Gulf Islands National Seashore

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

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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.

  • Park Headquarters +1 850-934-2600

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.

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.

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