De Soto National Forest

The De Soto National Forest is 518,587 acres of pine forest in southern Mississippi. It’s one of the most significant protected areas for the biological diversity of the Gulf Coast ecoregion of North America. It is a nationally significant site for the protection of longleaf pine savannas, pine flatwoods, and longleaf pine forests. More than 90 percent of this ecosystem type has been lost within the United States. The wet pine savannas support uncommon and endangered plant and animal species, such as the orchid Calopogon multiflorus, gopher frogs, and gopher tortoises. These habitats have large numbers of carnivorous plants as well.

It also provides year-round opportunities for outdoor activities such as camping, canoeing, bird-watching, hunting, fishing, photography, and more. There are two nationally significant wilderness areas within the national forest: Black Creek Wilderness and Leaf River Wilderness. Black Creek is a popular stream for canoeing, fishing, and camping, and is Mississippi’s only designated National Wild and Scenic River. Two National Recreational Trails, the Black Creek Trail and the Tuxachanie Trail, provide more than 60 miles of hiking opportunities.

The headquarters are located in Jackson, Mississippi, as are all six national forests in Mississippi. The local ranger district offices can be found in Wiggins, which is surrounded by the National Forest on three sides: the north, east, and south.

The forest is located between Hattiesburg and Gulfport, and can be easily accessed by U.S. Highway 49 and U.S. Highway 98. It lies in parts of ten counties; Perry, Wayne, Harrison, Forrest, Stone, Greene, Jones, Jackson, George, and Pearl River counties.

Image Caption: Longleaf, slash, and loblolly pines in en:DeSoto National Forest, Stone County, Mississippi, USA. Credit: Woodlot/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)