The Chunky River is a relatively short river, formed by the merging of Chunky Creek and Okahatta Creek just west of the town of Chunky, Mississippi. It meanders through parts of Newton County, Lauderdale County and Clarke County before combining with several other smaller creeks to form the beginnings of the Chickasawhay River near Enterprise, Mississippi.
The portion of the river on which I recently paddled was, by the accounts of several more experienced local paddlers, one of the better sections of the river on which to travel.
The put-in was just below the Point Wanita Lake Road Bridge a few miles east of the town of Chunky and the take-out was 6.7 miles downstream just above Stuckey Bridge Road. The Stuckey Bridge is an old river crossing that dates back to before the Civil War. The current bridge has an iron framework with the roadbed made of wooden timbers. One of the local outfitters, Stuckey Bridge Canoe Rentals, has their offices nearby. Most of the area is undeveloped with the exception of a few private residences seen at the very beginning and end of the trip.
While Mississippi has few true mountains, this part of central Mississippi is relatively hilly and the Chunky weaves around the hills as it moves east. Most of the river banks are thickly wooded and steep making for some tricky exits. There are, however, roughly half a dozen sand or gravel bars along some of the wider sections of the river that make for easier exits and good places to stop.
The banks of the river are predominately covered with oaks but there are also birches, beeches, maples and pines as well as the occasional magnolia and cypress. On this trip, the maples were just beginning to bloom and the pink-red blooms stood out against the pale gray tree trunks of the late winter woods.
It is generally recommended to float the Chunky when the water levels are between 3.25 and 4.5 ft on the local USGS gauges. 2.75 ft is considered the bare minimum to float and 5.0+ is considered high. The day of this trip the gauges were reading at 3.5 ft. Our group (6 kayakers and 6 canoers) was happy with this level as it was just high enough to skip over some of the larger rocks and shoals to kick up a little whitewater while still keeping a smooth, steady current in the deeper straights.
While traveling this 6.7 miles stretch, we made a couple of rest stops and 1 stop for lunch and still completed the trip in just under 3 and hours. The local outfitter generally allows around 4 hours to cover this section of the river depending on recent rainfall and river levels.
This was a great day trip and I would highly recommend it to anyone who may be in, or traveling through the area. Although there was nothing challenging from a paddling viewpoint, it was just a nice, easy float with some great scenery not normally viewed from the local highways or interstates.
Stuckey Bridge Canoe Rental
(601) 481-4211 or (601) 527-3595
If you shuttle yourself there are no fees for this particular stretch of river. If you utilize the local outfitter's shuttle service there is a small fee.
Point Wanita Lake Road Bridge Directions (put-in)
Take Exit #121 off of Interstate 20 (between Jackson and Meridian) and go 1 mile south towards the town of Chunky. At US Highway 80, make a left and go 2.2 miles to Point Wanita Lake Road (along the way you will actually criss-cross the Chunky River at two points on Highway 80). Make a right onto Point Wanita Lake Road and proceed 1.3 miles. The access to the put-in is between the railroad tracks and the bridge to the left. Be careful turning in as the trail drops off steeply from the paved road.
Stuckey Bridge Road Directions (take-out)
From the bridge at Point Wanita Lake Road, proceed another 5.6 miles south and take a left onto Stuckey Bridge Road (it may or not be marked). Go 1.7 miles down this road, stopping at the Stuckey Bridge. The access point is just to the left of the bridge. This road starts out paved but the pavement ends just past the Concord Methodist Church and the last mile or so is red clay and gravel.
This is a relatively rural area. There are numerous motels and hotels roughly 20 miles away in nearby Meridian, MS.
There are some state parks with camping facilities within a roughly 30 minute drive. Dunn's Falls Water Park is the nearest camping facility to the Chunky River.
Canoeing Mississippi by Ernest Herndon
Mississippi Atlas and Gazetteer by DeLorme
Mississippi Canoe Club Website