Today’s blog post was written by Sweetums, aka Wil Elrick, author of “Alabama Lore,” “Alabama Scoundrels,” and “Covered Bridges of Alabama.”
If you are looking for a short weekend getaway there is a spot located in the lower southwest foothills of the Appalachian Mountains which is one of Mississippi’s best kept secrets – Tishomingo State Park.
The small state park boasts scores of activities such as camping, fishing, rock climbing, hiking and history.
Officially opening in May of 1939 construction on the park began in 1935 by The Civilian Conservation Corps. This particular park was built by the men of CCC Company 3497 who also resided in the area during construction. The workers built trails, picnic areas, campgrounds, cabins and buildings, using native materials and rock from the area. These building methods lent the park a very rustic feel which is still alive today as many of the original structures are still in use. Tishomingo was one of only two Mississippi State Parks where these construction methods were used, the other being Wall Doxey State Park.
That park offers a rich history that pre-dates the CCC effort by hundreds of years. Archaeological excavations in are surrounded by the park have revealed the presence of Paleo Indians as early as 7000 B.C. and more recently the land was used by the Chickasaw Indian tribes well into the 1800’s. The park itself is named for Chief Tishu Miko, one of the last great Chickasaw leaders. In addition to be a leader of the Chickasaw Nation had a brilliant career in the service of the U.S. Army.
The last people of the Chickasaw Nation were removed from the area in 1837 and then relocated to Oklahoma as part of the Indian Removal Act. It is believed that Chief Tishu Miko perished from smallpox during the relocation in May 1838 at the supposed age of 104, but his burial site is to this day unknown. Modern Chickasaw descendants occasionally make a pilgrimage to the park to visit areas the great chief fished and hunted. A monument to his “happy hunting ground” is located on the Saddleback Ridge trail.
The standout attraction of the park today is the swinging bridge that traverses Bear Creek. The wooden bridge with metal wires and rock entrances was built in 1939 of the native rock. Be forewarned the bridge creaks and rocks with every step across it. A sign at the entrance warns to have no more than 5 people on the bridge at a time. Another neat rustic structure is a cabin that was relocated to the property which is open for exploration. A monument to the CCC workers and trails that follow their original camp also grace the park as a remembrance to the men whose labors are still seen today.
The park does also have its modern touches such as an Olympic sized swimming pool, RV campsites with water and electric hookups and a renovated nature center offering displays on local heritage, nature, art Native Americans and the CCC.
In addition to visiting the park on a trip there are multiple things to do on a visit. Touring the Natchez Trace Parkway is a must-do for the nature and history lessons you can learn. On a trip to nearby Iuka you can drink from the world famous mineral water springs or traverse to the top of Woodall Mountain and visit Mississippi’s highest point. Who knows? – you could even rent a primitive campsite and be on the lookout for a random Sasquatch.