Along 4.38 miles of trails in southwest Mississippi (1.78 miles improved and 2.6 miles primitive) lies one of the most beautiful spots in the state. Isolated and pristine, the Clark Creek Natural Area is indeed an outdoor treasure.
I took a roadtrip from Jackson to check the place out in early December, 2006, but as I got a late start, I was only able to spend about two hours there before the sun started to set.
Be sure to stop in at the Pond Store (right) when you visit Clark Creek but be aware of the geese.
I was greeted by that gaggle of geese honking about the Pond Store just up the road from the parking area. The store was built in 1881 and offers the visitor food, soft drinks, and other merchandise.
Follow this trail (above left) deep into the Clark Creek Natural Area for a definite treat for the senses. No matter the time of year, Clark Creek is open. The trail is very steep in places so don’t go too far unless you are physically prepared. And, yes, the trail is as steep here as the photo makes it look.
The view downstream from the first waterfall (right)
presents a gently hued Mississippi late Autumn vista.
Pulling in to the parking area, I noticed that there was only one other car there. I heard later that on weekends you can expect to see more visitors. Needless to say, I didn’t come across any sign of these hikers except for a pair of lost sunglasses. I placed them on a high point in the middle of the trail and when I passed that spot on the way out, they were gone. Perhaps snatched up by one of the black bears that wander the area. The other bears must be very envious.
The solitude at Clark Creek is wonderful— there’s just nothing to compare with it in an urban environment. Even out in the country around a small city like Jackson, you’ll hear traffic off in the distance or the occasional airplane passing overhead. There’s nothing like that here. This is a very remote corner of Mississippi. Birds, squirrels, small rustlings in the fallen leaves, and my own footsteps sounding on the crushed rock of the trail is all I hear.
And then, there are the sounds of the waterfalls. You hear them before you see them. Turning a corner in the trail, walking across the decks built into the stream’s edge—there they are. No Niagara of course, but I begin to regret not starting out earliers.
I was able to see the first two waterfalls in the short time that I had. The photographs I took don’t do them justice. Photos of waterfalls are nice enough, but to be able to see one in motion AND hear it is a completely different experience.
The flyer that you can pick up at the entrance kiosk states that there are about fifty waterfalls in the 700 acres that makes up Clark Creek. And they range in height from ten feet to more than thirty feet! The map on the back of the flyer shows the locations of ten of them; five of these are accessible only by following the Primitive Trail.
The trails are well-marked with signs pointing in the direction of the parking area. At the two junctures that I came to leading to the first two waterfalls, there is a map on a post showing where you are as well as the directions to the various sights—the waterfalls, overlooks, and the State and National record trees. That’s right, we got champs!
Now waterfalls may not be what one would expect to see in Mississippi. But then, this is Loess country (pronounced lurse, it's a German word), the same soil that forms the bluffs edging the Mississippi River at nearby Natchez, the hills that made Vicksburg the Gibraltar of the South during the Civil War, and that incredibly sharp demarcation that runs along the eastern side of the Mississippi Delta. Pay attention to the drop the next time you drive through Yazoo City.
There are places to sit and relax at Clark Creek (above and below) — the deck overlooks the second waterfall.
The stairs leading down from the right side of the deck take you closer to the falls.
After too short of a visit, I returned to my car in the dark, with only the light of the almost-full moon to guide me along the trail that passes through the mixed hardwood and pine forest. I will admit that I was nervous, being by myself in the darkening woods. This view (above right) greeted me not long after leaving the second waterfall. With the sun dropping to the west, I pressed on, knowing that I was almost a mile from the entrance and from my car—mostly uphill.
I was sorry, though, that I couldn’t stay longer. All in all, it’s a beautiful place, very secluded—a challenging hike through some truly incredible terrain. I’m going back the first chance I get . . . and this time, I’m getting an earlier start!
As always, when spending any time outdoors in Mississippi, dress accordingly depending on the weather and season,
use insect repellant when needed, and during the summer heat and humidity, drink plenty of water.
COPYRIGHT © THE NEW SOUTHERN VIEW EZINE | 2/10/12