Mississippi’s namesake river is the second-largest drainage basin in the United States after the Hudson Bay system, spanning 2,320 miles from Minnesota’s Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a variety of dam projects were undertaken by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to control regional flooding from the river and create reservoirs for public drinking water and recreational use.
Today, major waterways within the region include the Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway, a 234-mile waterway spanning between the Tennessee and Black Warrior-Tombigbee Rivers, featuring public use reservoirs at 10 dam sites along its routes. Other natural and man-made lakes within the region also offer state park facilities, campgrounds, and day-use areas for angler fishing, picnicking, and other outdoor activities. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
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Aberdeen Lake is a man-made reservoir located in northeast Mississippi along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway which was dammed by the Aberdeen Lock and Dam in 1981. The 4,121-acre lake and its surrounding recreational land areas are managed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. A variety of outdoor day-use recreational activities are offered, including swimming, fishing, water skiing, boating, and nature hiking to the top of the area’s surrounding clay and limestone bluffs. Campsites are offered at the Blue Bluff Campground and Recreation Area, including RV hookup sites. In April, the lake is the site of the Tenn-Tom Bassmaster Classic, which draws competing anglers from across the region. Nearby activities in the city of Aberdeen include a lakeside restaurant, the historic Elkin Theater, and a number of historic homes open to the public as living history home museums.
20051 Blue Bluff RD, Aberdeen MS 39730
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Aliceville Lake is also known as Pickensville Lake and is one of 10 lakes dammed along the man-made Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, which is maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The 8,300-acre lake was originally dammed in 1980, though it was not opened for public use until 1985. Today, the lake is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including white tailed-deer, quail, and wild turkey, which may be hunted with permits in designated hunting areas. Largemouth bass and crappie populate the lake, offering ample fishing opportunities. Swimming, boating, bird watching, and picnicking are also permitted, and children’s playgrounds are available for family use. Other visitor facilities include the Tom Bevill Lock and Dam Visitor Center, which recreates a historic plantation mansion, and the Pickensville Campground, which offers tent and RV hookups.
1382 Lock and Dam Rd, Pickensville, AL 35447
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Arkabutla Lake is located within Tate and DeSoto Counties and is a man-made reservoir that was created as a result of the 1937 Flood Control Act. Today, the lake is dammed from the waters of the Coldwater River and is located approximately four miles from the community of Arkabutla. The lake and its surrounding facilities cover more than 57,000 acres and is visited by more than two million annual visitors. A visitor information center is provided, offering public exhibits on the lake’s history. 10 designated day-use recreation areas are located throughout the site, offering picnic space, playgrounds, and ADA-compliant amenities. Swimming areas, hiking and mountain biking trails, and disc golf courses are offered at several day-use sites, along with three Class-A camping facilities.
3905 Arkabutla Dam Road, Coldwater MS 38618-9737
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4.Bay Springs Lake
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Bay Springs Lake is also referred to as the Jamie L. Whitten Lock and Dam and is the northernmost body of water along the 234-mile Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. The lake spans a surface area of 6,700 acres and offers 133 miles of recreational shoreline for day use and overnight accommodations. A 150-boat marina, visitor center, and several recreational areas are available for visitor use, along with a Piney Grove Campground offering 139 Class-A campsites. Popular activities include swimming, boating, picnicking, and hiking. Fishing and hunting are allowed with permits, with available wildlife including largemouth and spotted bass, walleye, sauger, white-tailed deer, and turkey. The lake is also host to a variety of fishing tournaments throughout the spring, summer, and autumn months.
82 Bay Springs Resource Road, Dennis, Mississippi 38838
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Chewalla Lake a 260-acre man-made reservoir located an hour from Memphis and Tupelo. It was created in 1966 by the damming of Chewalla Creek and is managed by the United States Forest Service as part of the Holly Springs National Forest. Four miles of shoreline offer activities such as swimming, kayaking and canoeing, and picnicking at a number of pavilions, which offer grills and children’s playgrounds. The lake is heavily stocked with smallmouth bass, catfish, crappie, bluegill, and redear sunfish and serves as a popular summer fishing site. A four-mile exploration trail offers access to nearby indigenous mound sites, and a seasonal campground allows overnight stays between April and November, including RV hookups. The nearby town of Holly Springs also offers historic bed and breakfast facilities, pre-Civil War-era historic homes, a golf course, a motor park, and an audubon center.
