Summer is almost here and Mississippi’s creeks and rivers seem more inviting in the heat.
And fortunately, Mississippi has thousands of miles of water to enjoy.
However, not everyone owns a canoe or kayak and lack of access can often be a deterrent. So, here are five places in Mississippi where you can find beautiful scenery, cool water, places to camp and outfitters that will make it happen.
Bear Creek is located in Northeast Mississippi and winds through Tishomingo State Park in the rocky foothills of the Appalachian Mountains before making its way into Alabama. At the park, visitors can rent canoes and take a 6.25-mile trip through the scenic and historic area.
“It’s really peaceful,” said Robert Barske, park manager. “It’s more beautiful up here and you get to see a lot of the rock formations as you go along. It’s an easy-going, relaxing canoe trip compared to others I’ve done.”
As visitors paddle along, they could be following the path of ancient people. According to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, evidence of human presence in the park dates back 9,000 years.
For those wanting to stay longer than just a day, the park offers several options. There are RV campsites, a primitive camping area and cabins. If you want to try glamping, Tentrr sites are available.
In East Central Mississippi near Chunky, paddlers can enjoy the waters of the Chunky River which flows southeast and joins the Okatibbee River to form the Chickasawhay River near Enterprise.
Stuckey Bridge Canoe and Kayak offers 3-hour and 6½-hour trips down the shady, gently flowing river.
“It’s an easy-flowing river,” said Wayne Smith of Stuckey Bridge Canoe and Kayak. “It’s a marvelous river to float. It’s a jewel.”
The river is relatively clear and its gentle flow and population of gamefish make it a popular destination for fly fishing. In spring, paddlers are treated to blooming mountain laurels, which Smith said are not common in Mississippi.
If a paddler happens to turn their kayak over, Smith’s advice is to stand up — the river isn’t very deep.
Business partner Chunky River Recreation offers campsites with electricity and water on the river and a trading post where supplies and snacks can be purchased.
Kayaks can also be rented from Chunky River Kayak and Canoe Rentals in Chunky.
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North of Hattiesburg, Okatoma Creek is a popular destination for paddlers and features something many streams in Mississippi don’t have — Class 1 rapids.
“When they get out there, they can expect rapids, they can expect to see turtles and even small fish,” said Jessie Thornton of Okatoma Outdoor Post in Seminary. “It’s just somewhere to come and relax with your family.
“It’s spring-fed, so it’s cool in the summer. It’s a good place to come and cool off.”
Even though it has rapids, Thornton said they are manageable by most anyone, including children. She said other wildlife visitors may encounter include otters, beavers and possibly soft-shelled turtles, which she said are a sign of good luck.
A country store, showers and changing area are onsite as well as a primitive camping area with grills.
Canoe and kayak rentals as well as camping accommodations are also available at Seminary Canoe Rental located in Seminary.
Located south of Hattiesburg is Black Creek; Mississippi’s only National Wild and Scenic River flowing 40 miles through the De Soto National Forest. It’s name comes from the dark water caused by tannic acid from decaying vegetation.
In contrast to its dark water are its white sandbars, which serve as playgrounds for paddlers and all-natural campsites.
“It has plenty of sandbars for day-trips and to camp on,” said Brandon Pearce of Black Creek Canoe Rental in Brooklyn. “All of our camping is on sandbars. It has calm peaceful water to swim in while you’re at the sandbars.”
The sandbars are so inviting, Pearson said some guests have been known to lose track of time and turn a 3-hour float into a 7-hour adventure.
Being in a national forest, there is plenty of wildlife to see, too. Paddlers may encounter belted kingfishers, wood ducks, great blue herons or possibly otters.
Paddlers can also feel a sense of seclusion and may not encounter another person because Pearson limits the number of rentals each day.
Flowing through the western side of the Mississippi Coast and ending at Bay St. Louis, Wolf River offers another unique opportunity to paddle and camp.
“We’ve got lots of beautiful scenic beaches on the river,” said Alan Sage of Wolfe River Canoe and Kayak in Long Beach. “You’re allowed to camp on any beach on any trip you go on.
“It’s also one of the cleanest rivers in Mississippi. It’s all artesian spring-fed. There’s no run-off into the river.”
Paddlers may encounter bald eagles, osprey, otters and various cranes along the way. Trees along the river are typical of south Mississippi with pines and oaks. People interest in stones should also be on the lookout as Sage said agate can be found along the river.
Cooling off in the heat of summer isn’t a problem, either. Smith said there are several spring-fed, cold-water creeks that feed the river along the way.