By Teresa Holloway

Messenger Special Reporter

JACKSONVILLE – More than 4,100 acres of East Texas Piney Woods terrain awaits ATV riders of all ages at the annual Mud-National off-road riding and racing celebration.

The Mud-National races in Jacksonville are the largest ATV event in the world, hosting hundreds of thousands of guests each year on the miles of trails criss-crossing the terrain.

The varied landscape offers every riding environment, from knee deep muddy water and gumbo bottoms to high and dry hilltops and everything in between. Muddy Creek traverses many of the trails, offering bridges and unique riding challenges to off-road fans.

From amateurs to professionals known worldwide, racers attend the event to roar over steep hills and through muddy bottoms.

The iconic East Texas past-time of four-wheeling over rough terrain holds a crowd-drawing appeal.

The competition drives some, the adventure drives others and many are just in it for the sheer enjoyment of off-road driving.

Tim McCollum and his co-worker, Dwayne Beach, leave the metropolis of Ft. Worth to attend the event as often as possible. Both work for American Airlines in the busy city and relish the vacation every year.

“I come every year,” McCollum said. “I’ve been here for about eight years. The roughest year was 2015 when it rained so  much beforehand. It took about five hours to go one-half mile,” he said, pointing out one particularly difficult trail.

The challenge motivates. “It’s enjoyable. When I first started coming, it was mainly four-wheelers but now there are a lot of side-by-sides,” McCullom said. “It’s just craziness, having fun. You get out there, you get muddy … it’s just fun.”

McCollum described several of the more popular features. “There is the sand pit, a big water tank for deep riding, there’s a hidden pond, there’s Muddy Creek. There’s another creek where we can actually drive down the creek itself. It has a nice, sandy bottom.”

Jansin McCoy is a world-known ATV racer. “I race special motorcross, I travel around the world racing but this is my first time doing something like this. It’s new to us, but it’s the biggest event I’ve been to like this,” he said.

Daniel Lacey is spending his eighth year with the event. “It’s all about the sport and the fun,” he said.

Even racers from as far away as Canada make the long trek to Jacksonville for the race. April Sheppard is one of those professional racers.

“This is my third year here, my second year of racing and this is my fourth race. I’m doing okay. I’m doing Pro-A racing this year because they don’t have a female category here yet. Bill Ford, my husband races as well. He does Pro-A, Pro-B, RUV, Open, Light, Super-Mod … we come down here to race,” she said.

“The weather, the heat, the partying bring us back every year. Ideally, we come here to race but we are from Canada, it’s cold, so it’s nice to be here in the heat,” she laughed.

After a day of hard mud riding, most guests relax with evening concerts and fresh food. Trade shows abound, offering equipment trials and the latest off-road technology to the fans of all-terrain vehicles.

Mud Creek Off-Road Park is located at 3971 County Road 4209 in Jacksonville and can be contacted via website at mudcreekoffroadpark.com.

The sprawling facility hosts several events each year, and offers both for RV and primitive camp sites. The amenities include showers and concessions and various vendors during the events.

Special thanks to Tim and Dwayne for the excellent ride and guide through the park!