726 Chewalla Lake Rd, Holly Springs, MS 38635
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Choctaw Lake Recreation Area is open seasonally within Mississippi’s Tombigbee National Forest and offers a wide variety of outdoor day use activities, including swimming, boating, fishing, and bicycling. The recreation area is located between the 100-acre Choctaw Lake and the smaller adjacent Cabin Lake. A moderate-skill three-mile hiking trail is offered for exploration and wildlife watching, along with two boat ramps for water access and an ADA-accessible fishing pier. 18 campsites with hookups are offered, including accessible sites and sites with private picnic facilities. Nearby attractions include the Natchez Trace Parkway, Noxubee Wildlife Refuge, and Mississippi State University.
Suite 500-N, 200 S. Lamar St., Jackson, MS 39201
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7.Clear Springs Lake
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Clear Springs Lake is a 12-acre spring-fed lake within the Homochitto National Forest, offering a variety of day-use outdoor recreational activities, including fishing and picnicking. It is located off of United States Highway 84, approximately 35 miles west of the city of Brookhaven. Swimming is permitted between the beginning of March and the end of September. Four mountain biking and hiking trails are offered, though visitors should note that the area’s terrain is steep and most trails and access roads feature slopes higher than eight percent. Camping is available at 22 primitive campsites along with two secluded group campsites that sleep up to 30 people. A historic pavilion and amphitheater constructed in the 1930s is also offered.
Clear Springs Rd (CR 104) Meadville, Mississippi 39653
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Enid Lake is located approximately one hour from Memphis within northern Mississippi’s Hill Region and was dammed in 1952 with authorization from the 1928 Flood Control Act. Today, the lake is overseen by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and spans a surface area of 28,000 miles, providing 220 miles of visitor access shoreline. The lake is known as a popular fishing site, offering abundant populations of largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, and bream and is the catch site of two world-record holder fish. Other popular day-use activities include hunting, swimming, water skiing, boating, hiking, and horseback riding. Primitive and hookup campsites are offered at six campsites throughout the recreational area, along with sites at the nearby George Payne Cossar State Park.
457 CR 36 Enid, Mississippi 38927
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Grenada Lake is located within northern Mississippi’s Hill Region and is the state’s largest body of water that is entirely contained within state lines. It was dammed in 1954 following the disastrous flooding of 1927’s Great Flood and spans a surface area today of more than 35,000 acres. 148 miles of visitor access shoreline provide opportunities for outdoor activities such as swimming, boating, water skiing, and crappie fishing. The Haserway Wetland Demonstration Area is the country’s first public-use wetland demonstration site, offering 330 acres of wetland for wildlife observation and natural exploration. 25 recreation areas offer more than 250 picnic sites, along with a wide variety of sporting fields, children’s playgrounds, and an 18-hole golf course. 300 primitive and hookup campsites are offered, and a variety of accommodations and attractions are available off Highway 51.
2151 Scenic Loop 333, Grenada, MS 38901
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Horn Lake and its surrounding city region are considered a suburb of Memphis, offering easy access to the city’s shopping, dining, accommodations, and visitor attractions. The lake was formed in the mid-19th century when a small section of the Mississippi River was cut off naturally, forming a dammed lake area. The ox bow lake spans 1,200 acres within Mississippi’s DeSoto County and Tennessee’s Shelby County and offers a variety of outdoor visitor activities, including boating, canoeing, kayaking, and pumpkinseed sunfish, flathead catfish, and largemouth bass fishing. Though no camping accommodations are provided on site, a variety of attractions and accommodations are available in the nearby city of Horn Lake, including restaurants and bed and breakfast facilities.
