Skip navigation

Lake Thoreau Environmental Center


Page Content

Lake Thoreau IconsThe Lake Thoreau Environmental Center is a vital part of the function of the University of Southern Mississippi.  It is ideally located just a few miles west of campus and is connected to campus by the Longleaf Trace.  The property is rich in history, culture and philanthropy. 




The Mission of the Lake Thoreau Environmental Center is dual-purposed.  First, we strive to provide an environment that inspires people of all ages to explore their connections with the natural world.  Second, we provide a model for protection and stewardship of longleaf pine forests.




  • The Lake Thoreau Environmental Center will become the premier site for environmental education activities in south Mississippi.
  • The Center will continue to support and enhance environmental research opportunities.
  • The Center will continue to serve as a “living museum” to demonstrate conservation and stewardship of longleaf pine forests.


Lake Thoreau Environmental Center Logo



Guiding Principles


The guiding principles for the development of the Lake Thoreau Environmental Center are education, research, recreation, and conservation.  These guiding principles are intended to direct the development of programs and the allocation of physical spaces as they relate to the Center’s role and impact. 


Students investigating moss at Lake Thoreau



The Lake Thoreau Environmental Center’s primary educational goal will be to generate hands-on experiences that create interest in life sciences, prepare individuals for careers in life sciences, and provide indoor and outdoor learning spaces for all ages and abilities.  The Center’s secondary educational goal will be to provide interactive and interpretive elements to portray the natural and developmental history of South Mississippi.Fish Collection in Natural History Collections Building





The Lake Thoreau Environmental Center currently provides and will continue to provide and expandTuffburg mountain bike race research opportunities in support of students and faculty at the University of Southern Mississippi.  Current research studies involve stream mesocosms, longleaf pine management systems, climate and hydrology monitoring, and avian behavior. 






The Lake Thoreau Environmental Center will provides several public recreation opportunities including hiking, running, cycling, fishing, boating, birding, interpretive trails and wildlife viewing.  This directly supports the university’s Community Connection and Healthy Minds, Bodies, and Campuses priorities.


 Prescribed Fire at Lake Thoreau



Mature longleaf pine forests are increasingly rare especially within wildland-urban interfaces.  Our oldest longleaf pine stands are approaching 100 years old and have been aggressively managed with prescribed fire to return them to their natural state.  These stands provide a “living museum” to show visitors what most south Mississippi forests looked like before European settlement.  Biodiversity surveys show that we currently have >350 vascular plants species, and 44 species of reptiles and amphibians.  105 species of resident and migratory birds have been documented at the Center.  Conservation efforts will focus on monitoring and improving the habitats through research efforts, prescribed fire, removal of invasive species and planting of native species.

Contact Us

Lake Thoreau Environmental Center
150 Lake Thoreau Road

Open 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Saturdays and Sundays

Campus Map