Floodwaters continue to rise in the Delta and threaten more hunting areas including some of the most popular public hunting lands in the state, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks said Monday.

The impacted area will include Mahannah and Twin Oaks Wildlife Management Areas near Rolling Fork, Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and Delta National Forest, which includes the Sunflower Wildlife Management Area, plus surrounding private lands within the designated area. Only duck hunting will be allowed during this closed time.

Those areas will close once the gauge at the Steele Bayou Control Structure hits 90 feet, which is expected this week, AND when the Mississippi River exceeds 43 feet (flood state) at Vicksburg.

According to Chad Dacus, chief of the MDWFP’s wildlife division, these closures were due to flooding related to Steele Bayou. Monday’s level at the Steele Bayou Control Structure was 89.18 feet above sea level. The flood stage is 90 feet. Dacus said meteorologists reported that there is already enough water on the ground for the Bayou to exceed 90 feet.

Under the announcement made Monday by the MDWFP:

“Zone 4. B: Sharkey, Humphreys, Yazoo, Issaquena, Warren counties – lands which lie south of Mississippi Highway 14, west of U.S. Highway 149, south of Mississippi Highway 16 /U.S. Highway 149, west of Mississippi Highway 3, and east of U.S. Highway 61 when the Mississippi River level reaches forty-three 43 feet on the Vicksburg gauge AND the Steel Bayou Landside gauge reaches ninety 90 feet and shall remain so until the Mississippi River level falls to or below 41 feet on the Vicksburg gauge AND the Steel Bayou Landside gauge falls to or below 88 feet.

“The area described above will be closed to all open seasons for hunting, excluding waterfowl. In addition, this area has been designated a no-wake zone. The MDWFP is increasing its law enforcement presence in the affected areas to promote public safety for residents affected by the rising waters and to enforce laws that protect game animals affected by flooding. The MDWFP will continue to monitor the situation as it develops to determine whether or not the areas affected by high waters need to be expanded.”  

Due to earlier closures, all lands between the Mississippi River and the main levee have been closed from the Tennessee border to the mouth of the Big Black River south of Vicksburg. They will reopen when the nearest river gauge falls two feet below flood stage.

The river is forecast to crest at Vicksburg on Jan. 15 at 50.5 feet, 3.5 feet lower than earlier forecasts.