4716 Pepper Chase Dr, Southaven, MS 38671
11.Lake Bill Waller
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Lake Bill Waller is named for former Mississippi governor William Lowe Waller, Sr., and is located in Marion County, approximately seven miles southeast of the city of Columbia. The 168-acre man-made lake was briefly closed in 2003 for draining and renovation and was restocked with a wide variety of game fish. It is best known as the site of the state’s second-largest largemouth bass catch, weighing 15 pounds, four ounces. The lake is monitored by state biologists to maintain populations for freshwater angling. Though no campground accommodations are available on site at the lake, campsites are available at nearby Lake Columbia and a number of state parks within easy visitor access.
81 Columbia Purvis Rd, Columbia, MS 39429
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12.Lake Bogue Homa
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Lake Bogue Homa spans 882 acres within Mississippi’s coastal region, located in Jones County. The artificial reservoir was dammed in 1939 and is overseen by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. Its name is derived from the Choctaw words for “red creek.” Outdoor day-use activities include swimming, boating, hunting, and bass, crappie, and largemouth bass fishing. Waterfowl hunting is also permitted on select days with special permits. The nearby city of Laurel offers a wide variety of visitor activities, including a Central Historic District with a number of sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the acclaimed Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, and several annual music and arts festivals.
149 Bogue Homa Lake Road, Laurel, MS 39443
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Lake Tangipahoa is the centerpiece of Percy Quin State Park and was created in 1940 during the region’s development for park use by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Its name is derived from the former nearby indigenous village Tangibao, which translates to “corn gatherers.” Today, the lake spans a surface area of 554 acres and offers five miles of visitor access shoreline. 1,700 acres of visitor activities are offered within the state park, including a swimming beach, an eight-mile nature trail, and a marina with boat launch facilities. Campsites with cable television and RV hookups are offered, as well as temperature-controlled rental cabins and a nine-unit motel and lodge overlooking the lake.
I-55, Osyka, MS 39657
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Lake Washington is a natural freshwater lake that was formed around the year 1300 due to diversions in the Mississippi River’s course. The double-crescent-shaped lake spans a surface area of more than 2,900 acres and offers 23 miles of visitor access shoreline, all located within a few miles of the Mississippi’s current course. The lake is a popular fishing spot, attracting fishermen from around the American Southeast region for crappie, bream, channel catfish, and largemouth bass fishing opportunities. Other popular visitor activities include swimming, boating, water skiing, tubing, and wildlife watching. Campground and RV hookups are available at several sites, and visitor services such as convenience stores are available in the nearby village of Glen Allan.
216 South Walnut Street, Greenville, MS 38701
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Okatibbee Lake is located near the city of Meridian within eastern Mississippi’s Pines Region and offers a wide variety of nature and water recreational activities. The 4,144-acre reservoir was formed in 1968 with the completion of the Okatibbee Dam and also serves as a drinking water reservoir for surrounding communities. 28 acres of visitor shoreline provide access to activities such as swimming, boating, and bass and crappie fishing areas managed by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. Recreational amenities on the shore include sporting fields, picnic areas, horsehoe pits, hunting grounds, and two campground facilities offering electric hookups and restrooms. The lake is also the site of the Okatibbee Water Park, which offers waterslides, a lazy river ride, a children’s play area, and a 25-room motel.
8604 Okatibbee Dam Road, Collinsville, MS 39325-0098
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Okhissa Lake was the first reservoir completed as part of the Bill Dance Signature Lake program, opened to the public in 2007 with the aim of promoting economic and tourist growth within the state’s Capital/River Region. The 1,000-acre lake is located within Homochitto National Forest off Highway 98 and has been honored with the Forest Service’s National Rise to the Future Award. 39 miles of shoreline at the lake offer a wide variety of visitor activities, including largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, channel catfish, and threadfin shad fishing opportunities. Campground facilities are located at the Homochitto Hide-Away and the Clear Springs Campground. Planned additions to the recreational area include swimming beaches, nature trails, and environmental education sites.
