Natural Features & Ecosystems
Natural features and ecosystems — in the plural! Vicksburg NMP is more naturally and ecologically diverse than initially meets the eye. For instance, did you ever think to yourself, "Let's go to the beach. Let's visit a Civil War park!" At certain times of the year, and depending on the river level, this is actually possible at Vicksburg. The portion of the park that extends into the Yazoo River floodplain becomes shoreline when the bottomland hardwood forest growing there is not being flooded. More often than not, though, this twenty acre forest is at least partially inundated by river water, making it one of the park's most important wetlands. There are various other water-related resources in the park as well, ranging from freshwater springs to meandering streams, artificially created ponds, and a groundwater table underlying it all. In fact, the park is part and parcel of a much larger watershed that drains the adjoining landscape and feeds the Mississippi River.
That's all well and good, but would you believe Vicksburg has anything to do with glaciers? It certainly does! The loess soils in the park are the windblown deposits of rocks that were pulverized by advancing glaciers during the last ice age. Being that this happened long, long ago, it stands to reason that the solid rock layers underlying the loess soil are older still. This is demonstrated by the fact that fossils of long extinct animals can be found in the usually inaccessible limestone, a type of rock derived from ancient sealife. Limestone is interesting unto itself, in that it is the type of rock in which caves usually form, what scientists call karst geology.
Water, rocks; what else could the park hold? Plants, of course! What is most noticeable to the eye as one travels through the park is the overwhelming amount of greenery. The forests of Vicksburg are thick and dense but rarely monotonous, as they are broken into patches by fields of grass. The grasslands are both meadows of tall grasses and shrubs, and manicured areas maintained to highlight the monuments that dot the park's landscape. All in all, Vicksburg NMP is an amalgamation of several different natural features and ecosystems that blend into one another and help comprise the historical landscape of the famous 1863 siege.
Did You Know?
Thomas O. Selfridge, captain of the USS Cairo, commanded three boats which sank during the war. Each began with the letter "C"-Cumberland, Cairo, and Conestoga. The coincidence was noted after the Conestoga sank, and Selfridge was assigned to the USS Osage, which survived to the end of the war.