By Marsha Mack Goberish
If you imagined that time outdoors in Mississippi meant admiring award-winning Southern gardens, experiencing outstanding bird-watching opportunities and exploring areas where prehistoric American Indians once lived, you’d be right.
But widen your imagination because you will also be squealing with glee on a high-speed airboat in an alligator swamp, holding your breath as you tip-toe across a swinging bridge and grasping your belly with laughter on a fishing boat when squirming shrimp and squid are dumped at your feet.
Welcome to beautiful Mississippi, where outdoor adventures invite group travelers to a range of exciting experiences.
Boasting awards for its native flora and structures, the Crosby Arboretum, in the coastal community of Picayune, offers 64 acres of inspiration.
“We are a public garden operated by Mississippi State University,” said Pat Drackett, director. “We showcase plants native to the Pearl River drainage basin, and all displays are natural, meaning there is no irrigation.”
Tours are offered in the Savanna, Woodland and Aquatic exhibits. The Savanna features wildflowers and shrubs that are fire-adapted, among them several pitcher plants, a carnivorous plant.
The Woodland is an evolving forest with native trees that will, in hundreds of years, have a canopy dominated by hardwoods.
The Pinecote Pavilion, an architectural jewel, is in the Aquatic exhibit, where a two-and-a-half-acre freshwater pond provides the setting.
“Architects from all over the country come here just to stand under it for bragging rights,” said Drackett.
Drackett added, “Visitors learn that by matching plants to your particular site means you never have to replace them again.”
Tishomingo County is appropriately nicknamed the “Outdoor Recreation Capital of the Mid-South.” Featuring Woodall Mountain, the highest point in Mississippi, with 50,000 acres of lakes, seven marinas and picturesque Appalachian arts villages, this destination is a gem for a day trip, according to Theresa Cutshall, administrative assistant for the Tishomingo County Development.
“Visitors especially like to experience our swinging bridge, covered bridge and pioneer log cabins,” she said. “There are beaches, caves, canyons and waterfalls to explore.”
Consider visiting during one of the many annual events, which include fishing tournaments, classic car shows, a townwide yard sale and an exhibit showcasing wildflowers.
“Our county seat, Iuka, is home to 4,000 people,” said Cutshall. “This is truly a quintessential Appalachian community where groups can find gorgeous scenery by the water or in the forests, where you can’t hear anything but chirping birds.”
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