John N. Felsher headshot
By John N. Felsher
April 2023

National forests offer unlimited recreational opportunities.

A white bird sitting at the edge of a pond.Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, six huge national forests conserve more than 1.2 million acres of Mississippi including some of the most scenic and diverse habitats in the Magnolia State. During the season, many people hunt these forests for deer, turkey, squirrels, and other game, but all of them offer additional outdoors recreational activities.

Combined, these forests contain more than 2,000 acres of lakes and ponds, 650 miles of fishable streams, 265 miles of trails for non-motorized hiking, biking and horseback riding, plus 90 trail miles for off-road vehicles. Other activities include picnicking, birdwatching, canoeing, swimming, camping, and many other ways to enjoy nature.

A group of five hikers hike a trail surrounded by evergreen trees.Bienville National Forest

Named for Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, the founder of Natchez, Mobile, and New Orleans, Bienville National Forest covers 178,541 acres of pine and oak forests east of Jackson. The upper reaches the Leaf and Strong Rivers run through the forest. Many people fish at Marathon and Shongelo lakes. Equestrians can ride the Shockaloe Horse Trail.

Delta National Forest

Delta National Forest covers 60,898 acres in the fertile Mississippi Delta region near Rolling Fork. The only primarily bottomland hardwood national forest in the nation, Delta offers people a glimpse of the once vast swamps formerly along both sides of the Mississippi River floodplain. These hardwoods provide homes to delta fox squirrels. 

“In the Mississippi Delta Region, some squirrels are mostly black all over or a rusty red color with a yellowish belly,” explained Rick Hamrick, a Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks small game biologist.

De Soto National Forest Recreation Area, Tuxachanie Trail, P.O.W. Camp, U.S. Department of Agriculture sign.De Soto National Forest

Named for the 16th-century Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, the national forest covers 518,587 acres of mostly pine forests southeast of Hattiesburg. The forest contains two wilderness areas, the Black Creek Wilderness and the Leaf River Wilderness. Black Creek carries the National Wild and Scenic River designation, the only such stream in Mississippi with that designation. Two National Recreational Trails, the Black Creek Trail and the Tuxachanie Trail, offer hikers more than 60 miles to enjoy.

Holly Springs National Forest

Holly Springs National Forest covers 155,661 acres in two sections near the town of Holly Springs. The land consists mostly of reclaimed agricultural land with rolling hills now covered in pine forests. The property also contains a bottomland hardwood swamp at the confluence of Tubby Creek and the Wolf River near Ashland. Several lakes provide fishing and swimming opportunities. The property also offers some trails for hikers. 

Homochitto National Forest

Named for the Homochitto River, Homochitto National Forest includes 191,839 acres of forests between Natchez and McComb. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps reforested most of the land. Several streams flow through the forest.

Tombigbee National Forest

Named for the Tombigbee River, this national forest includes two sections totaling 67,005 acres southwest of Tupelo. The forest contains at least five Native American mounds built about 900 years ago. The forest regrew from abandoned farmland and contains rolling hills covered in pine and hardwood trees.

These lands belong to all of us. More than 2.6 million people annually take advantage of opportunities to visit their six Mississippi national forests. You could be the next one.

For more information call 601-965-1600 or visit

Man and woman hikers walking a trail.

Two hikers stop at a small creek in Mississippi.
Man sitting in kayak in the water.
Two men rowing a canoe in the water.
Hiking guide showing another hiker the land.
A bird spreading its wings while standing on a downed tree in a river.
Category: Outdoors Today
Mississippians can enjoy more than 1.2 million acres in six national forests. Many of these contain streams and rivers that allow great paddling, fishing, and other activities.

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