Mississippi Wilderness Rangers Deployed

Wild South received a grant from the National Forest Foundation to expand our successful Wilderness Rangers Program into two Wilderness areas of the DeSoto National Forest of Mississippi: Black Creek and Leaf Wildernesses. Both Areas are heavily visited, yet have no USFS Wilderness Rangers to ensure their Wilderness character is maintained.

On June 1, we deployed two seasonal employees, Will Bedwell and Kevin Hussey, in the DeSoto National Forest to coordinate and lead this program. They will perform all the duties of a USFS Wilderness ranger, except for law enforcement, and recruit and train volunteers to also become Volunteer Wilderness Rangers. Our rangers will educate Wilderness visitors, monitor recreational resources, collect visitor use data, inventory non-native invasive plants, and help maintain Wilderness character along twelve miles of trail and 21 miles of Wild and Scenic River.

The Black Creek Wilderness (5,052 acres) is located in the gulf coastal plains of southern Mississippi. Most of this Wilderness, the state’s largest, lies in the broad valley of Black Creek, stained a deep caramel color by the tannic acid of decaying vegetation. The creek is Mississippi’s only designated Wild and Scenic River (for 21 miles) with the emphasis exclusively on scenic. It bisects the Wilderness, creating a hardwood floodplain of oxbow lakes and thick stands of sweet gum, sweet bay, red maple, oak, pine, and bald cypress. The banks offer plenty of white sandbars suitable for camping or a picnic. On many days there is no evidence that humans ever stepped foot in the Wilderness or dipped a canoe paddle into Black Creek.

South Mississippi’s tiny Leaf Wilderness (994 Acres) lies almost entirely on the floodplain of the east-flowing Leaf River, just north of Black Creek Wilderness. Except for a little western upland, the entire Wilderness consists of meandering sloughs, oxbow lakes, and level terrain of spruce- pine forest or oak-gum-cypress river bottom. Loblolly and shortleaf pines shade the upland, with a dense understory of dogwood, redbud, persimmon, blueberries, and honeysuckle. The 1.5 mile Leaf Trail, one of two main attractions in the area, crosses the Wilderness and three bridges and a boardwalk to access this piece of Mississippi, where camping is unrestricted.

The benefits of this project to the community are many and include the maintenance of the Wilderness character, increased appreciation of the Wilderness resource and citizen participation in National Forest stewardship, and a higher quality Wilderness experience for everyone.

If you are interested in participating in volunteer efforts email msrangers@wildsouth.org today.