Canoeing is a pastime that requires some endurance yet can be enjoyed by almost anybody. Paddle skills improve with time and experience. Trips may involve camping along the shoreline, depending on the length of the trail. Canoeing enthusiasts have mapped out trails in waterways all over the country for day trips or overnight adventures. Louisiana and Mississippi offer perfect conditions for avid paddlers -- warm weather, a mild climate and plenty of water.
The Atchafalaya Basin is swamp country two hours west of New Orleans. The 595,000-acre area features wilderness views and is one of the last of America's great river swamps. Late winter and early spring are the ideal times to canoe in the Basin. The water level makes the back areas accessible for views of cypress trees and the native wildlife, including alligators, mink and bobcats.
Ouiska Chitto Creek
Mittie is known as the canoe capital of Louisiana, and Ouiska Chitto Creek is a favorite waterway for avid paddlers. The scenic route offers a relaxing mix of wildflowers, songbirds and the smells of pine. Primitive camping is permitted along the banks, and there's a stretch of beach for picnicking and sunbathing. Bring along your fishing gear for catches, such as channel catfish, crappie and striped bass. Canoe rentals are available at four nearby locations.
The Pascagoula River System
The Pascagoula River System is an unaltered, natural system surrounded by wildlife management areas, national forests and Nature Conservancy preserves. Canoeing streams include Leaf, Bowie, Okatoma, Tallahala and Black Creek, one of the state's most-paddled waterways. It's located in the DeSoto National Forest and offers an unobstructed flow down a scenic path. Canoe rentals are available at nearby outfitters. Okatoma Creek has the distinction of being the only whitewater stream in the state and is another popular place for a float.
The Mighty Mississippi
The Mississippi River might seem like an obvious choice, but it's a huge, fast-moving river that isn't really safe for paddling. The backwaters are quiet, though, with marked canoe trails. With a canoe you can explore shallow waters not accessible by bigger boats and come across rarely fished waters or hidden lakes. Spring and fall are the best times to venture a trip -- there are fewer insects and milder temperatures. The shoreline is full of wildlife to observe, such as bear, beavers and deer.
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