St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge south of Natchez hosts this trail.
The Magnolia Trail is a three-mile walking trail for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. The trailhead at St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) headquarters is three miles off Highway 61, part of the Great River Road State Scenic Byway. The trail provides an opportunity for byway travelers to more closely experience Mississippi's scenic and natural features. The refuge reported over 62,000 visits for FY 2004.
The Magnolia Trail traverses various wildlife habitats and topographic features including bluffs that rise above the Homochitto River. Visitors who choose the low-lying area of the trail can expect to see numerous mammals, migratory songbirds, and waterfowl. Those who venture on the bluffs can often catch a glimpse of the Mississippi River during flood conditions.
The Magnolia Trail accesses a bird rookery with views of herons, egrets, waterfowl, and alligators from a new photography and wildlife observation blind, funded by the Friends of St. Catherine Creek Refuge, the supporting association for St. Catherine NWR. Another popular stop along the trail is the Cypress Knee Overlook which provides the opportunity for diverse wildlife observations, especially during flood conditions.
Just south of Natchez, Mississippi, the refuge and Magnolia Trail serves a broad and diverse population in the southeastern Louisiana-southwestern Mississippi area. Birding and school groups throughout the area use the trail for field trips. Interpretive signs along the trail are used by individuals and families and as educational tools by the many school groups visiting the refuge. Benches have also been placed along the trail for resting areas, spots for picnic lunches, opportunities for photography, wildlife observation, and scenic views.
The Magnolia Trail is truly a community project. Besides its use by the public, it is maintained in excellent condition by the Friends of St. Catherine Creek Refuge, local scout groups, other community service organizations, and the refuge staff. According to Jack Cupit of the Friends, "Trails such as this not only provide a good source of exercise, but are a true learning experience each time it is walked. We feel this trail is an important attribute to our community due in part to the fact that is serves as a living classroom for our school children. Children are the future of our country and we feel it is important to inform and educate them about our natural resources and the conservation of habitat and wildlife."
Members of Friends of St. Catherine Creek Refuge have participated in trail development and maintenance for several years. Volunteers from the organization have guided field trips along the trail and have plans to develop several education programs that will be used throughout the trail system. The annual Jackson Audubon Society also uses the Magnolia Trail for its annual birding field trip.
US Fish and Wildlife Service St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge PO Box 217 Sibley, MS 39165 (601) 442-6696 www.fws.gov/saintcatherinecreek/