I had the opportunity to visit my old stomping grounds of Biloxi, MS over the weekend, and while there I decided to head over to Gulf Islands National Seashore —Davis Bayou in Ocean Springs. Not only is this well away from the bustle of the casinos, but it drops you right into the heart of the salt marsh from which so much of the area plant & animal life is dependent upon in this fragile ecosystem. It was a relief that after a twenty year absence at least something was left relatively unchanged in a rapidly evolving place.
My first stop was at the Nature’s Way Trail where there is a small parking area adjacent to the trail. This is a short 1/2 mile loop trail, but visitors can add to the trek by following the pedestrian bridge across the bayou or by crossing the street to visit a small bayou overlook. The bayou overlook is important to me because it was on a classroom field trip to this spot during elementary school that I was able to see my very first wild alligator, and almost as if they knew I would be visiting, I was again rewarded with a sighting of a large alligator soaking it in just a few feet away. It was like visiting an old friend.
I left the alligator overlook and headed onto the Nature’s Way Trail. This trail skirts along the edge of the salt marsh, weaving through saw palmettos, Southern magnolias and oak trees. This late in the year the Gray squirrels were out in force gathering acorns; during the summer months visitors can usually see a resident Gulf Coast box turtle making its way through the leafy forest floor.
Continuing on there are two platform overlooks along the trail allowing visitors a better look at the marsh and wildlife which is home to herons, Diamondback terrapins, snapping turtles, Fiddler crabs and more. This area also serves as an important nursery for shrimp, mullet, blue crabs and other salt life and is influenced by tidal flows.
After completing the short trail I headed over to the Visitor Center where there have been considerable improvements. There are several picnic areas with grills, bathrooms and a winding path that leads visitors to another marsh overlook. Davis Bayou Trail also starts near the visitor center and connects with the Nature’s Way Trail. A public fishing pier is also located near the picnic area. A Mississippi saltwater fishing license is required.
For those wishing to stay longer the Davis Bayou Campground is available. Contact (228) 875-3962 for current fees and reservations. For more information about the Gulf Islands National Seashore — Davis Bayou area visit the NPS website.
[amazon_enhanced asin=”1604739819″ /]