of the old trestles can still be seen on some of the creek crossings. The hiker encounters a varietyof vegetation along the trail. Plains, savannas, and swamps lie between the ridges and have an abundanceof pitcher plants and palmettos. wild orchids can occasionally be found. Timber ridges of longleaf andslash pine add to the scenery.
Big Foot Horse Trail and Trail Camp: This horse trail is 14 miles long, moderate in difficulty, open yearlong. Primitive campsites available. No drinking water or toilets. Two ponds and Tuxachanie Creekprovide water for animal use. Horse or foot traffic only. Big Foot Horse Trail consists of four loopsranging in length from five to 11 miles . A ride of almost any desired length can be made by combinationsof these loops. Most of the trails run parallel to roads, making it possible to enter the trail at any point.Fishing opportunities are present for bream, bass, white perch, and catfish.
A Trail riders Camp is located at the beginning of the system on Forest Service Road 440. Available atthe camp are parking areas, hitching rails, stock pond, and an unloading ramp. The parking areas areconstructed so as to facilitate parking of trailers with as little backing as possible.
Bethel ATV Trails: This is a 69-mile trail established for all-terrain vehicles of widths no greater than 48inches (primarily motorcycles, three-and four-wheelers). The rider will encounter the south MississippiCoastal Plains vegetative types (longleaf and slash pine, hardwood flats, swamps, pitcher plants, etc.).Two Motorcycle Enduros are held annually that attract riders from various southern states.
Recommendation: It is recommended that no riding occur along the trail during deer hunting seasonexcept on Sundays when the Red Creek Management Area is closed.
Black Creek Trail: Discover the hidden beauty of the piney woods in the Gulf Coastal Plain by hiking oneof Mississippi's longest and most challenging trails. The Black Creek Trail continues for 40 miles alongthe Black Creek, from Fairley Bridge Landing to Big Creek Landing. The trail climbs over rolling hillsand meanders down through the flat land of the Black Creek flood plain. Archaeological study has shownthis area was used by ancient Americans for thousands of years. In addition to being a travel corridor,Black Creek provided an abundant food supply for the former inhabitants of this land. In recent historythis river basin was almost totally denuded by lumbering during the late 1890's and early 1900's. Thedesignation as National Forest land in the 1930's, and the practice of total resource management sincethen has reestablished the natural beauty of this area. Over 90 bridges have been constructed to providecrossing for small streams and ponds. Approximately 10 miles of the trail is located in the Black CreekWilderness. No drinking water is available along the trail. Only foot travel is permitted on the trail. TheBlack Creek Trail offers a challenging and exciting hike through a part of the De Soto NationalForest.
Recreation - Homochitto National Forest
Clear Spings Recreation Area: Located on a 12-acre lake fed by springs and surrounded by stands of pinehardwood trees. The lake has a designated swimming area which includes a bathhouse and restrooms.
Turkey Fork Recreation Areas: This is a 240-acre reservoir, and provides the setting for this attractivepiney woods recreation area situated approximately 44 miles southeast of Laurel, MS. This area providesa wide range of recreation opportunities including camping, swimming, fishing, picnicking, water skiing,hiking, and bicycling.
Pipes Lake Picinic Area: A beautiful area with picnic tables located on a ridge overlooking the 14 acrelake. An area of hilly terrain in a pine-hardwood setting.
Clear Spring Hiking Trails: This is a 10.5 mile loop trail. The trailhead parking lot is located near theentrance to Clear Springs Recreation Area. The trail can also be accessed conveniently from severallocations near Clear Springs Recreation Area for hikers wishing to camp. The trail traverses a widevariety of forest cover type including pine upland sites, pine hardwood side slopes and coves, and hardwoodbottoms.
The Longleaf Horse Trail: provides horseback riding enthusiasts an opportunity to ride 23 miles crosscountry through mixed pine and pine hardwood forests. A long 23-mile day loop and short three mileloop are color marked for easy trail identification and travel. Beginners, as well as experienced riders,will enjoy the variety in terrain, forest types, and flowering vegetation which can be experienced along theway. The trailhead is located at Gator Pond and includes a 10 spur loop for trailer parking.
Pipes Lake Hiking Trails: This is a 2.2-mile scenic hiking trail with the trailhead located at Pipes LakePicnic Area. This trail goes around Pipes Lake and is a few feet above the water level. Fishermen alsouse the trail for access to the lake for fishing.
