Friday, August 19, 2016

Day Trips 2 -- Sky Lake

The Delta is a world unto its own, provincial and proud. Though I have no roots in the Delta, I enjoy being there, and Sky Lake Wildlife Management Area -- just north of Belzoni in Humphreys County -- is one of my favorite places.

The Wildlife Management Area, by itself, is tedious to non-hunters, I'm sure; instead, it is the Boardwalk and Paddling Trail that hold the interest.

Take a couple of left turns off of Highway 7 between Belzoni and Itta Bena and you will eventually come to the Boardwalk. It is out in the middle of nowhere. Even if you are looking for it, it can be tricky. When you get to it, you will find a gravel parking lot, a classroom building, an open area picnic pavilion with bathrooms and water fountains, a small amphitheater, a short walking trail, and  . . . something else.  You will also find a gaping hole leading from the bright, sunlit day-use area, into a dark, shadowed, nether-region, leading into the cypress swamp. This is the boardwalk.

From the Wildlife Mississippi webpage for Sky Lake, a little history:

Wildlife Mississippi began working to preserve Sky Lake soon after the organization was formed in the late 1990s. Wildlife Mississippi’s founder, Clarke Reed of Greenville, was an early promoter of creating public access to Sky Lake. Wildlife Mississippi worked with the governor’s office and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to acquire the core of the property from its owners, Peggy and Mark Simmons. Since then, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has acquired another 3,500 acres around Sky Lake and restored its bottomland hardwood forests. 
Funding for the [boardwalk] project was provided by the Recreational Trails Program, a cooperative effort of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and the Federal Highway Administration. The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee Board purchased 50 acres for the project, constructed one of the parking lots and funded the development of a paddling trail. 
. . . . The boardwalk was built to blend into Sky Lake’s cypress-tupelo swamp as much as possible. The boardwalk is 12 feet above the forest floor. It allows visitors ample opportunities for photography and wildlife viewing and passes by the largest bald cypress trees at Sky Lake. . . . 

The boardwalk is 1,730 feet long. It rises 12 feet over the forest floor, and it snakes around leviathan cypress trees, and through shadows so dark, you'd think it suddenly turned night. It is Jurassic and otherwordly in the swamp, like nothing you have seen in Mississippi. Trees you never thought could grow so wide. You don't need a child's imagine for it to run wild in this swamp. It is beautiful.

When the water is up, you feel like an explorer, safely traveling deeper and deeper into undiscovered country.  When the ground is dry below you, you can see highways of animal tracks dissecting the forest floor. You know this world is not used to the eyes of man.  At the end of the boardwalk is sitting area, useful for pondering your diminutive stature and the beauty of this created world.

For the more adventurous, there is also a paddling trail starting at the parking lot. 2.6 miles, separated for the most part from the boardwalk. Colored signs affixed to the trees direct the paddler through the forest.

There is more to do in the Belzoni area than just the boardwalk. Make a day of your trek by the Jaketown Museum (closed on the weekends) and Indian Mound. Artifacts from Jaketown date from 1750 B.C., making it one of the earliest inhabited sites in North America.

Stop at the Varsity for lunch.

Map to Sky Lake WMA.
Map to Boardwalk
Local weather at Sky Lake

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You run into some interesting people there, too.
At least, I did!