1200 Highway 184 E, Meadville, MS 39653
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Pickwick Lake’s name dates back to the mid-19th century and is a reference to the local post office’s colloquial name, which was given in reference to Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers. The lake was created in 1938 by the Tennessee Valley Authority with the construction of the Pickwick Landing Dam on the Tennessee River. Today, it spans a surface area of more than 43,000 acres and offers 496 miles of shoreline for visitor activities such as boating, water skiing, tubing, and swimming. Boat docks and rentals are offered at numerous sites, along with houseboat and jet ski rentals. The lake is a popular spot for anglers, offering ample populations of large- and smallmouth bass and catfish. 1,400 acres of state park activities are offered throughout the region, including a 2.8-mile hiking trail, an inn and restaurant, and the Pickwick Dam Tailwater Campground, which offers 95 electric hookup campsites. Nearby attractions include Shiloh National Military Park, which highlights indigenous sites and Civil War battlefields.
613 CR 321, Iuka MS 38852
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18.Ross Barnett Reservoir
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Ross Barnett Reservoir is colloquially referred to as “The Rez” by Capital/River Region citizens and was formed in 1965 by the damming of the Pearl River for drinking water supply. The lake is located approximately 20 miles from downtown Jackson and attracts more than two million annual visitors. It spans a surface area of more than 33,000 acres and offers 105 miles of shoreline featuring 16 parks, 22 boat launches, and several hiking and mountain biking trails. Popular visitor activities include sailing, boating, water skiing, wakeboarding, and visitor cruises. Channel, blue, and flathead catfish weighing up to 100 pounds are available to anglers, along with crappies and largemouth bass. Five campgrounds offer RV hookups, sporting courts, picnic tables, and children’s playgrounds, and hotels and bed and breakfast facilities are available in the nearby city of Madison. Nearby attractions include the Natchez Trace Parkway and the Pearl River Waterfowl Refuge.
1000 Highland Colony Pkwy #6006, Ridgeland, MS 39157
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Sardis Lake was formed in 1940 by the damming of the Little Tallahatchie River and was the first of four reservoirs created for the Yazoo Basin Flood Control System. Today, it is overseen by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and covers a surface area of 32,500 acres. More than five million visitors come to the lake every year, which offers a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities and overnight accommodations. Bass, crappie, and catfish angling is offered, along with hunting areas for deer, turkey, quail, and waterfowl. 20 recreational areas and six swimming beaches offer recreational spots for families, and a variety of amenities are offered within the nearby John W. Kyle State Park, including a swimming pool, sporting courts, and an 18-hole golf course. 514 campsites are also offered throughout the region, along with cabins for overnight rental.
29049 Highway 315, Sardis, MS 38666
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Tunica Lake was developed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to straighten a channel of the Mississippi River by demolishing a horseshoe bend in the river. Today, the lake spans a surface area of 3,000 acres within Tunica County, approximately 40 miles south of the city of Memphis, and receives fish and water from the nearby Mississippi Delta. Bluegill and crappie are available for angler fishing, along with populations of largemouth bass, green sunfish, drum, and gar. A boat ramp and bait shop are offered along the lake’s northeast bend. Though no onsite camping is available at the lake, the nearby city of Tunica offers a variety of visitor accommodations, including hotels connected to several casinos and resorts.
