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Mississippi’s Living Dinosaurs: Exploring the Giant Cypress Trees at Sky Lake

BELZONI, Miss.–You may have never heard of Sky Lake. It’s in a very remote area in the southern Delta, a little ways north of Belzoni to the left of Hwy. 7. There, at the Sky Lake Wildlife Management Area, are some of the oldest trees in North America, and they’re big ones, too.

Researchers say Sky Lake has some of the oldest and largest bald cypress trees that remain on earth, and that the landscape in that little pocket of the Delta is unique, too.

“Here at Sky Lake we can see what native Mississippi was truly like in the heart of her forested wetlands, an ecosystem of such diversity and productivity that it was rivaled only by the tropical rain forests of Amazonia,” said Dr. David Stahl, director of the Tree Ring Laboratory at the Univ. of Arkansas.

His words are printed on the educational info at the site, and it essentially means when you walk into the swamp at Sky Lake, you’re taking a trip through time to 1,500 years ago to see what the Delta was like back then.

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And it was a lot different. It was covered in trees and swampland. The cypress trees are the ones that lived and weren’t harvested, even though one of the giant trees might could build two houses.

To help you explore their majesty, the state partnered with Mark and Peggy Simmons, the owners of the property, to acquire the land. It is now managed by the Dept. of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

There’s a big advantage to putting state and federal money into preserving it: a large, well-built boardwalk that extends about a half mile into the swamp.

You can take the kids and bring the camera. The trees and their knees are the stars of the show and you’ll want to get a picture with them, just to see how enormous they are.

And the giant living dinosaurs of the Delta don’t make much noise, so finding a quiet place to meditate is not a problem at Sky Lake. Wildlife is all around and you can hear birds of many types. The area has restrooms and water and a small amphitheater, too. It would make a rewarding afternoon trip for the family.

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