The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

Natchez to St. Francisville

Tunica Hills WMA

The Tunica Hills is a range of surprisingly steep Mississippi River bluffs stretching from southwest Wilkinson County down into West Feliciana Parish, La. They got their name from the Tunica Indians, who moved there from the Mississippi Delta in the 1700s to escape the influx of settlers. The Tunicas drove out the Houmas, who lived there earlier.

Mississippi showcases the hills in Clark Creek Natural Area, a waterfall-laden wonderland near Pond. Tunica Hills WMA, which has two tracts, is like Clark Creek but without the waterfalls, an official explained. (Ernest Herndon)

 

Tunica Hills Wildlife Management Area (WMA) encompasses 5,906 acres and is owned by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.  Terrain on the area is characterized by rugged hills, bluffs, and ravines. The area lies at the southern end of the “loess blufflands” escarpment that follows the east bank of the Mississippi River south from its confluence with the Ohio River. These blufflands offer a diverse and unique habitat that supports some species of plants and animals not found elsewhere in Louisiana. 

The forest type on the area is classified as upland hardwood, with some loblolly pine and eastern red cedar mixed in on the ridge tops and creek terraces. Predominant hardwoods consist of white oak, American beech, American holly, southern magnolia, cherrybark (black) oak, water oak, swamp chestnut oak, various hickories and sweetgum.  Other species commonly observed are southern hackberry, hackberry, eastern hophornbeam, ironwood, yellow poplar, elm, maple, and other less dominant species such as Osage orange. The understory varies from dense in younger areas of timber to fairly open in older areas. Unique understory tree and shrub species include oak leaf hydrangea, two-winged silverbell, trifoliate orange, pawpaw, flowering dogwood, sweetleaf, spicebush, blackberry, and switchcane. At least 20 species of plants classified as rare in Louisiana are found on this area and two of these species have not been found to occur anywhere else in the state.

Tunica Hills WMA is open to a variety of outdoor recreational activities, including hunting, trapping, birdwatching, hiking, horseback riding, bike riding, sightseeing, and photography. A nature trail and three hiking trails are present. Hunting is allowed at specified times for deer, turkey, and small game. Trapping is allowed for coyote, fox, bobcat, raccoon and opossum. Eastern chipmunks are found on the area. Infrequently, black bear tracks are observed. Numerous snake species are common in the area, including canebrake rattlesnakes and copperheads.  Resident and migratory bird species are abundant on the area, including several that are rare elsewhere in the state, such as the worm-eating warbler and the Coopers hawk. (From the Tunica Hills WMA website)

293 - 290 RBD Tunica Bar Towhead

Three mile long Tunica Bar Towhead is the best camping in the vicinity of the Tunica Hills.  If you want to enjoy the full experience of the dance of light along the convoluted shapes and fantastic colors of the Tunica Hills, camp here and watch the all day show that would make a Broadway lighting director drool with envy.  Add in clouds, shafts of sunlight, mysterious whisps of fog, and periods of refreshing spring showers and later a double rainbow for accent, and you would be connected to some of the most artistic renderings of light and dark ever concocted by the creator.  After sunset, the show continues as your eyes adjust to the darkness and you discern jagged lines in the moonlight, the stars spiraling overhead in their endless carousel around Polaris, the north star, and the same is rendered in vivid slashes of light across the face of the river.

 

Tunica Bar is divided into thirds, with a narrow towhead rising to full height up top (dry sand up to flood stage 48NG), a fat middle section, all forested, and another long narrow piece at its tail end, which descends along its length and is less high than the top, with dry sand only up to 40NG along its narrow peninsula, thinly topped with mature cottonwoods and willows, with spacious sand flats in between.  Low water camping can be found around its entire perimeter 

 

291.9 LBD Little Hollywood

Leaving the Tunica Hills paddlers will pass a serene plantation set on a grassy flats below the last bluff, a classic gothic mansion, white of course, and several out buildings including a church, a barn, and an octagonal pavilion closer to the water’s edge.  A tow pilot told me this was “Little Hollywood,” and was the set for some movie.  If any readers know more about this location, please write something in the comments section, or send me an email to john@island63.com.

 

291.8 LBD Como Bayou

Como bayou is an intriguing small bayou entering the river left bank descending just below Little Hollywood.  Como Bayou runs out of the Tunica Hills through a channel choked with cypress and leaning hardwoods.  The collapsing banks creates canyons of trees in places and tunnels in others.  If the river is 25-30BG, or higher, take some time and paddle up the bayou for a closer inspection of Little Hollywood and the beautiful Tunica Bluffs behind.  You will see all the wildlife you have been missing on the main channel!

 

289.8 LBD Polly Creek

Another Tunica Hills drainage, Polly Creek enters the mother Mississippi through a wide mouth with small bluffs of sand on its south shore and a sprawling hunting camp on its north.

 

289.5 - 289 RBD Greenwood Bar

Greenwood Bar is a small sliver of a sandbar with possible campsites up to 35NG.