The Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge is part of the Gulf Coast Refuge Complex, which includes Grand Bay NWR and Bon Secour NWR. The refuge was established in 1975 under authority of the Endangered Species Act to protect the critically endangered Mississippi sandhill cranes and their unique, and itself endangered, wet pine savanna habitat. The crane population, at that time only 30-35 birds, is currently at approximately 110 birds. Through captive rearing and reintroduction to the area as well as wild birds nesting in the savannas, the crane population continues to grow. The refuge also protects and restores the last large expanses of wet pine savanna, primarily through the use of prescribed fire. The wet pine savanna is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the U.S. with more than 30 plants found in a square meter of land.
Much of the natural land that the trail winds through is being restored. The website was great about setting expectations related to the work they are doing. The views were still pretty and the hike overall was pleasant. Since there are not many other trails in the area, I recommend the trek if you need a quick nature fix.
I live nearby and hike this trail often with my family. I've yet to map it or time it with the GPS, but it's a good trail for a short outing with lots of interest for it's relatively small size. I will add these at a later date. The trail is very well maintained and each year since we've discovered it the Fish & Wildlife Service has expanded and improved it. This year they have added several markers which describe the terrain, plant & wildlife. The trail also features two observation decks overlooking Davis bayou and also has a few rest benches scattered throughout the trail. This time of year is an especially good time to visit the trail as well due to the native Honeysuckle Azalea blooming. Also be sure to look for the Southeastern Five-lined Skink that makes his home in the hole of an oak along the trail. You'll have to sneak up on him though as he's pretty shy. If you're really lucky then you will get a chance to view some of the endangered Sandhill Cranes. You won't be able to miss them if they are out there, they are quite large.
This trail is considered a loop trail, but also has what I'd call a tail. The tail is where you will find the azaleas and is a bit more rugged than the loop, but still quite manageable. There are a couple of points where you will have to navigate over brooks that feed down to the bayou, but they are easy to cross. The tail ends when you see the 12' wide fire lane that is cut through the forest. I would not recommend following the fire lane, while it does have an abundance of picture plants, these can also be seen on the back side of the loop and the fire lane often flooded.