or many hundreds of years, Mississippi's waterways have been used for exploration, commerce, and recreation. Today, modern-day explorers are rediscovering the thrill of paddling Mississippi's rivers, lakes, and streams and exploring the scenic and peaceful views along the way.
The Mississippi River is, of course, the state's best-known waterway and perhaps the most challenging for paddlers due to its strong currents, deep waters, and commercial traffic. It's best to travel with experienced guides who know the river and keep a close watch on its conditions. One such company, Mississippi's best known, is Clarksdale-based Quapaw Canoe Company. Over the past 25 years, the company has guided more than 30,000 people safely down the Lower Mississippi River and its tributaries. Quapaw offers a range of river adventures from short day trips to multi-day camping trips – for the truly ambitious – from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Pascagoula River, which meanders through southern Mississippi before emptying into the Mississippi Sound at Pascagoula, is another popular destination for paddlers. The large free-flowing river is the last unimpeded major river system in the continental United States, flowing through swampy bottomlands, cypress forests, and bayous. The Jackson County Blueway, an officially designated stretch of the waterway, is particularly scenic and accessible. Kayak rentals are available at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center, which also offers educational exhibits about the river and its wildlife.
Okatoma Creek and Bogue Chitto River are two other popular river destinations in South Mississippi. The Okatoma offers a mix of Class 1 rapids and calm stretches, making it a great spot for kayakers of all skill levels, while the Bogue Chitto offers a lazy, easygoing experience with crystal-clear water along its rocky-bottomed stream. Some sections of the Bogue Chitto can be quite shallow, so kayaks and tubes are ideally suited.
Kayaking is popular in the Jackson metro area on the Barnett Reservoir, a 33,000-acre lake surrounded by parks and wildlife areas – and also some of the state's best restaurants and shopping opportunities. In nearby Flowood, kayaks can be rented at Crystal Lake from Capitol City Kayaks, with guided and self-guided adventures available along the large oxbow lake. Crystal Lake is just minutes from downtown Jackson, yet tucked away in a secluded location with treelined banks, waterlilies, and abundant wildlife.
A northeastern Mississippi favorite, Bear Creek, passes through the state's beautiful Tishomingo State Park. A six-mile canoe float can be reserved at the park's office. Expect Class 1 rapids, scenic sandstone bluffs, and a lush canopy of mixed hardwoods and native plants. Tishomingo is located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, so be sure to do some hiking while you're there. The park's large rock outcroppings, swinging bridge, and waterfalls are not to be missed.