Columbus Lakes and Waterways Provide Scenic Getaways
PHOTO CREDIT: Wes Aldridge
The great outdoors is never far away from historic downtown Columbus – a 10-minute ride north, south, east or west. The Tombigbee River, which flows just to the west of the city, drains into a vast watershed stretching from Mississippi to Alabama, creating a string of lakes and ponds that surround the city and serve as prime destinations for anglers or idlers. Columbus Lake is located just two miles to the northwest of the city. The large Lake Lowndes is five miles to the southwest.The smaller Alligator, Bowlin, and Norris lakes are also nearby. Columbus itself is on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway – the so-called “Tenn-Tom”– a 234-mile stretch of water that offers some of the best sport fishing in the world. Lake Lowndes covers 175 acres and is surrounded by 600 acres of trails and picnic areas in Lake Lowndes Park. The vast Mississippi forest surrounding the lake contains red maple, river birch, ironwood, mayhaw, sweetgum, Tupelo gum and southern Magnolia trees. But the big attraction at Lake Lowndes is the recreational activities. “I have been here for about six years and when I first started working here, people didn’t really know a lot about it,” says Julie Davis, a park administrator. “They do now,” she adds. “We have softball fields, tennis courts, natural trails, biking trails, horse trails and – of course – we also have the lake, which runs up and down ravines. It’s just gorgeous,” Davis says. There is also a campground, and ReserveAmerica, the camping Web site, has cited it as one of America’s Top 100 campgrounds. The camp has 50 sites, some with electricity and other amenities and others classified as primitive. Lake Lowndes boasts an 18-hole disc golf course, picnic facilities, a soccer field, six tennis courts, volleyball, water and jet skiing, baseball and softball fields, boating docks and ramps, and miles of hiking trails. There is also plenty of fishing. Lake Lowndes is a favored angler lake – man-made, but rarely stocked. Davis says, “You can bring your own boat, or you can bring your jet skis on weekends and holidays. Fishing, though, is during the week.” What to expect on the end of your line? Bass, crappie, catfish and brim. Lake Lowndes is also host to some of Columbus’ premier events. On St. Patrick’s Day, runners compete in a 5k race through the park. A popular Catfish Round-Up draws fans of fishing and food each May. At the park’s indoor venue, a Holiday Arts and Crafts Show draws shoppers from October to December. But most people head to the lake during the summertime, when ducks greet visitors at the shore and downtown workers escape for a picnic lunch. Boaters traveling the 234-mile stretch of the Tenn-Tom Waterway stop at the Columbus Marina. The state-of-the-art facility has been awarded a Clean Marina designation and hosts dockers overnight or for a season.