THE DELTA 301 T he Mississippi Delta crescent is a vast alluvial floodplain in northwest Mississippi. The location of what Mississippians call the Delta is not the Mississippi River’s actual delta; that lies in Louisiana at the river’s mouth below New Orleans. Nor does our Delta bear the shape of a deltoid. Instead, the region’s shape resembles more of a diamond or a football. In his landmark memoir, Lanterns on the Levee, Greenville native William Alexander Percy called this land “the river country.” Percy noted that it “lies flat, like a badly drawn half oval, with Memphis at its northern and Vicksburg at its southern tip.” The landscape, history, and culture of the Delta are inextricably linked to the Mississippi River, which serves as the region’s western border. To the east, a series of bluffs follows the general path of the Yazoo River and stands as the eastern boundary of the Delta. The Coldwater, Tallahatchie, Deer Creek, and Sunflower rivers run through the Delta and serve as important tributaries of the Mississippi and the Yazoo. For thousands of years, the melting runoff from northern snow and ice propelled powerful waters down the Mississippi River. The constant flooding and deposits of sediment emerging from those swelling waters created what Percy called an “ancient depression.” Another Greenville writer, David Cohn, called this alluvial plain the “loins of the river. It had sprung from the body of the Mississippi in a gestation eons long.” The flooding of the Mississippi and its tributaries gave the Delta its most valuable natural resource, a “pure soil” that Cohn described as “endlessly deep, dark, and sweet.” SKY LAKE Sky Lake, a lake formed by what was once an oxbow bend of the Mississippi River, is located near Belzoni. The lake is now a nature preserve and the site of an archeological dig, with two Native American mounds nearby and more than 1,000 feet of raised board walk. Sky Lake is home to some of the oldest cypress and tupelo trees in Mississippi, as well as numerous species of water birds and other wildlife.