Sky Lake WMA, Mississippi Don Bragg

TOPIC: Sky Lake WMA, Mississippi

== 1 of 4 ==
Date: Sun, Dec 2 2007 1:05 pm
From:  Don Bragg,  Photos by Beth Koebel


That'll teach me to get away from my computer for a few days--200+ unread ENTS emails!!

How about a trip report on some cypress to at least temporarily get Bob off of his equation kick??

On Saturday, December 1, Gary Smith and Beth Koebel met me in Belzoni, Mississippi, which is on the Mississippi River floodplain about a half-hour south of Indianola (hometown of blues great B.B. King).? Sky Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA) was our destination, and with pleasant temperatures and under a blue sky, we made our way out to the site.

 40' CBH Bald Cypress, photo by Beth Koebel

 46' CBH Bald Cypress, photo by Beth Koebel

Sky Lake is an oxbow lake left behind by an ancestral channel of the Ohio River, believe it or not--it is thought that the Ohio once flowed parallel to the Mississippi for a long ways before they joined.? Some thousands of years ago, the Ohio abandoned this channel, and the old oxbows and sloughs decreased greatly in their volume of flow, producing slow, stagnant waterways perfect for growing baldcypress, tupelo gum, and a number of other tree species.? The Sky Lake WMA is in one part of this old oxbow that long since silted in and was once covered by a thick forest of ancient cypress and tupelo.? Probably in the early 20th century, this stand was cut of the better timber, with some old remnant trees left as culls.

 5' 6" high cypress knee, photo by Beth Koebel

 Burnt out Bald Cypress stump, photo by Beth Koebel

It was these massive cypress culls that we traveled to see--and we were not disappointed!? You may recall that Gary and I traveled here last August, only to be driven back by water, mosquitoes, and our lack of knowledge of the area.? By this trip, the water dropped even further, the mosquitoes were mostly gone, and we knew a little more of where to look.? We had no problem finding the biggest of the cypress--using the directions of the former landowner, we walked right to the following trees:

CBH (ft) SineHT (ft) Comments:
baldcypress 40.5 93.5 97.5 ft to top of dead spire
baldcypress 46.3 81.0 current MS state champion
baldcypress 29.5 99.0 had a large burly-like branch stub

 Sky Lake Wildlife Management Area, MS, Dec. 01, 2007, photo by Beth Koebel

 Good sized water elm, photo by Beth Koebel

Yes, Bob, you read that correctly--two trees 40+ ft in circumference!!? The are a number of others in this immediate area that go 25+ ft, and there are probably scores of cypress 15+ ft in CBH in the Sky Lake area (including parts outside of the WMA).? Dendrochronologist guru and fellow ENT Dr. David Stahle has been out to this area, and can attest to the likely great ages of these trees.? It will be hard to date most (if not all) of them due to their hollowness, but just from looking at them, they are obviously old.

 Knarly knob on a Bald Cypress, photo by Beth Koebel

 Sky lake wma, mississippi--looking out the top of the mississippi champ cypress, photo by Beth Koebel

But not obviously tall--they have been battered over the centuries by storms, tending to keep their heights low.? Most of the other species in the swamp were not particularly large, although the 2nd growth cypress and tupelo looked to be in good shape.? We only measured a couple of the tupelos, who's girth paled in comparison...

CBH (ft) SineHT (ft) Comments:
tupelo gum 10.3 77.5 2nd growth
tupelo gum 17.2 84.0 cull old-growth stem?

We also measured a stout planertree (Planera aquatica) that was dwarfed by the cypress and tupelo, but was large for its type in this swamp, coming in with a CBH of 6.6 ft and 37.5 ft tall.

 Old stump in the sunlight, photo by Beth Koebel

 Rotting bald cypress log, photo by Beth Koebel

All in all, we had a very good day, and are thinking of returning at some point down the road to investigate some of the other ancient cypress of the Sky Lake area, assuming we get permission from the landowners.? For those interested in the Sky Lake WMA, you can find some more information online at:?


