As the third-largest river in the world, the Mississippi River system plays host to several different animal species including 241 species of fish, 50 species of mammals, and 45 species of amphibians. If you are a lover of nature, the Mississippi River provides an excellent opportunity to see plenty of interesting wildlife, many of which travel through Vicksburg. While all of these species can’t be covered in one spot, Visit Vicksburg has put together some of the most well-known species in the area to be on the lookout for.
Probably the most recognized species related to the Mississippi River, if not the entire state, is the catfish. So much so, the mascot for the Mississippi River and Recreation Area is a catfish named Freddie. There are two types of catfish commonly found in the river that have a few distinctions that can help you tell them apart. The two species are:
- Channel Catfish: This species is smaller, reaching around 10 to 20 inches in length. They like to congregate in deeper pools of water, but will move to the shallower riffles to find things to eat. Their unique characteristics include a forked tail and an over-bite.
- Flathead Catfish: These catfish measure larger, growing up to 30 inches long. They also like to move in deep pools of water, specifically ones with dense coverage. As opposed to channel catfish, this species has a square tail and an under-bite.
This fish species is another popular target for fishermen along the Mississippi River. Smallmouth bass are aggressive, using high jumps and strong runs to make reeling one in an adventure. They can usually be found in areas with clear water that have rocky bottoms that they use to help defend their young until they can fight for themselves. These fish can grow to be between 12 and 21 inches, and usually weigh a couple of pounds. You can identify smallmouth bass from their red eyes and dark wavy lines that run horizontally behind their eyes and vertical down the length of their back.
These symbols of America and freedom are exclusively found in North America, and many live near the Mississippi River year-round. Bald eagles are considered “sea eagles” because they are often spotted near bodies of water like rivers or lakes where they search for fish to eat. Near these areas they will set up breeding territories and build nests that can stretch up to six feet across and three feet deep. The population of bald eagles in the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is growing, with a 2015 survey finding 46 nests along a 72-mile stretch of river, so your chances of seeing one are increasing.
Once considered an endangered species in the late 1960s, American Alligators have made a big comeback in the swampy marsh areas surrounding the Mississippi River. It is estimated that there are just over 30,000 alligators in Mississippi, with most centralized in the southern portion of the state. Alligators in Mississippi grow larger than in neighboring states like Louisiana and Florida because there are laws against hunting the species in the state. About 20% of alligators observed in some counties are over ten feet long. Gators are naturally wary of human beings, so if you stay at a proper distance you should be safe.
Whether your hobbies include bird watching or fishing, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature in Vicksburg. The presence of the Mississippi River creates a large ecosystem where many interesting species live and allow for observation. If you would like to experience these species up close, plan your trip with help from Visit Vicksburg today.