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The Southaven Destination can be found in the southeastern United States, where the state borders of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee meet. Southaven, the destination’s namesake, is established within the Memphis metropolitan area. A particularly notable fact about the city is that it was the childhood home of a few culturally significant figures such as novelist John Grisham and singer/songwriter Cory Branan. The music and entertainment industry played a prominent role in the economic development of Memphis, Tennessee, the largest city in the destination. Elvis Presley, a widely known musician, also notably began his career in Memphis. Currently, tourists can visit an attraction in Memphis called Elvis Presley’s Graceland, which was the artist’s former home. As Graceland is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the site receives, on average, nearly 600,000 visitors annually. A number of tourists also visit various parts of the Southaven Destination for recreational activities. Fishing is a relatively popular activity that people engage in at Arkabutla Lake, which can be found in the southern portion of the destination. Some of the most common species of fish that inhabit the lake are largemouth and whitebass. It has been said that the “best time of year” to visit Southaven for warm-weather activities, based on previous visitors’ experiences, is from late April to early June or late August to mid-October. Temperatures and weather conditions are reportedly moderate throughout these months.
Located in the southeastern region of the United States, the Southaven Destination is comprised of a portion of three states: Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Given that the Mississippi River serves as Mississippi’s western border, the river courses directly through the destination’s central region from the north to the south. Southaven, the namesake of the destination, is a city situated in DeSoto County, Mississippi. The most recent census in 2020 recorded 55,026 residents in the city; however, a total of 55,782 inhabitants account for the total population of Southaven as of 2022. The population is presently growing at a rate of 1.03%. Notably, Southaven is the third largest city in Mississippi by population. Concerning the racial demographic of residents, the majority are white individuals at 62.17%, with the second most common race being black or African American at 31.86%. The remaining percentage of the racial composition as a whole is constituted by Asian residents (2.14%), those of an “other race” (1.50%), and Native American individuals (0.09%).
Southaven is composed of 41.54 square miles of land. A unique aspect of the city is that many locals and visitors have nicknamed Southaven “the Tip of the Sip” or “the top of Mississippi.” The city’s actual name derives from it being located south of Whitehaven, a neighborhood in Memphis. Memphis, Tennessee—the largest city in the destination by area and population—is positioned along the Mississippi River approximately 14 miles south of the destination’s namesake. Considering Memphis’ geographic location on the Mississippi River intersected by five major freight railroads and two interstate highways, the transportation and shipping industry is a significant aid to the city’s economy. In addition to the transportation system, the entertainment industry has produced several films that utilized Memphis as the setting. Elvis and Me, Great Balls of Fire!, Mystery Train, Heart of Dixie, Walk the Line, and The Grace Card are a few movies that were filmed in Memphis. Moreover, another popular film known as Cast Away was set in Memphis, though the movie itself was filmed in Atlanta, Georgia. In the 1950s and 1960s, Memphis was the city where several musicians including Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Aretha Franklin, to name a few, experienced their earliest stages of developing their music careers.
Memphis is considered by many to be a hub for media and entertainment, namely the musical aspect. The city bears the nickname “Home of the Blues” as Beale Street contains several blues clubs originating the Memphis blues sound. A number of the city’s attractions reflect this musical culture. Considering Elvis Presley's influence on Memphis during his time in the city, one of the most popular attractions in Memphis is Elvis Presley’s Graceland, which pays tribute to the singer. Other draws for tourism include the Stax Museum of American Soul, the National Civil Rights Museum, the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, and the Memphis Zoo, to name a few.
The summer season in Southaven has been described as being “long, hot, and muggy,” while winters have been said to be “short, very cold, wet, and windy.” Summers last roughly from May to September with daily temperatures above 83 degrees Fahrenheit on average. Temperatures drop to around 58 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the cold season which generally lasts from November to February. July tends to be the hottest month of the year in Southaven with an average high of 91 degrees Fahrenheit. As for the coldest month, January, 34 degrees Fahrenheit is typical for the average low, while the average high is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm-weather activities are more accessible from late April through early June and from late August to mid-October, according to those who have previously visited Southaven during the summer.
Chances of Southaven receiving precipitation vary throughout the year. A greater than 30% chance of any given day being a wet day is anticipated during the wettest season from February to August. Due to May having an average of 11.5 days with at least 0.04 inches of precipitation, it is considered to be the month with the highest number of wet days in Southaven. The drier season most commonly occurs from August to February. September is the driest month of the year with an average of about 7.2 days with at least 0.04 inches of precipitation.
With Memphis, Tennessee being located in the heart of the Southaven Destination, several other cities encompass Memphis—the namesake being one of them—making the destination, as a whole, much more urban as opposed to being fairly rural and natural. Despite this, a fair amount of natural land features characterize the Southaven Destination such as Arkabutla Lake, which is surrounded by several public recreational use areas; Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park in southwestern Tennessee; St. Francis National Forest in eastern Arkansas; and the aforementioned Mississippi River that courses from the north to the south in the destination’s central regions. Arkabutla Lake, in particular, tends to receive a considerable number of outdoor enthusiasts, especially those who take interest in fishing. The lake was reportedly ranked as one of the Top Five Crappie Fishing Lakes in America. Comprising approximately 11,000 acres, Arkabutla Lake is home to a relative abundance of largemouth and white bass. Nearly 30,000 acres of hunting grounds are additionally available to the public.
Southaven first began as a village that developed from the efforts of Kemmons Wilson—a Memphis homebuilder and the founder of the Holiday Inn business—who desired to create a few residential subdivisions across the Mississippi border from what was then known as Whitehaven, Tennessee. Whitehaven was unincorporated at the time, and the town occupied land a few miles south of Memphis city. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Whitehaven was officially annexed by Memphis. Southaven was then incorporated in 1980. In a 20-year period, Southaven doubled its land area and tripled its population, making Southaven one of the fastest-growing cities in the southeastern United States. With the intent to allow easier access to the city from those who are coming from Memphis, Jackson, St. Louis, and Chicago, Interstate 55 was constructed through Southaven in the 1970s, ultimately promoting the growth of the city. The Memphis International Airport, located about two miles north of the city limits, has caused an increase in air traffic over Southaven as well.
After having experienced several unfortunate events such as a yellow fever epidemic in the 1870s, which killed over 5,000 residents, followed by bankruptcy, the city of Memphis did not economically develop until after World War II. In the 1960s, the civil rights movement had a significant effect on the city. To support sanitation workers that were on strike, Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights leader, visited Memphis. During his visit, on April 4th, 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was killed on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel by a sniper. Since then, King’s room has been preserved, and in 1991, the site became a National Civil Rights Museum.