I recently moved to New Orleans from Alaska and I have taken to exploring the outdoor offerings found in the South Eastern United States. For the Columbus Weekend Holiday in October of 2016 I decided to explore the Tuxachanie Trail in the De Soto National Forest with my daughter. The Tuxachanie Trail runs from highway 49 to P.O.W. Lake for a total distance of 12 miles one way. For my trip, we camped at Airey Lake about 5 miles down the trail from Highway 49 on the first night and backpacked 7 miles or so to P.O.W. Lake for an overnight before retracing our steps to Airey Lake.
Airey Lake is a nice little camping area operated by the U.S. Forest Service. There are multiple campsites in the area, and most have picnic tables and fire pits. There is one vault type toilet and two water filling stations with potable water. There are numerous pine trees to provide cover and ambiance. There is a 3-acre lake which the campground is named after. The whole area is pretty nice. In addition to the Tuxachanie trail there is about a half-mile trail that circumnavigates the lake. Overall, the campground was fairly clean when we stayed there. There were other people camping there and everyone seemed respectful of others.
The Tuxachanie Trail is a fairly flat and wide trail that traverses mostly Longleaf Pine forests of Southern Mississippi. The trail bed is mostly grass and seemed like it had been mowed in the past month or so since it was not over ankle high in most places. The trail between Airey Lake and P.O.W. Lake was easy to follow. There are white blazes on the trees and mile markers dictating the distance between the lakes. There were not many places to get water (it was very dry when we hiked) so I suggest taking the water you will need to make it between the lakes. Dispersed camping is allowed as long as the user is at least 100’ from the trail. I found that the only real place to camp was at a spot about 4 miles from Airey Lake. It is a horse resting spot, because the trail is partially shared with horse trails. This spot had a picnic table and places to set up a couple of tents. There was a small stream nearby for water, but it was barely running the day we passed through. There are still a few blown down trees across the trail after you leave the small camping area. I have heard that the trees are from Hurricane Katrina. They are easy to navigate around. The trail changes a bit towards P.O.W. Lake. It becomes more single track and sandy as it meanders along the shore of Tuxachanie Creek.
P.O.W. Lake is another U.S. Forest Service campground. According to www.visitmississippi.org “This camp once was used to house German & Italian prisoners during World War II and later used as a Navy rifle range, now only old ammunition bunkers and a few foundations remain.” There are no marked campsites. The area is open with folks camping on most flat spots. There are some more secluded spots by following the lake around to the right from where the trail enters. There are no amenities at this campground – i.e. no bathroom and no potable water. We filtered water from the lake for cooking and drinking. There are several signs around the lake warning that the lake has alligators in it, but none were seen on this trip. There is apparently good fishing in the lake, as there were numerous other visitors fishing while we were there. There were several other overnight campers there this weekend, but like at Airey Lake most folks seemed to stay to themselves and were fairly respectful.
Overall, this is a neat little area to explore and good for an overnight trip or multiday starting at Highway 49. The trail is flat and makes for easy walking. It is exposed to sunlight for most of the trail which might make for hot and humid hiking in the summer, but it was comfortable hiking in October. Thanks to the U.S. Forest Service for maintaining the trail and the campgrounds. I hope you have the chance to visit this neat part of the De Soto National Forest.