Don C. Bragg, Ph.D.
Research Forester
USDA Forest Service
Southern Research Station


== 2 of 4 ==
Date: Sun, Dec 2 2007 1:17 pm
From: dbhguru


I'm speechless. I never imagined we had a tree left in the East over 45 feet in circumference. When I read the 46.3 feet in girth, I immediately pottied in my pants! That is truly wild. Way to go team! Way to go!


== 3 of 4 ==
Date: Sun, Dec 2 2007 4:01 pm
From: Gary Smith

I really enjoyed walking around part of Sky Lake yesterday with Beth
and Don.

Sky Lake really intriques me and I think we all would like to get a
closer look at some of those big cypress we viewed from afar at the
other end of the old river bed.

The total acreage of the WMA is going to expand from 773 acres to
approximately 4,000 acres. There are also plans for a boardwalk at Sky
Lake, so that part of the WMA can still be viewed in times of high

Gary S

== 4 of 4 ==
Date: Sun, Dec 2 2007 5:05 pm
From: Beth Koebel


I also enjoyed walking around with Gary and Don. When
I saw the cypress I knew the 7-8 hour, 435 mile, drive
was worth it. It's hard for to imagine how big these
trees can get and they get bigger than the ones we
saw, 53' for the national champ.

We also saw willow oak (Q. phellos)which according to
the two of them grows all over the place but in
Illinois it is only found in 5 counties and has the
classification of threatened. Palmentos was another
plant that was spotted by Gary.


We had no problem finding the biggest of the
cypress--using the directions of the former landowner,
we walked right to the following trees:

CBH (ft) SineHT (ft) Comments:

baldcypress 40.5 93.5 97.5 ft to top of dead spire
baldcypress 46.3 81.0 current MS state champion
baldcypress 29.5 99.0 had a large burly-like branch stub

TOPIC: Sky Lake WMA, Mississippi

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Sun, Dec 2 2007 6:34 pm

Did the cypress bases pose any circumference measuring problems?

TOPIC: Sky Lake WMA, Mississippi

== 1 of 2 ==
Date: Mon, Dec 3 2007 9:38 am
From: Beth Koebel


No it didn't except for me tripping over one of the
knees and falling.


TOPIC: Cypress Trees

== 1 of 9 ==
Date: Sun, Dec 9 2007 2:02 am
From: Gary Smith

James and ENTS,

I believe the famous cypress in the Three Sisters area of the Black
River in N.C. are the oldest documented ones, but they are not among
the largest. I believe this may have something to do with the river
being a black water river, which typically has less nutrients than a
brown water river like the Congaree. Some of those cypress at the
Black go 1500+ years!

The Congaree does have some nice sized trees, but I don't think there
is anything there that gets close to 40'+ cbh. Watch out for the feral
hogs there.

Do be sure to check out the boardwalk at the Beidler Forest, aka Four
Holes Swamp, near Harleysville, S.C, not too far down the interstate
from Congaree. There are some nice-sized trees there, some going 1000
years of age. It is connected with the Audubon Society and is a pretty
special place.


Nice pictures. Sorry I cluttered up a couple of them. I don't see the
photo Don posted on another thread, but maybe it is slow to load or
something. On my screen I don't see anything to click, but I'm a moron
on a computer.

Gary S

TOPIC: germination of cypress seeds

== 1 of 2 ==
Date: Mon, Apr 28 2008 9:49 am
From: Gary Smith


Back in December, when Beth, Don, and me met up at Sky Lake WMA in
West Central Mississippi, I collected some cypress seeds from some of
the larger cypress trees there.

As I've done in the past, I soaked the seeds in a small container of
water in a corner of my fridge from December to April. This is a well
known way of breaking the dormancy of cypress seeds. Anyway, I brought
them out 9 days ago and sowed them in some deep pots that I have in my
backyard....checked them again this a.m. and voila, a new future grove
of cypress trees have made their first appearance!

I put some net wire over the top of the pots to protect the little
sprouts from the birds, will grow the little cypress trees in the
containers the first year, and will transplant them to their permanent
home next winter. Makes me feel good to see a species of little trees
pop up that have the genetic capacity to grow hundreds of years.....of
course that is an extremely remote possibility of actually happening,
but I'm sure going to give them the chance.