Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the Northeast corner of Mississippi is one of the state’s most scenic destinations: Tishomingo State Park.
Like the county in which it resides, the park is named for Chief Tishomingo, leader of the native Chickasaw tribe that once inhabited area. Locals will tell you the best time of year to enjoy the park is fall, when the humidity has subsided and the winding roads are lined with trees in shades of red and orange. There is plenty of natural beauty to be seen by car and on foot, but some of the best views can be found in a canoe on Bear Creek.
The Bear Creek float trip is 6.25 miles and runs through Bear Creek Canyon. For $30, park patrons can rent a canoe and take off on a guided ride each day at 10 a.m. April through October. For just the entrance fee ($4 per vehicle), you can put in your own canoe and set off at your convenience.
“We stay busy, especially in the summertime,” said Park Manager Terry Harp. “We strongly advise reservations on holidays and weekends. We draw from the tri-state area and have a lot of groups who come and stay overnight just to do the float trip.”
True to its name, the trip is mostly floating. There are shoals and bluffs to navigate, but no rapids. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a work-out though; due to water levels, paddling is required in some passages to keep moving.
“It’s a lazy, class 1 float,” Harp said. “It’s great for beginners or someone who’s not experienced on the water or someone who wants to just get away and unplug.”
The real draw for nature enthusiasts is the view. Tishomingo State Park has a landscape that is unique even to Mississippi, with cypress trees lining the creek banks, moss-covered rock formations and outcroppings of Hartselle Sandstone. Wildlife abounds, especially in the early morning hours and near dusk. Typical wildlife sightings include deer, raccoons, turtles and a variety of fish.
According to Harp, many of the regulars opt to take the float trip in October, when the kids are back in school and the weather is just right.
“A lot of people like to come in the fall, especially in the fall with the colors and it’s cooled off some, but it’s still warm enough during the day to enjoy being out without having to deal with so many insects,” he said.
A leisurely trip through one of Mississippi’s most scenic parks is the perfect way to say goodbye to the last vestige of summer and greet autumn, a welcomed respite from the humidity and mosquitoes.
Story by Carmen Cristo // Photos by Lauren Wood