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Today is July 25, 2021

The aging giants of Sky Lake

By Steven Ward

The aging giants of Sky Lake

The 1,700-foot Sky Lake boardwalk allows visitors to get an eye full of the WMA’s gigantic trees and habitat wildlife.

Look up at the sky and the green leaves hanging off the trees shoot up like a summit that goes on forever.

Some of the tree trunks in the water are as big as a subcompact car.

The 1,700-foot boardwalk that snakes through a portion of the Sky Lake Wildlife Management Area near Belzoni provides a humbling view to visitors. Nature and all its living and breathing beauty inhabits Sky Lake full throttle — all there to hear, smell and see up close.

A hidden gem in the Mississippi Delta, Sky Lake is one of those captivating destinations on internet travel websites but a place some locals might not even realize exists.

Owned by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the 4,306-acre area provides outdoor recreation and wetland habitat.

Restrooms, a pavilion and an amphitheater are available on a first come, first serve basis for the public while an education building is used for MDWFP events and training courses.

Although the habitat is filled with wildlife — birds, waterfowl, frogs, turtles and alligators — the main attraction are the giant bald cypress trees.

Some of the trees at Sky Lake are over a 1,000-years old, said Roger Tankesly, a MDWFP regional biologist for the Delta Region wildlife management areas.

“Accurate age estimation is difficult due to trees being hollow. The largest tree is 47 feet in circumference at breast height and around 85 feet high,” he said.

“Another large cypress in the vicinity measures 40 feet in circumference.”

The trees are some of the largest in the country and oldest on the planet, Tankesly said.

“Mississippi has plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities across the state, and many are often overlooked. Whether it is a MDWFP state park, state lake or wildlife management area,” Tankesly said.

“The Sky Lake boardwalk area is unique because it is easy to get to, you can drive right up to a very nice and well-maintained facility, any day of the week, during daylight hours. Large cypress trees can be seen once the boardwalk begins, so if you don’t think you can make the entire 1,700-foot trek, you can check out the first tree and head back to the pavilion.”

Around 800 acres make up the boardwalk area as well as waterfowl habitat around the lake of the more than 4,000-acre site. Around 3,500 acres serve as a wetland mitigation area for the Yazoo Backwater Project.

Construction of the site was completed in 2010 and the total cost was around $715,000 which was paid for by MDWFP and grants from the Federal Highway Administration Outdoor Recreation Trails Program.

The boardwalk has informational signs along the way to educate visitors on the unique habitat. There are also benches for sitting along the way, with a larger seating area at the end of the boardwalk right next to the largest tree.

The site also features a 2.6-mile kayak/canoe trail beginning at the parking lot near the education building and meanders through the wooded portion of the lake, around the boardwalk, and to the big trees. Water is usually absent in summer/fall months.

Sky Lake is a place that’s hard to forget after spending some time there.

“There are not many places, anywhere you go, that have ancient trees that you can easily access. My entire family, especially my two young daughters, Brylee and Bristol, enjoy seeing the big trees, turtles, snakes, frogs, and even the alligators,” Tankesly said.

 

No permit is required to use the boardwalk, pavilion, amphitheater or kayak trail. A Wildlife Management Area User permit is required for using the rest of the Sky Lake area including for hunting. Guests can visit Sky Lake during daylight hours only. For more information, visit www.mdwfp.com.

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