13625 US Highway 61 North, Tunica Resorts, MS 38664
20 Best Lakes in Mississippi
- Aberdeen Lake, Photo: Courtesy of DmyTo - Fotolia.com
- Aliceville Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Fedir - Fotolia.com
- Arkabutla Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Stefan - Fotolia.com
- Bay Springs Lake, Photo: Courtesy of David - Fotolia.com
- Chewalla Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Alison Morton - Fotolia.com
- Choctaw Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Baronb - Fotolia.com
- Clear Springs Lake, Photo: Courtesy of kichigin19 - Fotolia.com
- Enid Lake, Photo: Courtesy of fredlyfish4 - Fotolia.com
- Grenada Lake, Photo: Courtesy of art_rich - Fotolia.com
- Horn Lake, Photo: Courtesy of nopporn - Fotolia.com
- Lake Bill Waller, Photo: Courtesy of Fedir - Fotolia.com
- Lake Bogue Homa, Photo: Courtesy of alamour - Fotolia.com
- Lake Tangipahoa, Photo: Courtesy of yarohork - Fotolia.com
- Lake Washington, Photo: Courtesy of Mak - Fotolia.com
- Okatibbee Lake, Photo: Courtesy of saumhuhn - Fotolia.com
- Okhissa Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Dagmar Breu - Fotolia.com
- Pickwick Lake, Photo: Courtesy of R+R - Fotolia.com
- Ross Barnett Reservoir, Photo: Courtesy of afratton - Fotolia.com
- Sardis Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Jonathan Schöps - Fotolia.com
- Tunica Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Baronb - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Jason - Fotolia.com
More Ideas: Grand Village of the Natchez
The Grand Village of the Natchez, MS consists of three distinct platform mounds, as well as associated areas of habitation and an a ceremonial plaza. These areas mark the religious and political capital of the chiefdom of the Natchez people during the late seventeenth and the early eighteenth centuries. Many French colonists who had witnessed the Natchez Indians using the mounds in the Grand Village wrote down what they had observed. These recorded accounts from the eighteenth century provide a rare look firsthand at the ceremonialism of these mounds. This was a tradition that was nearly extinct, a holdover from the period before contact.
The Great Sun, who was the paramount chief of the Natchez, resided in the Grand Village of the Natchez. According to the accounts of the French colonists, the house of the Great Sun stood at the center of the mounds on Mound B, and a ceremonial temple was situated on the site’s southernmost mound, Mound C. Inside of the ceremonial temple was a perpetual sacred fire that remained burning both day and night.
The foundation remains of the ceremonial temples, as well as that of the house of the Great Sun, we found in 1962 during archaeological excavation of the mound site at the Grand Village of the Natchez. At the site’s northern end was Mound A, which was apparently no longer used by the time of the arrival of the European colonists. These mounds stand at around eight feet in height. They also rose over times in multiple stages as various structure were built on top of the mounds, then demolished, and the rebuilt in accordance with ceremonies.
At this plaza of mounds, elaborate funeral ceremonies were conducted for the elite of the Natchez. These ceremonies included sacrificing servants and relatives of the deceased. Accompanying the dead were trade goods from Europe that were acquired from the French colonists and pottery vessels made by the Natchez people. One of these burials may have been that of the Great Sun in 1728, whose death is noted in historical sources of Natchez history. According to the records of the French colonists in the area, another one of these rituals was the burial of the Great Sun’s war chief and brother Tattooed Serpent in 1725.
An increase in confiscation of Native American lands by the French quickly deteriorated French-Natchez relations after the death of the Natchez chief Great Sun. In 1729, the Natchez tribe attacked Fort Rosalie, killing the majority of the French garrison at the site. As a response to the attack, the French carried out an expedition in retaliation in 1730. Along with the Choctaw Native Americans, allies of the French, they occupied the Grand Village of the Natchez and used it to lay siege to the people of the Natchez tribe who had fled to fortifications further south. During this siege, the French troops used the Grand Village’s central mound as a place for artillery, the mound where the home of the Great Sun once stood. This marked to start of the end of the Natchez nation.
400 Jeff Davis Boulevard, Natchez, Mississippi, Phone: 601-446-6502
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More Ideas: Old Warren County Courthouse Museum
Located in Vicksburg, MS, the Old Warren County Courthouse Museum preserves the city’s Warren County Courthouse building, which served as an emblem of Confederate resistance during the 1863 Siege of Vicksburg, a seminal battle of the American Civil War.
