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Pearl River Topography

The Pearl River rises in the historic area of the Nanih Waiya Indian Mounds of Winston County where it is formed by the confluence of Nanawaya and Tallahaga Creeks.  It flows southwesterly through Neshoba, Leake, Scott, Rankin and Hinds Counties, bringing with it the vast potential of an abundant water supply.  Continuing through Mississippi’s capital city of Jackson, the Pearl flows through Copiah, Simpson, Lawrence, Marion, Pearl River and Hancock Counties before it empties into the Gulf of Mexico through Lake Borgne and the Mississippi sound.

The basin of the Pearl River contains seven million acres and drains an area of 8,760 square miles, draining all or parts of 23 counties in Mississippi and 3 parishes in Louisiana.  It is the third largest drainage basin in the state, meandering approximately 421 miles through the central portion of Mississippi and a small part of southeastern Louisiana. Over two trillion gallons of water pass along her banks each year.

The Yockanookany River and Lobutcha Creek are the principal headwater tributaries.  The Strong River in the middle reach and Bogue Chitto River in the lower reach are the only other large tributaries.  Oxbow cutoff lakes occur occasionally in the bottoms of the upper and lower Pearl.

The Pearl is a winding, slow moving river.  The further south you travel, the wider it becomes.  In almost every bend you find a large sand bar.  Sycamore and willow trees line the banks along with stands of mixed hardwood, loblolly and shortleaf pine, oak, hickory and gum.  From spring through mid-fall, hundreds of species of wild flowers display their seasonal colors throughout the wooded areas.  Deer, beaver, rabbits, squirrel, opossum, racoon and fox can be seen along the banks by the river traveler.  The river contains an abundance of small and large mouth bass, catfish, gar, bream and crappie.

Long cherished by local residents for its scenic quality and unblemished beauty, the Pearl River provides the opportunity to travel outdoors, fish, float, and observe the terrain, foliage and wildlife.

Pearl River History

Between Nanih Waiya and the Gulf, the Pearl River Basin contains a wealth of historical and legendary tradition.  Traces of civilizations dating back to 400 B. C. have been found in the southern part of the river near Mulatto Bayou.  While the lower Pearl River abounds with romantic tales of river boat pirates and bad men, legend proclaims the great spirit told the Choctaw Indians to make their home along the banks of the upper portion of what they called “Rock River”.

European civilization came to this region in the 1600's with the Spanish and French explorers.  The French explorer d’Iberville renamed the river Pearl after he and his men discovered pearls at the mouth of the river in 1698.  The French recognized the Pearl as a potentially important transportation route for settlers and in 1732 had the river explored and mapped.  This helped open the entire basin to European settlers. The original survey is still preserved today in the French Archives in Paris.

One of the settlers was a French Canadian named Louis LeFleur who came to the Pearl River in 1792.  LeFleur established a trading post in an area that would later become Mississippi’s capital city, Jackson.

The river continued to attract settlers and in 1816 a group of territorial leaders met to draft a petition to allow Mississippi to join the Union.  The site of the meeting called the Pearl River Convention, was the John Ford Home, located south of Columbia near Sandy Hook.  This pioneer home remains in its historical setting and has gained its rightful place in Mississippi history.

Mississippi was awarded statehood in 1817 and a search for a state capital ensued.  LeFleur’s Trading Post was the most attractive site because of its central location, nearness to the Natchez Trace, and the availability of a navigable stream - the Pearl River.

Before the river became a highway of commerce and transportation, it was a route into the wilderness.  It opened the way for settlers to move in and to cultivate the fertile bottom lands.  With the onset of agricultural and commercial development, the Pearl served as a water highway to transport tremendous harvests of virgin pine and hardwood timber.  Steamboats were common sights as far up river as Edinburg, bringing supplies to the settlers and returning with marketable cargo.

Steamboats and keelboats were limited to seasonal travel because of low water levels during the summer months.  The river was also narrow and crooked and contained innumerable snags and tree trunks.  These conditions and the development of railroads eventually brought an end to the steamboat era.

Today the river is once again the scene of much activity.  In 1964, the Pearl River Basin Development District was created by the Mississippi State Legislature as a special fund agency that would oversee the balanced growth of the water resource potentials of the river.

The district spans all the way from Neshoba County in the north to Hancock County in the south. The Pearl River Basin Development District promotes the economic growth and environmental wellness of the Pearl River Basin through the areas of flood control, pollution abatement, water supply, soil conservation, and recreation.


2304 Riverside Dr., Box 5332
Jackson, MS 39296-5332
Phone: 601-354-6301
Fax: 601-354-6353
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