Welcome to Chautauqua…
Chautauqua Park is a 74 acre site with wooded rolling hills, flowing springs, and a 35 acres lake where one can discover the beautiful elements of nature. Visitors may explore trails that wind through the park through areas representative of wetland and dry upland environments, with bridges, gazebos, and stops where one can pause to enjoy nature and have a picnic. Walk the Tree Top Trail is a 1,500 foot long handicapped accessible, elevated wooden boardwalk offering a squirrel’s-eye view of life in the woods. The Chautauqua Park Disc Golf Course is one of the favorite courses of its kind in Mississippi.
Historic Chautauqua Park…
The word “Chautauqua” (cha-ta-qwa) draws its meaning from a precolonial Iroquois Indian term that referred to a legend about a small boy leading a blind man with a rope. Chautauqua Park began its life in 1872 as the Hennington Campground, a religious retreat founded by the Brookhaven District of the United Methodist Church. In 1892 a Chautauqua Assembly was incorporated and the grounds were renamed. The assembly remained active until 1917 and during the years noteworthy scholars, evangelists, and actors of the period came to Crystal Springs.
In 1909 delegates from five cities convened at the site of the present amphitheater to form the first Mississippi Conference of Parents and Teachers Association (PTA).
Lake Chautauqua was constructed by the Illinois Central Railroad as a reservoir to supply water to steam locomotives that stopped in Crystal Springs, which at that time was one of the most prosperous agricultural areas in the United States. This site was chosen in part because Crystal Springs is the highest point of elevation between Memphis, Tennessee, and New Orleans, Louisiana. Many vegetables were shipped all over the United States from Crystal Springs, which became known as the Tomatopolis, or Tomato Capital of the World. One of the earlier pumps used to supply water to the trains is protected by a Pumphouse built by students from Mississippi Job Corps Center.
The Field Guide sold at the Visitors Center and Caretaker Residence, includes much useful information about the flora and fauna found along Chautauqua Park’s three miles of walking trails. School groups, church groups, and organizations are encouraged to visit the park.
Take a Walk With Us…
The stone fence and structures in Chautauqua Park were constructed in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s by a Works Progress Administration (WPA) team. A new spillway was also constructed to raise the level of the lake. An AmeriCorps team (grandchild of the WPA) constructed the outdoor classroom in 1997. Recent construction, like the Rainbow Bridge, mimics the stonework style of the past.
The Visitors Center may be rented by businesses and nonprofit groups as meeting space for up to 100. For more information regarding the rental procedure, call the Crystal Springs City Hall at 601-892-1210.
Enjoy one of the several picnic spots located on the grounds. And take a moment to visit with the many ducks and geese that live on Lake Chautauqua. (But watch out – one of the geese has been known to chase people off the Rainbow Bridge!)
The playground offers swings, slides, and climbing structures for children. Structural amenities throughout the park include an amphitheater, gazebos, and pavilions, a swinging bridge, a multi-level deck, and an outdoor classroom.