About the Refuge
Hillside NWR was established in 1975 via the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act for the conservation, maintenance and management of the wildlife resource and habitat. The majority of land comprising the refuge was transferred from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after the completion of the Hillside Floodway/Yazoo Basin Headwater Project.
Hillside National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 15,572 acres on the eastern edge of the lower Delta between the loess bluffs and the USACOE levee on the west. The elevation rises from less than 100 feet MSL on the south end to about 135 feet MSL on the north, where Black Creek forms an alluvial fan as it enters the Delta from the hills. The eastern boundary includes a small portion of the loess bluffs where within the refuge’s boundary, the elevation rises abruptly to 300 feet MSL.
Refuge lands were initially purchased by the COE for its Hillside Floodway, “Yazoo Basin Headwater Project” and transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1975. The COE project transformed most of the land into a silt collection sump via a cutoff levee containing the altered channels of the Black and Fannegusha Creeks. The COE project was designed to allow silt to settle out of the water before reaching the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers, to prevent costly dredging projects. Upon project completion, the land was transferred to the Service for management. The COE retains the right to manipulate water and any ditches it deems necessary. Prior to the COE project the dominant habitat type was bottomland hardwoods. Today willow and cottonwood trees grow in areas affected by the accumulated silt.
The “Mississippi Delta” (Delta) is an alluvial plain created by meanderings of the Mississippi River. The Delta extends from Memphis, Tennessee to Vicksburg, Mississippi, and is 75 miles wide at the widest point, tapering on each end. The Mississippi River flows along the Delta’s western edge, while the eastern edge is bordered by steep bluffs that rise 300 feet above the elevation of the Delta. The Delta is composed of alluvial soils deposited primarily by the Mississippi River, with surface features resulting from the meandering of the Mississippi River and lesser streams such as the Yazoo River. The Delta has a slight downward slope to the east as a result of natural levee formation. This slope causes most of the drainage to be away from the Mississippi River, eventually flowing into the Yazoo River before joining the Mississippi River at the lower extremity of the Delta. Old channels, oxbow lakes, brakes, sloughs, and other features developed in areas that bordered the main river channels, while low-lying slackwater areas separated from currents and the channel resulted in broad flats. These features intermixed as the Mississippi River meandered across the Delta.