By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
TISHOMINGO – For rock-climbing enthusiasts, Mississippi’s flat deltas and rolling hills offer a poor canvas, but Tishomingo State Park has the best rock faces in the state.
The state park offers routes for beginners and experts, and also offers plenty of other outdoor activities for adventurers who like both feet firmly planted on the ground.
Bill Brekeen, the park’s manager, said there are 117 documented climbing routes in the park ranging from shorter 20-foot pitches to the 60-foot Jean’s Overhang.
“We’re in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, so we have some of the most rugged and picturesque terrain in Mississippi,” Brekeen said. “That’s what makes us unique. I’ve had people from North Carolina tell us it reminds them of home.”
Jim Detterline calls it the state’s only rock-climbing destination in his Climber’s Guide to Mississippi Rock.
The park gives out about 1,500 climbing permits each year, according to Brekeen.
The only equipment provided by the park are the rocks. Climbers are responsible for their ropes, harnesses, helmets or bouldering mats.
The climbing adventure begins with the crossing of Bear Creek by way of the park’s swinging wire suspension bridge.
Once across the bridge, trails go out in multiple directions, each leading to rock formations.
One of the most difficult and thrilling descents in the park is the 60-foot Jean’s Overhang.
The cliff juts out about 18 feet from the rock wall, creating a challenging ceiling. Climbers must hang parallel to the ground on their ascent.
The ceiling offers a unique opportunity for anyone repelling to hang freely while traveling downward.
In addition to the many climbing routes, the park offers daily canoe trips down Bear Creek.
The canoes leave each morning at 10 a.m., when the weather permits.
Canoe trips cost $30 per canoe and run from April until the middle of October, winding 6.25 miles down the creek.
The park’s 13 miles of hiking trails meander along Bear Creek and through the rock faces.
“We have the hard soil formations and the sandstone that makes for not only the only natural rock climbing in Mississippi, but some of the most picturesque hiking trails in the state,” Brekeen said.
The Warrior Ridge disc golf course is another attraction offered by the park. The 18-hole course turns through the park’s wooded trails.
Six of the park’s seven cabins were originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936 as a part of the New Deal and have been well-kept.
The park is a one-hour drive up the Natchez Trace from Tupelo and offers cabin and tent camping for anyone looking for more than a day trip.