Whether reeling in a big one, kayaking through white water or taking a peaceful walk through nature, time spent outdoors is good for the soul. Mississippi is a sportsman’s paradise with a wide variety of outdoor excursions for adventure, relaxation and discovery.
If it’s a trophy buck you’re looking for, look no further. The state draws national recognition as a top deer hunting destination for its favorable ratio of deer to hunters and high percentage of older age class deer. In fact, Mississippi ranks number one in the nation for the percentage of three-and-a-half years and older bucks in the harvest, with many bucks harvested scoring over 150 inches.
Between its Whitetail Deer population of two million, nearly two million acres of public hunting land and one of the longest seasons (from October 1 through mid-February depending on the location), it’s no surprise Mississippi continues to top the charts of deer hunting destinations.
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks manages 52 Wildlife Management Areas (WMA’s), most open to all hunting while some are managed for specific opportunities like quality deer and waterfowl experiences. Additional seasons include two turkey seasons, waterfowl, dove and small game like rabbit and squirrel.
Great fishing is available year-round in Mississippi and with the state’s mild climate, some of the best angling happens during the winter months. In fact, some of the biggest largemouth bass on state record were caught in the months of January and February.
The Hills Region boasts the best Crappie fishing in the nation, with Grenada Lake consistently taking the No. 1 spot on the list of best crappie lakes in the United States. The No. 2 spot goes to north Mississippi’s Sardis Lake shortly followed by Arkabutla Lake at No. 5. Enid Lake makes the list at No. 20 and has maintained the world record for white crappie since 1957 for a hefty five pound, three-ounce crappie.
Pickwick Lake, adjacent to JP Coleman State Park, consistently makes Bassmaster Magazine’s annual “100 Best Bass Lakes” list and it’s been said Pickwick Lake is the best trophy smallmouth bass lake in the world.
In the Delta, Lake Washington at Glen Allan and Eagle Lake north of Vicksburg are top spots for freshwater angling. In the Capital/River Region, the Ross Barnett Reservoir is a 33,000-acre lake and popular destination for fishermen that recently hosted top fishermen and fans from around the world for the 2017 Bassmasters Elite Fishing Tournament.
The incredible saltwater fishing opportunities along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast almost go without saying. Whether from the deck of a deep-sea charter or at the end of a long pier, it’s no secret that Gulf fishing is some of the best in the nation. The Gulf of Mexico has over 200 species of fish including flounder, redfish, speckled trout and king mackerel to name a few, all waiting to be reeled in.
Escape to one of Mississippi’s state parks or national forests to get unplugged in the most beautiful of natural settings. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks manages 24 state parks with plenty of serene retreats designated for picnics and camping. If it’s adventure you seek, Mississippi’s parks offer unlimited opportunities for fishing, boating, hiking, kayaking and biking.
For a complete list of Campgrounds and RV Park, click here.
Canoeing and kayaking
From a leisurely river float to white water adventures and everything in-between, Mississippi’s streams and rivers are ideal for canoeing and kayaking trips, and the state’s mild climate allows for floating year-round. North Mississippi’s best float trip is a leisurely six-mile canoe journey through Bear Creek Canyon in the Hills Region’s captivating Tishomingo State Park.
Just south of Hattiesburg, Black Creek flows through the DeSoto National Forest and is the state’s only entry on the list of National Wild and Scenic Rivers. When it comes to scenic rivers and streams for floating, the southern half of the state dominates. Paddle down the Okatoma Creek at Seminary or the Bogue Chitto River near McComb. Other top float sites include Magee’s Creek near Tylertown, Chunky River at Chunky and Strong River at D’Lo or Puckett.
Hiking and Biking
With nearly 300 miles of paved roadway meandering across the state and not a traffic light in sight, the Natchez Trace Parkway is a cyclist’s dream, drawing riders from all over the world. In recent years, Mississippi has emerged as a destination for cyclists, favored for the state’s well-planned trails along pristine countryside that are ideal for biking as well as hiking.
A designated Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Cyclists, Ridgeland hosts two nationally recognized ride events along the Natchez Trace, the OBO Tandem Rally and the Natchez Trace Century Ride. The Vicksburg National Military Park opens the 16-mile Battlefield Tour Road to both bikers and hikers.
The Longleaf Trace is one of the nation’s first Rails to Trails Projects that turned an unused rail route between Hattiesburg and Prentiss into a 41-mile trail, ideal for biking, hiking and horseback riding. The state’s longest Rails to Trails conversion is Tanglefoot Trail, a 44-mile paved biking and hiking trail spanning from historic downtown New Albany, through the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area, to Pontotoc and concluding in Houston.
The Gulf Coast Heritage Trail offers a peaceful journey along the coast, stretching from Bay St. Louis to Long Beach. The Pascagoula Historic Trail winds through Pascagoula along several points of interest including the LaPointe-Krebs House, the oldest building in the state as well as Jimmy Buffett’s childhood home and the site where Faulkner is said to have written Intruder in the Dust.
Biking goes off the paved trail in many of our state parks that offer mountain biking trails. Delta National Forest and DeSoto National Forest both offer miles of rough trails that are often hilly, winding through tall pine and hardwood forests.
Ecotourism, particularly bird watching or “birding” has become quite the rage in Mississippi and with over 400 different species of birds in the state, it’s no surprise why. For a complete list of birds in the state and where to find them, consult the Mississippi Ornithological Society.
Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, located in Holly Springs, hosts an annual Hummingbird Migration Celebration and Nature Festival that can’t be miss- ed. Timed to the peak of the hummingbirds’ fall migration, this family-friendly festival includes guided nature walks, wagon rides, educational programming and hands-on hummingbird experiences. Another highlight for nature lovers is the Mississippi River Nature Weekend at Tara Wildlife, just north of Vicksburg. The event features nature seminars, river- boat excursions and bird walks on one of the best birding sites along the Mississippi River. An open-air bus tour through this 20-acre wildlife refuge allows visitors to view wading birds including herons, egrets, wood storks and roseate spoonbills.
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