Sunday, December 9, 2018

Kayaking Black Creek Wild and Scenic River, Mississippi

Things I learned last week:

1. There's a website called
2. If you have to get workout clothes because your suitcase is lost and you NEED to exercise, a 24 hour Walmart in Hattiesburg, Mississippi may not be the best place to go.
3. You are never too old to be creepily checked out by scary looking dudes in Walmart.
4. If you hear a large amount of air coming out of a tire at 4 in the morning at the airport, and you are one hundred miles from home, and your flight leaves in an hour, there is nothing you can do but go inside the airport.
5. Les Schwab tire shop is awesome.
6. Mississippians are the nicest people on the planet.
7. Southern accents are very appealing.
7. Missisippians are also some of the most unhealthy. Y'all, you need to move a little more.
8. Maybe because if you order seasonal vegetables, you will get onions and zucchini drenched in oil even though you have asked for steamed.
8. It is entirely possible to sprint through the Houston airport and get to a connecting flight in 20 minutes.
9. Even in a really built up area, you can usually find something pretty.

Such was the case with Black Creek. We hauled our sit-on-top kayaks to the river at Cypress Landing (one of several access points). Only twenty-one miles of the river are designated Wild and Scenic, and we only had time to float six miles. There were rumors of alligators and cottonmouths, but it seemed too cold for that. Nobody floats the river in December, except us, so it was quiet except for our conversation and the sound of our paddles. The water was tinged a deep brown from tannic acid.

You didn't even really have to paddle. The current moved along at a brisk two miles an hour, and you could float along, just using the paddle to avoid some of the trees and sandbars blocking the creek. The vegetation along the streambank bent over like a canopy, making it seem completely isolated from the rest of the world.

At one sandbar we got out and hiked some of the Black Creek national recreation trail. Stretching 41 miles and often touching the river, the trail looks wild and abandoned. Without a lot of topography to make a difference, it looks to be a fairly easy stroll and a super easy thru hike to add to the resume.

Black Creek National Recreation Trail. It doesn't look very used.
The breadth of the sandbars varies with water flow, and we were floating through at a lower level. The "lunch sandbar" was so wide and warm that I wished we had brought a tent (a common theme of mine). Warm sand in December: it was like a dream, considering that at home, it was well below zero.
sandbar happiness with the river behind me
On this stretch, three pipelines run beneath the river, from one side to the other, a reminder that humans have messed with just about every inch of the planet. Except for those and a bridge, we saw no development until, three hours later, we reached Fairley Bridge landing, our takeout point. 

It was hardly a strenuous outing. "The rednecks put in tubes and float down," one of the forest employees told me. It sounded kind of fun in the summer, except for the aforementioned alligators. In the summer, they explained, you would never want to hike the trail, though. Too many bugs, and way too hot. On the river, you would spend most of your time swimming, not paddling.

I'm not into a place where the summer is off limits for outdoor fun. But paddling in December? That I could get behind. I'm already scheming a return to backpack the trail.
The lunch sandbar.


  1. Who knew Mississippi could be so nice? I'm reading "Dispatches from Pluto" right now, true story about a man who buys a house on the Mississippi delta. Pretty interesting read.

    1. Someone else told me they were reading that also. I'll have to check it out.

  2. I've only visited Mississippi and Alabama once, on a road trip many years ago. I was quickly turned off by the region after a trucker-hat-wearing dude literally gave us the "You kids ain't from around here" line and an unfriendly stare ... I imagine people are nicer to you if you're not a hippy-looking 20-something, among that many other ways a person can look remotely different.

    I also remember being struck by the poverty as we drove the backroads of northern Mississippi. Still, I agree there is beauty among the swamps.

    1. That's probably true. I'm sure I appeared to be a harmless middle aged woman and no threat. I definitely wouldn't want to live there, but it was good seeing the area.

  3. Tranquil beauty in this light, at this time of year.

    1. It's still fall there. Despite how cold the locals said it was.

  4. I am always amazed how you squeeze in exploration and fun with your work trips, taking advantage of areas you wouldn't have otherwise discovered. Good on you! And I agree the South is ... different ... but it does have its gems. Looks like you found one!

    1. It's the bargain I've made with myself. I'd much rather be free from the 40 hour workweek, but realistically it isn't a good time to bust a move. So, I make the most of what I can do.


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