We have been to Meeman Shelby State Park, which is North of Memphis, along the Mississippi River many times. We love hiking the 3 mile loop Woodland Trail which is one of the most beautiful trails in Western Tennessee. I’m always so surprised at how different it looks from the rest of this area. There are many steep climbs up and down hills and a beautiful stream which meanders throughout the hike.
But I was not aware that this State Park has scheduled boating trips throughout the summer. From Memorial Day to Labor day every weekend they have regular pontoon boat and canoe trips. The pontoon boat is only $1 per person and takes you around the Poplar Tree Lake. It was really a lot of fun. The ranger was very interesting, pointing out all sorts of wildlife and plants. We were able to see the lake and the park in a way we never had before. Though this park is only about 45 minutes from our house, we felt like we were on a real vacation far away!
This past Saturday at 8 am we did the canoe trip. You meet at the visitor’s center and then caravan to a swamp in a wildlife reserve area adjacent to the park. Most of the time you would not be able to access this area, so this is a unique opportunity to see this swamp. The cost is only $5 per person and they provide really nice, new, stable canoes.
The same ranger provided us with amazing information about the swamp and the animals and plants in it. There was no current and we proceeded at a leisurely pace so it was very relaxing. Instead of being dirty and “swampy”, this swamp was very beautiful, with tiny green leaves of duckweed covering some areas of the swamp. With the sun reflecting off the leaves and the water, it made a beautiful, surreal, green sheen. The swamp was filled with beautiful, giant cypress trees with their buttressed bases and knees sticking above the water.
We saw hundreds of swallows that lived in the tops of the cypress trees like little island condos in the middle of the swamp. When we would canoe past, they would all take flight at once, making a beautiful sight. Later we saw the swallows dive bombing toward the surface of the water, looking for a dinner of bugs. We saw butterflies flitting around and flirting with us. Our ranger guide found a snake coiled and sunning on a beaver lodge. Thankfully he wasn’t poisonous, but amazingly big, beautiful and scary all at the same time!
Finally we had to come back to land, but were very pleased with our swamp canoe trip. It was very relaxing, enjoyable and beautiful. Unfortunately the boat trips end this weekend for Labor Day. If you plan on going, call ahead to reserve your spot at 901-876-5215. Also later on in the year, you can call and request a boat trip with a group of people. I think Fall would be an awesome time to go, not to mention much cooler! And again, I am pleasantly surprised by our local state park and all they have to offer, right in our backyard! Will definitely be back again soon!