St.Catherine Creek offers variety of nature opportunitiesPublished 12:06am Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Bob Strader doesn’t like to brag much, but he will when pressed.
“We have really nice facilities,” said Strader, the project leader at the federal government’s Lower Mississippi River Refuge Complex that includes St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge just south of Natchez. “But no one to guide people around.”
That was the point of last Saturday’s National Trails Day event at the refuge — giving the public a guided showcase for the wealth of public recreational resources at the refuge.
“Two or three times a year we have events to show people what our facilities are,” Strader said. “And to show them what they can do when the come back on their own.”
Saturday’s event included two early morning hikes through the wooded grounds.
One hike was intended for adults to participate in, while another catered to children.
The children’s hike featured a round of Animal Olympics, which consisted of 14 stations with signs describing physical abilities of numerous animals and offering challenges for the participants.
Closer to midday, guests who had signed up beforehand were able to jump in canoes and tour some of the flooded sections of the refuge.
Vidalia resident Carla Smith brought her son, Nicholas, and two of his friends along with her to take part in the children’s hike on Saturday, and said the value of the St. Catherine Creek Refuge cannot be overstated.
“It teaches them about nature,” Smith said. “It teaches them what’s good and what’s not — like poison ivy.”
Smith said the chance to expand their horizons was something she didn’t want to pass up over the weekend.
“I think it’s good for kids to get out and do this kind of thing,” Smith said. “It’s better than staying at home and getting into trouble.”
Plus, Smith said, the entry fee wasn’t too difficult either.
“It’s free to come to,” Smith said. “And we need that around Natchez.”
Fellow parent LaTonya Davis agreed her son and daughter had a ball at the day’s events.
“They’ve enjoyed everything today,” Davis said. “He wanted to see an alligator, and she just wanted to see everything.”
While National Trails Day isn’t observed only in Natchez, it offers parks, preserves and refuges such as St. Catherine Creek the opportunity to remind the public of the importance of such resources.
The work to maintain the grounds doesn’t just occur in the days leading up to a public event such as National Trails Day, however, it’s a constant effort.
Nick Wirwa, who works at the refuge, said the year-round work that takes place at St. Catherine Creek is not only for the benefit of the general public, but also for the animals that depend on these grounds for their very livelihood.
“It’s the excitement of providing habitat and food for them,” Wirwa said.
Himself an avid duck hunter, Wirwa said the grounds offer a great place to observe the beauty of nature.
“We’re working hard during the summer,” Wirwa said. “And in the winter seeing 40,000 ducks feeding on the corn and the rice, that’s my favorite part of this work.”