The National Forests in Mississippi
Forming a majestic gateway to over one million acres of unspoiled timberland, moss-draped oaks and stately pines frame each path in Mississippi's six National Forests. The six Forests, the Bienville, the Delta, the De Soto, the Homochitto, the Holly Springs, and the Tombigbee National Forests are dispersed over the entire state. They are a key source of natural resources in the state.
Beyond the sights and sounds of civilization, a Forest visitor may wander through lush cypress swamps filled with insect-eating pitcher plants, centuries-old virgin pines and towering oaks, or blooming dogwood and giant magnolia trees. Azaleas, mountain laurels, wild orchids, and a variety of wildflowers splash vivid color throughout the Forests. Secluded areas for hunting and camping, meandering streams for canoeing, placid lakes for swimming, boating, and fishing, and tree-lined trails for hiking or horseback riding are found on the six Forests. Rich in stocked game, the national woodlands attract hundreds of sportsmen each season. The Forests support unlimited game and non-game wildlife, while carefully managed lakes are filled with a variety of fish and waterfowl. The recreation areas in the National Forests in Mississippi enable visitors to enjoy fishing, camping, hiking, swimming, and other outdoor activities.
De Soto National Forest
Ashe Nursery-Erambert Seed Orchard and Biloxi, Black Creek, and Chickasawhay Ranger Districts
De Soto National Forest, the largest National Forest in Mississippi, contains approximately 501,000 acres and is managed by three Ranger Districts. The Forest, divided into two separate units, is located in the southeastern portion of the state. Its southern boundary begins only 5 miles north of the Gulfport-Biloxi area. Hattiesburg is located between the two units, and Laurel is just 10 miles north of the northern boundary. The numerous major travel routes include US Highways 49 and 98, State Highways 67, 15, 57, 26, 29, 13, 63, and 42.
The De Soto which is mostly "pineywoods" covers a gently rolling terrain with stands of longleaf, slash and loblolly pine. The winding streams, unique to the Forest, form bottomlands that grow hardwood timber. Abundant rainfall and a long warm growing season combine to make the pine forest of the De Soto especially productive. The Forest also produces game in abundance, including deer, turkey, and quail. Streams are often tea-colored from tannic acid leaching from tree leaves and bark in wooded swamps.
Many recreation activities can be found on the three ranger districts. One of the most popular activities is floating the winding streams in canoe, raft, or jon-boat. Numerous hiking trails provide the nature lover, history buff and hiker with the chance to view nature at its best. Picnicking, fishing, and camping are also available.
The Southern Region's only tree nursery is located on the De Soto National Forest. Built in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Ashe Forest Tree Nursery produces about 30 million pine seedlings each year for reforesting the Southern Region National Forests. Also located nearby is the Erambert Seed Orchard which produces seed from superior tree stock.
The Biloxi Ranger District is located just north of the Gulfport-Biloxi area and less than ten miles north of Interstate 10. Because of the proximity to the New Orleans area and the Gulf Coast, both the Biloxi and Black Creek Districts receives many urban visitors as well as tourists. The Biloxi Ranger District is known for its diversity of plant communities such as longleaf pine, pitcher plant flats, and titi swamps. It is characterized by large man-made pine forests, interlaced with blackwater streams.
The Black Creek Ranger District also contains diverse and unique plant communities and unique special management areas. The Black Creek has been designated as a National Wild and Scenic River and is currently being studied for management practices. Two wilderness areas, Black Creek and Leaf Wilderness, have also been designated by Congress totaling 5,500 acres. The Mississippi National Guard for Camp Shelby utilizes approximately 120,000 acres as a training area. The Paul B. Johnson Mississippi State Park which provides fishing, swimming, camping, picnicking, boating, concessions, and cabins is located adjacent to the Forest on Black Creek District. The upper part of the lake and a few campsites actually exist on National Forest land.
The Chickasawhay Ranger District is the northern unit of the De Soto National Forest. The District is known for the Gavin Auto Tour and its vast area of pine plantations in the western portion. The eastern boundary is less than ten miles from Alabama and US Hwy 45, and less than ninety minutes from Mobile. Other major travel routes through this portion of the De Soto Forest include MS State Roads 15, 42, and 63.