Recreation - Delta National Forest
Blue Lake: Blue Lake has five primitive campsites, flush toilets, boat launch for small boats, fire rings andpicnic tables.
Recreation - Holly Springs National Forest
Chewalla Lake Recreation Area: This area was originally planned as a flood retention reservoir. Thisplan was enlarged by the Forest Service to provide additional recreational opportunities for Forestvisitors.
Past land use of the area surrounding the lake was common to many parts of Mississippi: settling,clearing; and farming. Most slopes were badly gullied when the Forest Service accepted managementresponsibility in the 1930's. Today, this and surrounding areas are productive for many uses includingoutdoor enjoyment.
The creek's name, Chewalla, is derived from the Choctaw Indian name,"chihowa-la", meaning TheSupreme Being. Within the area of the present lake, a ceremonial or burial mound was constructed by theIndians. Visitors will find a reconstructed mound near the overlook of the lake's edge. ChewallaRecreation Area offers a beautiful and tranquil setting for enjoyment of the out of doors. Picnickers enjoya cool and scenic view of this 260 acre lake which is popular with fishermen and swimmers in the warmermonths. Campers can choose from 42 campsites (10 having electric hookups), picnic areas, and thebeach.
Puskus Lake Recreation Area: Puskus Lake is a 96-acre lake which offers a more primitive camping orpicnicking experience than Chewalla. It's a little more remote, but three miles of gravel road should notstand in the way if you wish to discover a really pleasant environment.
Recreation - Tombigbee National Forest
Choctaw Lake Recreation Area: Choctaw Lake at 100 acres is the focal point of this development, locatedfive miles south of Ackerman, Mississippi. A range of outdoor recreation opportunities includingcamping, swimming, picnicking, boating, fishing, hiking, and bicycling are provided. Hunting isavailable on the National Forest lands nearby.
Davis Lake Recreation Area: The 200-acre Davis Lake surrounded by stands of pine and hardwood is thecenterpiece of this developed site located within four miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Camping,picnicking, swimming, skiing, fishing and boating are the opportunities offered. Recent renovationsinclude land piers to increase fisherman access and utility connections for recreational vehicles. Huntingis available on the National Forest lands adjacent to the area.
Tillatoba Recreation Area: This campground on the bank of 40 acre Tillatoba Lake offers a quietalternative to larger campgrounds. Here a camper can find camping, fishing, and boating 13 miles northof Grenada, MS.
Whitchdance Horse Trail: This scenic horse trail winds through majestic stands of pines and hardwoods,crosses meandering streams, and offers a changing view of the landscape every few hundred feet of its 15mile length. Access is provided at the trailhead on the Natchez Trace Parkway. Toilet facilities, hitchingposts, and parking are provided there by the National Park Service. The trail is open to hikers andhorseback riders only.
Choctaw Lake Hiking Trail: This short, three-mile trail located inside the Choctaw Lake Recreation Areaoffers the hiker a variety of views. The trail traverses bottomland hardwood stands, groves of large pines,and areas of rapidly glowing young pines and hardwoods. These timber stands occasionally open to revealviews of Choctaw Lake.
Owl Creek Indian Mounts: The site, located near Davis Lake Recreation Area, is part of a mound-villagecomplex that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally there were five moundsaround a central plaza. Indians that predated the Chickasaws constructed these mounds during theMississippian Period (1000 to 1300 A.D).
Natchez Trace Scenic Byway: The 17-mile scenic Byway is a segment of the Natchez Trace Parkway andportions of the Davis Lake Road in northeast Mississippi. This area is rich in history and variety ofnatural characteristics that offer many opportunities to encourage visitors to stay a day or more in thisbyway area. One of the great existing attributes of the area is the Natchez Trace Parkway with its welllandscaped and maintained corridor. The Davis Lake Road offers a departure from the Parkway to enjoy anight or two camping at Davis Lake Campground and access to the lake for excellent fishing. IndianMounds near Davis Lake are evidence that Native Americans occupied the area, and the Trace givesevidence of the early settlers persistence to establish a trade route through hostile territory.
District Ranger Stations
Bienville National Forest
Bienville Ranger District
3473 Hwy 35 South
Forest, MS 39074
Strong River Ranger District
Delta National Forest
Tombigbee National Forest
De Soto National Forest
Black Creek Ranger District
1436 W. Border & Frontage Rd., Box 248
Wiggins, MS 39577
Holly Springs National Forest
Homochitto National Forest
Homochitto Ranger District
Chickasawhay Ranger District
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication