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Gulf Islands Wilderness

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Sunrise over the beach
Library image #4203: Horn Island sunrise


The United States Congress designated the Gulf Islands Wilderness (map) in 1978 and it now has a total of 4,630 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Mississippi and is managed by the National Park Service.


Gulf Islands Wilderness emerges from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico as dynamic ropes of white sand originating from the Appalachian Mountains. Horn and Petit Bois Islands, together known as Gulf Islands Wilderness, are recognized as a place of solitude, self-reliance and refuge from modern-day civilization. The wilderness islands are undeveloped, wild coastal landscapes where modern human impacts are very subtle. Gulf Islands Wilderness is part of the American wilderness legacy.

Powerful oceanic and meteorological forces continue to shape these wilderness islands. Expertly adapted wildlife and plant species are part of an intricately connected tapestry of the wilderness islands, encompassing rolling dunes, dense maritime forests, and distinctive wetlands. This ever-changing landscape is habitat for a diverse community of life, including sea oats, live oaks, saw palmetto, prickly pear cactus, southeastern snowy plover, southern bald eagle, American alligator, ghost crab, and three species of snakes, to name a few. All manner of sea life surround the wilderness islands with Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, moon jelly, Portuguese man-o-war, Kemp's ridley. From the early rays of light to star-studded night sky, refuge is discovered as a place to not look at nature but to look from nature.

Planning to Visit the Gulf Islands Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

Help preserve Gulf Islands Wilderness by preparing for your trip ahead of time. There are no facilities on these wilderness barrier islands. It is important to familiarize yourself with the plants and wildlife, changing weather patterns, and lay of the land before your trip. This is your wilderness. Practice wilderness ethics and Leave No Trace.

Campfires are permitted below the extreme high tide line. Drift-wood is available for this purpose, however dead and down wood from the island's interior should not be used as this decaying organic matter nourishes the maritime forest. Fires should be extinguished with water.