GULF ISLANDS NATIONAL SEASHORE
GULF ISLANDS NATIONAL SEASHORE
1801 Gulf Breeze Parkway
Gulf Breeze, Mississippi 32563
Marine Grass Bed Ecosystem:
The marine grass bed ecosystem grows throughout the protected seashore waters, where sandy bottoms, shell fragments and calm waters provide the proper habitat. The sea grasses occur in isolated patches usually less than several hundred acres in size. In the turbid Mississippi Sound waters, the sea grasses are rarely found in water deeper than 6 feet. These communities provide food for the marine ecosystem. In addition, they provide cover for many young fish. Although the grass beds make up only a small percentage of the total submerged lands around the Seashore islands, the fauna observed in association with them, especially the invertebrates, appears far greater than the more extensive sandy areas.
The sea grass community is very fragile and easily disturbed by human activity, such as propeller scarring and turbidity increases caused by dredging.
Storm activity, especially hurricanes, can also lead to extensive grass bed destruction. Prior to 1969, an estimated 20,000 acres of grass beds existed in the Mississippi Sound; however, much of this acreage was destroyed by hurricane Camille and the grass beds have not yet completely reestablished.
Before the passage of Camille through Mississippi Sound, three sea grass species were dominant along the Mississippi offshore islands. These species were shoal grass, manatee grass, and turtle grass. Large expanses (up to several hundred acres in size) of these sea grasses grew in conjunction with red, brown, and green algae. Due to extensive shifting sands and increased water turbulence, large expanses of sea grasses were lost during hurricane Camille, particularly around Ship Island. The grass beds along East and West Ship Island are generally found within 1,500 feet of the shoreline. Grass bed coverage along the sound side of Horn Island was also dramatically reduced by hurricane Camille. However, increased species diversity is found off Horn Island, with occasional patches of manatee and turtle grass. Petit Bois, which was the furthest from hurricane Camille, was least affected. Large expanses of diverse grass beds can still be found off the sound side shore of Petit Bois Island.
Submerged grass beds within the Davis Bayou area are restricted to small isolated bayous.
Barrier Island Ecosystem:
The barrier island ecosystem is found on East Ship Island, Cat Island, Horn Island and Petit Bois Island. This ecosystem consists of four major communities: beach/dune, interdunal, upland woody, and saltmarsh.
In several of the Seashore units the interdunal area is interspersed with frequent brackish ponds. The ponds occur in depressions caused by hurricane storm surges rushing across the island and gouging out shallow indentations in the sand. The density of the widgeon grass vegetation in these ponds varies from very dense to very sparse. The pond margins are vegetated by saltmarsh grass and cattail. Cattails are usually found where there is fresh water.
Upland/Lowland Hardwood and Pine Ecosystem:
The upland/lowland hardwood and pine ecosystem, a complex ecosystem composed of several vegetative communities, is located in the Davis Bayou unit. The location of these communities within the site is largely dependent on the relationship between water drainage and elevation.
Primitive Camping is available on Horn, Petit Bois and East Ship Islands, accessible by boat. Gulf Islands National Seashore protects three of the last undeveloped barrier islands to be found on the coast of the Atlantic ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Existence is tough in this world of intense heat, high humidity, and near desert-like conditions. If entering the island on a privately owned boat, a 20-foot or longer craft is recommended. Inland water boats such as bass boats and pontoon party barges are not suitable for travel 10-12 miles from shore. To inquire about transportation out to the islands, please call (228) 875-9057. Despite discomfort and with proper preparation, time spent here can be an enjoyable and memorable experience. Campers and visitors will explore a world where land meets sea and life balances on the edge.
The Davis Bayou Campground has 51 sites, each with hookups for water and electricity. Campsites are available on a first come first served basis. Reservations are not accepted and it is not permitted to save a site for parties arriving later. A bathhouse is centrally located in the campground with hot showers, telephones and a dump station.
The campground uses the self regulation system. Campers must first choose an unoccupied site (those without a yellow registration card attached to post) and then return to the self-registration station located outside the campground office to register. The Campground Host is available in the campground office to answer questions or provide assistance if needed. Office hours are posted on the door. If you do not have the correct change for your payment you will need to obtain it in town before registering
Camping fees are $16.00 per night with electric hookups and $14.00 per night without electricity.
A 50% discount is granted to card holders of Golden Age Passports and Golden Access Passports.
Campground visits are limited to a maximum of 30 nights per calendar year per party. No more then 14 of these nights may fall between January 1 and March 31.
Swimming is allowed at all beaches. At West Ship Island there is a designated swim beach area, however, lifeguards may or may not be on duty. Check with the park ranger in the area for current weather and surf updates. Calm waters can turn into rough seas as a storm moves through the area. Know your currents and how to swim out of them.
Littoral (alongshore) currents are evidenced by waves breaking at an angle. This common current moves westward. To escape, swim straight in or at an angle with the current.
A backwash current on a steeply sloping beach can pull you toward deeper water, but its power is swiftly checked by incoming waves. To escape, swim straight in if you are a strong swimmer. If not, wait and float until the current stops, then swim in.
A rip current (also called "rip tide"or "seaward current") is dangerous. Less common than backwash and littoral currents, a rip current will carry a swimmer out from shore, sometimes at an angle.To escape, stay calm, wave for asstance, and swim parallel to shore. When free of the current, swim straight in. Never try to swim against rip currents.
For more information on beach safety.
Mississippi has a number of marine animals that can sting or injure a swimmer. Treatment guides for the most common of these are listed below.
Jellyfish and Portugese Man-O-War stings: Apply vinegar to the area. Then, if available, apply xylocaine. In treating the sting, vinegar "fixes" the stinging cells on the skin, while xylocaine neutralizes the toxin of the stinging cells. Xylocaine works to some degree to reduce pain, but nothing is as effective as time.
Puncture by Stingray Spines and Catfish: The toxin injected into the wound by the spine appears to be inactivated by heat. Dramatic recovery normally results by soaking in hot water for thirty to sixty minutes. Care should be taken not to scald the victim since pain from the wound may mask normal reaction to heat.
Whenever signs of an allergic reaction occur, such as difficulty breathing, arrangements should be made for immediate transportation to a hospital.
A fishing pier overlooks the Davis Bayou channel that leads to the Mississippi Sound. Fishing is also allowed on The Barrier islands.A Mississippi State Fishing License is required.
The following persons are exempt from obtaining recreational licenses:
Any Person under the age of 16Residents 65 years of age or olderResidents who are adjudged totally service-connected disabled by the Veteran's Administration or 100% disabled through Social Security.
Any resident person exempted from obtaining recreational licenses must have with them at all times while fishing a valid driver's license and proof of social security disability.
Call the Department of Marine Resources at 228-374-5000 for current license fees if you are a nonresident.