The forested hills and wetlands of the Mississippi are part of ancient ecosystems that first attracted mound builders more than 300 million years ago and later outdoor enthusiasts, such as Teddy Roosevelt and John James Audubon.
“Mississippi is indeed a paradise for people like us, paddlers, bird watchers, naturalists, geologists, geographers, children, parents…Those seeking spiritual or spiritual rejuvenation, poets and painters,” says John Ruskey, owner of Quapaw Canoe in Clarksdale.
Discover what makes the landscapes of Mississippi such a special place for outdoor adventures. And remember to follow CDC guidelines, including social distancing and masks, when visiting.
Explore Tishomingo State Park
Mississippi may not have the large peaks found elsewhere in the United States, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hiking. Tishomingo State Park, located in the northwest part of Mississippi, just across the border from Alabama and at the foot of the Appalachians, is home to the highest terrain in the state. The park is named after a Chickasaw chief and excavations of this park have revealed artifacts dating back to 7000 BC.
With 13 miles of trails of varying difficulty, the park offers plenty of hiking opportunities. There is also a cliff where visitors with a permit can rock climb, a disc golf course, canoeing and fishing available on Bear Creek and Haynes Lake. You can turn your visit into a multi-day adventure by staying overnight at one of the park’s RV or tent campsites.
Paddling the Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the second longest river in the country, stretching more than 300 miles within state lines. The incredible biodiversity of the river attracts everything from snow geese to monarch butterflies. Experience the mighty river for yourself on a day trip or overnight tour with Canoe Quapaw, which has outposts in Vicksburg and Clarksdale. After a day on the water, visit the Delta Blues Museum to see artifacts, including Muddy Waters’ cabin.
Snorkeling at Ship Island
Just off the bustling city of Biloxi, six barrier islands along the Gulf of Mexico make up the Gulf Islands National Coast. Ship Island is the most accessible of the six, with seasonal ferry services offered daily by Ship Island Tours of Gulfport. The twelve-mile journey takes an hour and drops passengers off on the north side of the island. From there, you can visit Fort Massachusetts, which was built after the War of 1812, and take a free National Park Service ranger tour.
The island also has many almost private beaches that make a great launching pad for snorkeling (be sure to bring your own gear) and other ocean activities. When it’s time to come back, book a night at Biloxi Beau Rivage Resort & Casino.
Cycle the state’s Rails-to-Trails
The long history of the Mississippi Railroad literally paved the way for today’s rail-trail paths, found throughout the state. The trace of the long leaves spans 44 miles through Hattiesburg, including through the University of Southern Mississippi campus and its premier art museum. Admire public art along the way, including one of the largest murals in the city, as you follow the former route of the Mississippi Central Railroad.
In northeast Mississippi, the Tanglefoot Trail was a Chickasaw trail later navigated by Union soldiers. The Gulf and Sheep Island Railroad laid tracks along the route, which is now a nearly 44-mile trail between New Albany and Houston. Bike BYO or rental from local outfitters, depending on your travel plans.
Natchez Trace Parkway Campground
the Natchez Trace Walk is a scenic route that crosses Tennessee and Alabama before cutting into Mississippi. The route follows Native American trade routes and is a popular route for day-trippers and motorcyclists. One of the best ways to experience the walk is to take your time, stopping at historic sites and camping along the way. The National Park Service operates three free campgrounds, including two in Mississippi. The Jeff Busby Campground at Mile 193.1 is west of Starkville and has 18 RV sites. Rocky Springs Campground, at Mile 54.8 near Port Gibson, has 22 sites. There are also three bike-only campgrounds Along the route.
Fishing at Ross Barnett Reservoir
Mississippi has no shortage of places for recreational fishing, but the Ross Barnett Reservoir, located near the capital city of Jackson, is one of the best. This section of the Pearl River has over 100 miles of shoreline, providing both drinking and recreational water to residents through the dam and weir that create the reservoir. The lake hosts major fishing tournaments and claims the state record for largest smallmouth buffalo and bowfin. Largemouth bass, catfish, and crappie can also be found for much of the year. Anglers can access the lake at any of the 22 boat launches along the reservoir and stay at the five campgrounds.
Mississippi is a wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts. Over 60% of the state is forested, with plenty of land available for hiking, hunting, and fishing. There are also plenty of opportunities for river recreation, from multi-day adventures on the Mississippi River to short canoe, kayak, or inner tube trips.