The area that now encompasses Vicksburg, Mississippi was the traditional home of the Natchez indigenous tribe, which inhabited territory along the Mississippi River at the time of European arrival to North America. Early French colonists established Fort Saint Pierre near the present site of the city in 1719, but following the Natchez War, the area was reclaimed by the Choctaw Nation for several more decades until the signing of the Treaty of Fort Adams in 1801.
Following a brief period of Spanish military occupation, the area was ceded to the United States and named Walnut Hills. A village area was incorporated in 1825, named Vicksburg in honor of local Methodist minister Newitt Vick.
Construction on Vicksburg’s Warren County Courthouse, colloquially referred to as the Old County Courthouse, was begun in the summer of 1858 on one of the highest bluffs surrounding the city. Designed by Rodney, Mississippi architectural firm Weldon Brothers, the courthouse took five years to complete at a cost of $100,000. During the American Civil War, Vicksburg was a primary target for the Union Army, which held the city captive during a 47-day siege in 1863. Throughout the course of the siege, the Courthouse served as a symbol of resistance for the Confederate Army due to its impenetrable high altitude position, only sustaining one major hit by Union forces during the course of the 47-day campaign. Despite resistance, the city was ceded to Union forces on July 4, marking a major turning point in the Union’s campaign in the Western Theater.
Following the war, a number of high-profile war trials were conducted at the courthouse, including the 1867 trial of freed slave Holt Collier, who was acquitted of murder charges in the name of defending his former master. After the construction of a new county courthouse facility in 1939, the building faced the threat of demolition, but in 1947, newly-elected Vicksburg and Warren County Historical Society president Eva Whitaker Davis embarked on a campaign to preserve the building as a living history museum. The museum opened to the public in June of the following year, and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1968.
Today, the museum is owned and operated by the Vicksburg and Warren County Historical Society, open to the public for guided and self-guided tours. As a nonprofit organization, the Historical Society maintains the courthouse and its museum exhibits solely through public donations. The two-story courthouse building is considered a major architectural accomplishment of its period, named as one of the top 20 outstanding American courthouses by the American Institute of Architects. The building’s original iron doors, shutters, stairways, and railings have been preserved, along with its four-portico entrance flanked by 30-foot ionic columns. A four-faced clock tower, originally designed in 1859 by local jeweler Maxmillian Kuner, was fully restored in 2013 by Cincinnati’s Verdin Company, with salvaged components of Kuner’s original work placed on display within the museum’s Americana Room.
Inside the museum, Civil-War-era memorabilia is displayed, including a Confederate flag never surrendered during the Siege of Vicksburg. Antebellum clothing is showcased, including a tie worn by Confederate President Jefferson Davis during his inauguration. Thousands of notable antique items with connections to American and Confederate history are also held within the museum’s collection, such as the trophy antlers won in an 1870 steamboat race by General Robert E. Lee and a preserved teddy bear presented as a gift by President Theodore Roosevelt. An Eva W. Davis Memorial also commemorates the late Historical Society president and her preservation work.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Docent-led group tours are available for groups of 10 or more, including tours for elementary and secondary students tailored to incorporate Mississippi curriculum standards. Reservations for tour groups must be made in advance by telephone or email. The museum’s McCardle Research Library, which contains more than 1,400 volumes pertaining to Vicksburg military and social history, may also be used by students and independent researchers by appointment.
A number of family-friendly public special events are held at the courthouse throughout the year, including a semiannual Spring Flea Market in April and October showcasing more than 200 antique and craft vendor booths. In May, a Sacred Harp Sing presents traditional shape note singing. On the second Saturday in December, an Old Court House Confederate Christmas Ball offers period-appropriate holiday dancing, dinner, and social activities.
1008 Cherry St, Vicksburg, MS 39183, Phone: 601-636-0741
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More Ideas: Hattiesburg Zoo
Located inside Hattiesburg, Mississippi’s Kamper Park, the Hattiesburg Zoo is a 12-acre wildlife refuge owned by the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, featuring educational facilities and habitats for animals native to Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Kamper Park is named for local Mississippi businessman John Frederick Kamper, a German immigrant who served as vice president of First National Bank in Meridian.
