Gulf Islands National Seashore

Gulf Islands National Seashore is a National Park along the Gulf of Mexico in the United States of America.

Understand

This 12-unit National Park protects barrier islands along the Gulf Coast of the states of Mississippi and Florida; islands in Alabama are not included, and are part of state parks instead. The two state units are about a two hour drive apart. Gulf Islands National Seashore offers historical exploration, camping, recreational options and some of the finest white sand beaches. Many areas are closed with storm damage - the list changes frequently, so check right before you plan to visit.

History

The Gulf Islands National Seashore includes many areas of historical interest. In Florida, Don Tristan de Luna founded the first attempt at a Spanish settlement in the mainland U.S. on Santa Rosa Island; this later became the city of Pensacola. Fort Pickens, Fort Barrancas, and the ruins of Fort McRee are all part of the National Seashore, and all were important during the Civil War. The Naval Live Oaks Reservation on the mainland is a relic of the era of wooden ships. This forest of curvy live oaks was purchased in 1828 by the U.S. government during the Adams administration, in order to ensure a continuous supply of the wood for the navy who preferred the hard, curved wood for ship hulls. In the 1970s, the U.S. government reasserted its right to the forest in court after Florida attempted to sell the land to private citizens. This led to the authorization of the Gulf Islands National Seashore on January 8, 1971, in order to protect the forest and all the government-owned islands nearby for future generations. The Mississippi islands were added to the park later, in 1978, in order to protect the pristine natural habitats there from development.

Landscape

With the exception of the Naval Live Oaks Preservation in Florida and Davis Bayou in Mississippi, which are on the mainland, the Gulf Islands National Seashore is located on barrier islands. These islands are famous for their natural, bright white sand, which is composed of quartz and washes down from the Appalachian Mountains. Sand dunes form naturally near the coast, and further inland, scraggly pine tree forests make a living among the sandy soil.

Flora and fauna

Of the seven species of sea turtles, four nest at Gulf Islands National Seashore. Human development on the islands scared away many of the sea turtles, but recent conservation efforts have increased the number of nests in the park almost tenfold. There are twenty endangered species that live in the park. The most well-known is the Perdido Key beach mouse, a tiny mouse that lives in the sand dunes, and which was the cause of arguments and lawsuits between developers, residents, environmentalists, and the park service. Today, the lack of condominiums on Perdido Key can be attributed to the beach mouse.

The islands host a unique dune habitat; wind and waves blow sand into large piles, which are held in place by the root systems of beach grass and sea oats. Before this relationship between grass and dunes was understood, the plants were treated as a weed and were removed, leaving the dunes vulnerable to hurricanes. Hurricanes Erin and Opal in 1995 destroyed most of the dune habitat on the islands in Florida, but replanting efforts of sea oats and grass have slowly started to bring the dunes back. It's now illegal to remove plant life from the sand dunes.

Climate

The Seashore is sunny and warm most of the year. June through September are the most humid months and afternoon thunderstorms are common. The Seashore has been hit by numerous hurricanes throughout the years. Hurricane season is June through November.

Get in

Gulf Islands National Seashore is in Florida and Mississippi and both districts are south of Interstate 10. In Mississippi use Exit 57 or 50 to US Highway 90 to Ocean Springs. In Florida use Exit 12 to I-110 or Exit 22 to the Garcon Point Bridge to US Highway 98.

Florida District

Mississippi District

Fees/Permits

Entrance fees: Per Pedestrian/cyclist (7 days) $3; Per Vehicle (7 days) $8; GUIS Annual Pass $ 25.00. Fees also apply for camping. See Sleep section below.

There are several passes that allow free entry for groups traveling together in a private vehicle or individuals on foot or on bike. These passes are valid at all national parks including Gulf Islands National Seashore:

In 2016 the National Park Service will offer several days on which entry is free for all national parks: January 18 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), April 16-24 (National Park Week), August 25-28 (National Park Service's 100th birthday weekend), September 24 (National Public Lands Day), and November 11 (Veterans Day).

See

Do

Hiking

Bicycling

Eat

There is no food or drinks available inside park boundaries, so you'll need to find other options. In Florida, all parts of Gulf Islands National Seashore are near coastal beach communities, which will have restaurants, if you don't feel like bringing your own food. This option isn't available at the Alabama islands, which aren't accessible by car, so be sure to bring your own food, and lots of water! At all Gulf Islands parks, picnickers are welcome, but remember that alcohol and glass containers are prohibited.

Sleep

Lodging

There are no hotels inside the national park, but you can easily find rooms or condo rentals in nearby communities, at Pensacola Beach, Navarre Beach, Gulf Breeze, and Perdido Key in Florida, and at Biloxi and Ocean Springs in Mississippi.

Camping

Primitive camping is allowed at the east end of the Perdido Key park. Primitive campers must sign up at the visitors station at the front of the park, and must travel at least a half mile past the end of the park's paved road.

Stay safe

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, July 24, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.