North of Tupelo Mississippi on the Natchez Trace Parkway, Tishomingo State Park is a 1,530-acre extravaganza of outdoor activity located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The area has a long and rich history with artifacts dating back to 7,000 B.C., created by paleo Indians, being unearthed in the park. The natural sandstone and clays of Tishomingo attracted the ancient peoples for its tool making and ceramic creation qualities.
The Natchez Trace itself has ancient roots starting as a Bison trail followed by nomadic hunters. By the end of the 18th century, fur traders, trappers, Native Americans, settlers, and troops were using the well-worn path to move from what is now modern Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi, 500 miles to the south. Robberies and raids were very common in the heavily forested region and prior to the Civil War the trace was called, "the devil's backbone."
Named after a Chickasaw Indian Chief, Tishomingo State Park was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930's. Many of the original buildings and hand forged irons works are visible today. If you want to explore some of the history of the park you can start at park headquarters. Inside arrow and spear heads, pottery shards, and ancient grinding stones, are on display. The hand forged Indian sign pointing at Loochapola Lodge is a piece of more modern history, and is the only surviving sign of three created by blacksmith Ernest Clausel. The lanterns and chandeliers at the lodge are also hand forged.
Another historical feature found in Tishomingo is a restored 1840's style log cabin. Donated in the early 1970's, the cabin was moved to the park from Prentiss County. Behind the cabin is a short loop trail that goes around the old CCC Pond. The surrounding forest is slowly reclaiming the area with flowering shrubs, water lilies, and cattails slowly choking off the shallow but photogenic waters. The small bridge over the dam that created the pond allows you to gaze down at small fish swimming just below the surface.
In 1997 the park got a much-needed facelift and the improvements are evident today. A large swimming pool is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day and offers an excellent opportunity to beat the infamous Mississippi heat. Historically the murky water of the CCC Pond once filled the pool, but that isn't the case today. Facilities include a modern bathhouse, sundeck with chairs and chaise lounges, snack bar, playground, basketball court and a sports field.
The park has a 13-mile long trail system ranging from short and scenic loops to a six-mile long trek that follows Bear Creek as it wanders through the park. The 3.5-mile Bear Creek Outcropping Trail is probably the most spectacular trek you can take. The trail starts at another distinctive feature of Tishomingo, a 200 foot long swinging bridge that passes over boulder-strewn Bear Creek. After crossing the bridge the trail passes by a series of cliffs, outcroppings and overhangs, including 60 foot Jean's Overhang, the largest in the park. The area is extremely popular for rock climbing and bouldering. A free permit can be obtained at the parks office. Helmets and other safety equipment are required at all times.
From the swimming pool you can hike two miles through hardwoods and mountain laurel along Bear Creek to 45-acre manmade Haynes Lake. Swimming isn't allowed (you wouldn't want to anyway), but a concessionary rents a limited number of canoes, rowboats, paddleboats and bicycles. The lake is well stock by the state of Mississippi and offers plenty of opportunity to catch catfish, crappie, bream and smallmouth bass. If you don't care to rent a boat you can always fish from the lengthy dock that twists its way into the lake. A boat ramp offers public access and gasoline engines up to 10 horsepower are allowed.
The trip starts eight miles north of park headquarters. Visitors can enjoy a three-hour lazy paddle through quiet forest along the placid waters of Bear Creek. Class I riffles make things interesting and rope swings along the way allow you to crash into one of several natural pools along Bear Creek. Visitors should be ready to assist with put in and pull out of canoes and should be in shape to handle the eight-mile long trip.
Tishomingo has a 62-site campground located along the shores of Haynes Lake. Recreational vehicles up to 32 feet can be accommodated. The modern heavily wooded sites include paved pads, water and electrical hookups, picnic tables and a fire ring. A dump station, flush toilets, and showers are also available. There are additional accommodations for tent camping adjacent to the RV park.
On the other side of the park by headquarters six family cabins are available for year round use. Provided with much needed air conditioning, the rustic cabins overlook Bear Creek and offer full linen for six, refrigerators, stoves, kitchenware, screened in porches and stone fireplaces. Group camping is available for up to 108 people in ten air-conditioned cabins with separate quarters for chaperones or counselors and a dining hall with an institutional kitchen. Reservations for use of any of the cabin facilities at the park are strongly recommended.
Whether you simply drive through the park while on the Natchez Trace or linger for a few days or relaxation, there is plenty to do at Tishomingo State Park twelve months a year. From hiking to swimming, rock climbing to canoeing, exploring history or simply relaxing, you will find scenic beauty and plenty of outdoor fun in the northeastern corner of Mississippi.
Just The Plain Facts
Name: Tishomingo State Park
Location: Northeastern Mississippi, Tupelo
Nearest Major Air Service: Memphis, Tennessee
Fees & Permits: $2 per car or motorcycle, 50 cents per person, $5 for boat ramp access..
Why Visit: A wealth of activities in the scenic park including canoeing, rock climbing, fishing and hiking. Great place to stop and relax when traveling the historic Natchez Trace.
When To Visit: April to November
Essential Gear: Depends on a wide variety of activity. Sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, insect repellant, bathing suit, camera, binoculars, and drinking water. Other gear is strongly recommended.
You Should Know: Humidity and heat can be oppressive during the summer months. Park is very popular and reservations are strongly recommended for facilities and activities.
More Information: Tishomingo State Park, PO BOX 880, Tishomingo, Mississippi 38873, (662) 438-6914