A prominent area Freemason, Kamper established much of the area now known as Hattiesburg, named in honor of his late wife, and donated 40 acres of wooded area to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who in turn donated the land to the city for the creation of a public park. The idea for constructing a zoo in Kamper Park was inspired by the tradition of local Hattiesburg residents bringing domesticated animals to the park in the early 1900s. Funds for the zoo project were raised throughout the 1940s by the Hattiesburg Optimist Club, and on Easter Sunday in 1950, the zoo facility was formally opened to the public. The park’s first elephant was named “Mrs. Hattie,” in honor of Kamper’s late wife.
Permanent Exhibits and Animals
Today, the Hattiesburg Zoo showcases more than 100 animal species, primarily holding concentrations of species from Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The zoo is operated by the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, overseen by an executive director. It is operated on a 12-acre plot inside Kemper Park’s 40-acre space, located within a pine and oak tree grove area.
The zoo’s exhibits are divided into areas for separate geographical regions, beginning with an African Exhibit near its entrance that showcases monkey, ostrich, antelope, and zebra species. A Touch Africa petting zoo within the exhibit offer up-close experiences with animals for young visitors. Nearby, the Veldt Overlook offers safe animal observation opportunities. An African Drum Station showcases native drumming demonstrations, and Poacher’s Camp and Gamekeeper’s Cottage areas also provide perspective on cultural conditions on the continent related to animal activities.
Within the South American Exhibit, visitors can observe jaguars, tigers, llamas, howler monkeys, and tapirs, as well as macaws and other winged species native to the continent. A Tiger Boardwalk area allows visitors to safely experience American alligator species up close, and a Prairie Dog Promenade showcases the species native to the Great Plains. Animals in the Asian Exhibit area also include the continent’s native tiger and monkey species.
The zoo’s High Ropes Adventure Course is a four-story rope climbing race and play area, the only course of its kind in the region. Children and adults may use the course during zoo hours for an additional fee, with each ticket purchase allowing 30 minutes of use. Children must be at least four feet tall to use the course’s Sky Trail without a chaperone. Open-toed sandals are not permitted within the course, and athletic footwear and comfortable clothing are recommended for safety.
At the Asbury Discovery Center, visitors can learn about the history of wildlife exploration and zookeeping in a unique “exploratorium” classroom setting. Zoo animals and artifacts are on display within Professor Elemental’s Room of Wonders and Oddities, which may be rented for educational groups and private special events. The Parris Jewelers Mining Sluice also offers gem mining activities for young visitors at an interactive mining station exhibit.
All exhibit areas contain landscaped walking trails with barriers and fences. The Havard Pest Control Bug Hub Playground offers a themed playground experience for young visitors, and a 2,400-square-foot Splash Pad area provides cooling and play opportunities with 30 interactive water jets. A Carousel is located near the zoo’s main entrance, and a Train Depot offers miniature train rides around the park’s grounds. Light American fare options are offered at the Safari Grill concession stand, and the nearby Shade Pavilion provides picnic table seating. Picnic areas, playgrounds, and other amenities are also located throughout Kemper Park and may be used by zoo visitors.
Ongoing Programs and Education
The zoo’s edZOOcation Center offers year-round programming for children and teens, including zoological education summer camps and overnight experiences for scouting groups and organizations. A free educational outreach program, The Tortoise and the Hair, offers 30-minute in-classroom educational sessions with zookeepers and staff for area elementary and secondary schools. Annual public special events include a ZooBoo Halloween event, which offers family-friendly games, animal shows, a dance party, and special Halloween-themed rides on the zoo’s carousel and train. As part of the zoo’s conservation efforts, an Adopt An Animal program allows donors to sponsor a zoo animal for a year, with donations going directly toward food, toys, and social enrichment activities for animals.
107 S 17th Ave, Hattiesburg, MS 39401, Phone: 601-545-4576
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