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Gulf Islands Wilderness

General Location Contacts Area Management Wilderness Laws Images


The United States Congress designated the Gulf Islands Wilderness (map) in 1978 and it now has a total of 4,080 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Mississippi and is managed by the National Park Service.


Built through the centuries as sand washed down from the north, these fragile barrier islands are held together by vegetation. Developers have discovered most of this island chain that extends from Texas to Florida, but part of the coastline and some of the islands are protected by the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which measures 150 miles from West Ship Island in Mississippi to Santa Rosa Island in Florida. Two of the Mississippi islands have maintained their pristine condition and are designated wilderness. Horn and Petit Bois islands are located 10 miles off shore. Horn Island is 13 miles long; Petit Bois Island is 6 miles long. Both Islands are accessible mostly by private boat; however, numerous charter services are permitted through Gulf Islands National Seashore to carry passengers on a "for hire" basis. White sand and maritime forest dominates the geology, and the Islands are home to numerous shore birds Ospreys and Southern Bald Eagles. Other species include alligators, raccoons, rabbits, and three species of snakes. All manner of sea life surround the islands with Atlantic bottle nose dolphin among some of the most visible. These islands are popular for salt water fishing boating kayaking and sailing. No motorized vessels are allowed on the interior ponds, and restrictions on navigation in the shallows over sea grass are enforced by Park Rangers.

The surf fishing here is first-rate, definitely among the best in the Gulf, with plenty of pompano, cobia, mackerel, red drum, and sea trout. A saltwater fishing license is required and temporary licenses are locally available and easily obtained. Camping is permitted on the islands. Campfires are permitted (except when closed during red flag warnings) below the extreme high tide line with plenty of driftwood available.

Planning to Visit the Gulf Islands Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

Campfires are permitted below the extream high tide line. Drift-wood is plentful for this porpous however dead and down wood from the islands interior should not be used as this decaying organic matter nourishes the martime forest. Fires should be extinguished with water.

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