FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Mississippi’s Great River Road:
The moment is right for recreation and outdoor attractions.
A hunter on a south Mississippi game preserve spots the magnificent curving antlers of a Red Stag rising out of the brush …A birder at the Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge watches a double-crested cormorant stretch his wings, brilliant white crest flashing in the sun…A cloud of butterflies descends on a surprised and delighted camper in the Delta National Forest…Hikers stop to admire a cascading waterfall at the Clark Creek Natural Area…At Natchez Lake a fisherman feels the tug on his line and the thrill of anticipation: Could it be another record bass?
Moments like these are what make Mississippi’s Great River Road one of the nation’s premier outdoor destinations, and there are, naturally enough, a wealth of them on a national scenic byway that hugs the Mississippi River the length of the state, from Woodville to Walls. Even more importantly, the benefits of those outdoor experiences are far from momentary, according to Bill Seratt, president of the community coalition for Mississippi’s Great River Road. “A trip here inspires a life enhancement that is lasting,” Seratt says. “A visit can’t be measured merely in days.”
That lasting quality comes from a natural paradise that is both ancient and timeless. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that today’s magical outdoor moments have been thousands of years in the making, stretching back to the melting of the Ice Age when the liquefying glaciers of Canada and North America carved the sinuous seam of the Mississippi River down the center of the continent. The influx deposited such rich alluvial silt onto the Mississippi Delta that the result became the most spectacularly fertile cotton land this side of Egypt’s Nile River.
And while the River and its watershed have been an obvious agricultural boon, they are also a teeming source of life. From the serenely mysterious cypress swamps where ancient knobbed “knees” break the surface of the dark water, to the dense hardwood forests alive with white tail deer, turkey, wild boar and even exotics like Red and Fallow deer, to the ecologically precious emerald marsh lands, the landscapes here support a thriving and diverse ecosystem that has been preserved and improved for the benefit of all.
“Combining wise stewardship with an abundance of recreational activities has made Mississippi’s Great River Road a place where flora, fauna and fun lovers all flourish,” Seratt notes.
Ironically, some of the area’s bountiful natural blessings may be attributed to the efforts of the man whose famously failed hunting trip here became national news and turned a fearsome prey into child’s play.
Preservation without reservations:
Thousands of acres of nationally preserved lands.
In 1902, when Teddy Roosevelt came to hunt bear in the swampy forests of Onward in Sharkey County, success seemed so certain that Roosevelt’s guide, legendary bear tracker Holt Collier, promised the president he would shoot a bear on the first day. Instead, the hunting party, which included dozens of dogs, soldiered through thicket and brush for most of that first day without sight or scent of their quarry. Finally, everyone headed back to camp except Collier, who pressed on with the dogs and soon began tracking a bear.
Although Collier bugled for the president, the cornered bear killed one of the dogs in the meantime. Determined to keep the rest of the hounds safe and secure the prey for the president to shoot, Collier struck the bear in the head and lassoed it to a tree. However, once he saw the wounded, tethered animal, Roosevelt declined to make the shot, declaring it unsportsmanlike. Political cartoonists made hay, and the couple who went on to found the Ideal Toy Company made a fortune with the very first “Teddy Bear.”
But the brouhaha that erupted from the Onward hunt didn’t dampen Roosevelt’s renowned love of hunting and the outdoors. In addition to his successful efforts establishing national parks, Roosevelt also created the preservation designation of National Forest in 1907, and today, the nearly 60,000-acre Delta National Forest, located in Sharkey County, is the only bottomland hardwood forest in the entire National Forest System.
A vital and verdant avian resource, Delta National Forest pumps three of five greentree reservoirs and plants portions of over 100 acres of wildlife food plots to nurture woodland birds, migrating waterfowl and neotropical songbirds such as Summer Tanagers. Other winged creatures finding a haven here include an average of 21,000 butterflies observed every year in an annual butterfly count, with documented sightings of 32 different species. For nature-loving humans, the area also offers hunting, hiking, fishing, primitive campsites and more than 50 miles of ATV trails.
Delta National Forest is one of four nationally preserved areas along Mississippi’s Great River Road offering superb outdoor recreation. More than 250 species of songbirds enjoy the hospitality of the roughly 2,000-acre Holt Collier National Wildlife Refuge (named in honor of that famous bear tracker), while at the nearly 13,000-acre Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, birds share the stage with whitetail deer and alligators. And at the nearly 10,000-acre Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge, more than 35 miles of roads and hiking trails ensure easy access to all the wooded bliss.
Off the beaten path, on the road to recreational diversity.
For what may be the region’s most dramatically pristine nature experience, visitors make a great escape to the Clark Creek Natural Area, a state-maintained destination near Woodville. Only foot traffic is allowed on this 700-acre tract where hardwood and pine forests intermingle along steep loess bluffs, and where 50 waterfalls, ranging in height from 10 to 30 feet, make for beautifully refreshing stops. Three other State Parks, including LeRoy Percy State Park, Great River Road State Park and Natchez State Park, are also well-stocked with opportunities for outdoor and wildlife activities and fun. Teddy Roosevelt may not have bagged a bear here, but there are trophies aplenty to be had: Natchez Lake, for example, holds Mississippi’s bass record—a largemouth weighing 18.15 pounds was reeled in here.
And for those who ready to experience hunting at the highest levels, the region’s outstanding outdoor outfitters and game preserves stand ready to provide what is, literally, a world-class hunting experience on private lands plentifully stocked not only with native species such as white-tailed deer, turkey and wild boar, but also with exotics like Red and Fallow deer.
That kind of innovative enhancement combined with preservation is the hallmark of the region’s outdoor choices. Arkabutla Lake, for example, combines flood control with unlimited fun on more than 57,000 acres of sailing, skiing, fishing, hunting and camping.
Variety is another unique advantage on Mississippi’s Great River Road, with recreation ranging from championship golf to lush garden tours, from picking blueberries to petting alpacas to snagging a treasure at the Audubon Nature Store in the Audubon Society’s field office here.
Then of course, there are all those countless opportunities to stop and take in panoramic river vistas. The Mississippi River at sunset, as the fiery colors of the day sink slowly into the glimmering surface of the water—now that’s a magic moment.
And, as Bill Seratt points out, the right moment is right now. “Mississippi’s Great River Road is ready to enrich your life with an unrivaled outdoor experience.”
For more information about attractions, accommodations, dining and more, see Mississippi’s Great River Road on the web at www.msgreatriverroad.com
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