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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

North Mississippi welcomes everyone to explore and enjoy one of its not-so-hidden treasures

North Mississippi welcomes everyone to explore and enjoy one of its not-so-hidden treasures
By:  Michael Lander

North Mississippi is known for its rural scenery with many
farms and charming small towns.

There may not be a lot of things that are as exciting and as exhilarating as finding a hidden treasure, but not all treasures are hidden, and some are just sitting right out in the open.

One such treasure in the
Mid-South, that some people might not even know about, is located in North Mississippi, roughly 80 miles southeast of Memphis.

This treasure, that an estimated 20,000 or more people, from the local area, and from around the U.S. and beyond enjoy each year, is known as
Tanglefoot Trail.

Pastural scenes like this are a common sight toward the
southern half of Tanglefoot Trail.

The 44.5 mile paved trail runs from New Albany to Houston, Mississippi and there may be few, if any, trails that offer its visitors a completely non-urbanized landscape that is almost entirely made up of wooded, pastural, and rural scenery.

Those who walk, run, or ride their bike on Tanglefoot, are treated to a trail that gives them an unique escape to nature at its very best and everything that comes along with that. 

There are a few lakes, streams, and some wetlands,
like this, on various parts of Tanglefoot.

The trail, itself, is also perfect for cyclists of varying degrees and abilities because it is relatively flat, straight, and it has very little, if any, vehicular traffic on the roadways that intersect it. 

“There are also many amenities on Tanglefoot that include six rest stops, six rain stops with roofs, four whistle stops that provide parking, rest rooms, water fountains, and covered area with picnic tables,” Don Locke said.

Locke is Tanglefoot’s Trail Manager who has been an integral part of the trail since its inception in 2003 and its opening on September 21, 2013.

A 2013 Mississippi State University survey
indicated that 79 percent of the visitors to
Tanglefoot were cyclists.  On the right of
this photo is one of the six rest stops on
this trail.

“We also have county deputies who patrol the trail in golf carts as an added safety and security measure.  Even though we have not ever had any criminal activity ever reported on the trail, the deputies serve as a deterrent and are helpful to trail users who may have a flat tire or some other non-emergency problem,” Locke said.

While most of the trail has rural scenery surrounding it, there is subtle changes throughout the length of it that give various stretches their own distinctive look and feel.

Tanglefoot Trail opened in September 2013.  This
rails-to-trails trail is the longest one in the State
of Mississippi and it has been extremely popular
with cyclists, of abilities, because it is
relatively flat and straight with many scenic
vistas along the way.

Leaving New Albany and heading south, Locke said, there is a mix of open pasture, hayfields, and forests. 

After that, for about 5 miles from the town of Ecru toward Pontotoc, there are croplands and then there is a tunnel of trees for about 3 miles before coming into Pontotoc. 

When approaching the town of Algoma from the south, there is about a mile of open pasture and hayfields bordering the trail with few trees.

From Pontotoc to Houston, Locke said, trail users go through hardwood forest, some wetlands, with pastures and hayfields in view through the trees.

In addition to the beautiful rural scenery, many
walkers, runners, and cyclists also enjoy the
peace and quiet and the cyclists often
appreciate the little to no vehicular traffic on
the roadways that intersect the trail.

Along the way, Locke said, that there is a chance that visitors to the trail could see a wide variety of wildlife that could include squirrels, rabbits, deer, armadillos, groundhogs, turtles, various other reptiles, and even possibly foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and beavers.

Some of the birds that are commonly seen flying around the trail include hawks, crows, indigo bunting, cardinals, bluebirds, mockingbirds, and herons and other water fowl in the swampy areas of the trail.

There are seven towns, that include the trailheads in New Albany and Houston.  In between these two, (from north to south), is Ingomar, Ecru, Pontotoc, Algoma, and New Houlka.

The 44.5 mile Tanglefoot Trail has a diversity consisting of
pastures, hayfields, wetlands, and forests that allows
visitors to get away from the urban environment and to
retreat and to escape into the natural beauty of Northern

There are historical attractions in some of these towns and in the surrounding area that may be worth a visit and there are restaurants, motels, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and a nearby campground for those who would like to spend one or more days on the trail.

Click here for lodging, food, and bicycle shops.

The Tanglefoot Trail is the longest rail-to-trail in the State of Mississippi, beating out the first rail-to-trail, the
Longleaf Trace Trail, from Hattiesburg to Prentiss, by about a mile.

Each season has its own special beauty and
it can and should be enjoyed throughout
the year.

Tanglefoot, located in the
Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area, preserves the abandoned railroad corridor that served a number of railroads with the first rail link coming to New Albany in 1887, which was 16 years after the Ripley Railroad was chartered and approved.

The great-grandfather of the Nobel Prize winning author, William Faulkner,
Col. William Clark Faulkner, began his quest to construct a narrow gauge railroad in order to connect his plantation interests in Ripley, Miss. with the Memphis and Charleston Railroad in Middleton, Tenn.

Click here for additional railroad history on Tanglefoot.

While the majority of visitors to Tanglefoot come from Mississippi, a
significant number, like this couple from Minneapolis, Minn. come
from all across the country and from around the world.

Tanglefoot is funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), the Mississippi Development Authority, the Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, and individual donors and business or corporate sponsors.

A portion of the taxes from Union, Pontotoc, and Chickasaw Counties, and the seven towns that the trail passes through, provide the funding for the maintenance and development of the trail. 

“Some of the future plans for Tanglefoot include a larger pavilion, with restrooms and water fountains for the Houston Gateway, which should be completed between March and September 2018,” Locke said.

Tanglefoot's Trail Manager, Don Locke, often likes to take his
recumbent bike out and hit the trail.  Cycling is a passion
that he shares with his wife.

Additionally, Locke said, the City of New Albany, has received a donation of land that will enable them to extend the trail through their city park and out to Mississippi Highway 30.  When this is completed, it will add approximately three miles to the trail.  A grant, he added, has been filed to partially fund this project as well.

Locke hopes that these and other efforts will further enhance the overall experience for those who visit Tanglefoot and that it will attract others to enjoy the beauty of the area and the hospitality of the people of North Mississippi.

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