You may feel like re-checking the entrance sign when you pull into Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge - only 3,000 of the more than 48,000 acres in the refuge are designated as a sanctuary. In fact, one of the big activities here is hunting so pack some day-glow orange for your dog if you arrive during shooting season in November and December when tens of thousands of waterfowl invade the reservoirs, lakes, impoundments and wetlands of the refuge. If you and your dog aren’t birdwatchers plan your visit for a different time.
The refuge is saturated with gravelly roads and seven hiking trails, most of comfortable duration. The Bluff Lake Boardwalk thrusts across a cypress island to the water’s edge and a large cattle egret rookery. The Morgan Hill Overlook Trail serves up a demonstration prairie environment and panoramic vistas. The star canine hike at Noxubee is the four-mile round trip through bottomland hardwoods on the Trail of Big Trees. The destination is a sobering visit to a former National Champion Shumard oak tree recently felled by the wind. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita felled many trees in this wilderness area - no management within the past 80 years - so check on trail clearance before you set off.
Oh, in addition to being free, with a variety of interesting, uncrowded trails, your well-behaved dog can trot off-leash under voice control. Who says the federal government can’t be welcoming to dogs?
South of Starkville, take Route 25 and turn left, heading east, on Bluff Lake Road, opposite of Tombigbee National Forest. The refuge headquarters is at 2970 Bluff Lake Road.