|Family Fun||Published Mar/Apr 2005|
In North-Central Mississippi, you can explore hills and learn about a mound-building culture.
By Jinny Ravenscroft Danzer
|ur sons hesitated when we came to the swinging bridge in Tishomingo State Park, but soon they were running across, delighting in the gentle swaying. They floated little boats and pieces of wood in the creek below the bridge.
We first visited north and central Mississippi state parks and historic sites when our children were young and interested in almost everything. We hiked the wooded trails at Tishomingo and delved into prehistory at Winterville Mounds.
Our children are grown, but today’s familiesor history and nature buffswill find the same surprises at these sites.
Getting back to nature
Tishomingo State Park in northeast Mississippi encompasses beautiful wooded hills drained by the gurgling waters of Bear Creek. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built a lodge, cabins, trails and the swinging bridge over the creek in the 1930s.
Tishomingo, named for a 19th-century leader of the Chickasaw nation, has 13 miles of trails that wind through the hills, some as short as a quarter mile and others as long as six miles. Some of the trails follow along the creek, past craggy rock formations, cliffs and overhangs and through fern-filled canyons. Go rock climbing with a free permit; the wearing of helmets is required. Wildflowers abound along the trails, especially in spring.
For water activities, take a canoe trip on Bear Creek, swim in the pool, bring or rent a fishing boat. Haynes Lake is stocked with catfish, bream and bass. Anglers can fish from a boat or from the dock that twists out into the lake.
Mississippi state parks offer cabins as well as campgrounds. Six rustic stone cabins nestle into the hillsides. A developed campground has electrical hookups for RVs, while a primitive campground caters to tents. Both are nicely wooded, and the sites in the developed campground give direct access to the lake.
The park also has a number of picnic sites and three picnic shelters. A nature center displays American Indian artifacts, and a restored log cabin from the 1840s gives insight into settler life during the 19th century.
The main highway of the 1800s, the Natchez Trace, runs through the park, so explorations of the 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway are a natural extension of a visit to Tishomingo.
The Natchez Trace is an historic trail. Paleo Indians and later Choctaw, Chickasaw and other Native Americans traveled and hunted along the Natchez Trace. After them came fur traders, trappers and settlers. Its heaviest use was from 1785 to 1820, when “Kaintuck” boatmen made their way back on foot after floating their goods to markets in Natchez and New Orleans. The main visitor center is near Tupelo.
A well-organized society of Native Americans thrived at the Winterville Mounds site from about 1000 to 1450. Winterville was part of an extensive civilization along the Mississippi River based on the cultivation of what Native Americans called the Three Sisterscorn, beans and squash. The thriving communities traded with places as far off as Michigan and the Gulf of Mexico for copper, mica, alligator teeth and shells. The culture shows influences of Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville, Ill., across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. Cahokia is the largest mound center in the United States.
The inhabitants built sacred structures and conducted ceremonies on flat-topped mounds. Archaeologists think only the highest officials lived at the mound site; ordinary people lived in thatched-roof huts in the rich bottomland of the Yazoo-Mississippi River Delta basin.
At Winterville, guests can visit the museum that is open daily. It displays a large collection of artifacts, such as decorated pottery vessels, stone tools and ornaments from Winterville and other regional sites, and the museum gives background on the culture.
After exploring the museum, it’s time to walk around the base of the mounds to gain another perspective. Laborers carrying baskets of soil weighing as much as 60 pounds constructed the 55-foot-high ceremonial mound in the center of a 42-acre plaza. Although some of the 23 original mounds have been destroyed, Wintervilleone of several mound sites in Mississippiis considered to be one of the largest and best-preserved sites in the southeastern United States.
North-central Mississippi gives a broad perspective of the life of early Mississippians, as well as a chance to get out into hills and enjoy beautiful, rugged scenery. If you like the outdoors, history, or a mixture of both, you’ll find it in north-central Mississippi.
Jinny R. Danzer is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo.
|Added Attractions enhance north-central
By Jinny Ravenscroft Danzer
hile visiting Winterville Mounds or Tishomingo State Park in north-central Mississippi, plan a bit of extra time to enjoy these nearby attractions.
Winterville: If you’re interested in learning about or visiting other mound sites in Mississippi, the National Park Service has developed a travel itinerary of 11 mound sites (www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/mounds).
Several sites are accessible from the Natchez Trace Parkway: Emerald Mound and the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians and museum near Natchez and Pharr Mounds near Tishomingo. Visitor information for Emerald Mound, which you can climb, is available at Mount Locust Historic House nearby.
Tishomingo: Several areas of interest lie south of the park, including the Civil War sites of Tupelo National Battlefield and Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield. Other tour attractions include Bay Springs Lake and visitor center; the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway, a 456-mile navigable waterway between the Gulf of Mexico and Tennessee; and a Chickasaw village site with exhibits on daily life and early history.
Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield near Tishomingo State Park commemorates a Civil War battle fought on June 10, 1864. The site is six miles west of Baldwyn on state Route 370. Mississippi Tourism Development photo
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