Mississippi GEMS

Hancock County Marshes Preserve

  1. Hancock County MarshesSite Information Point(s) of Contact: Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Coastal Preserves Program
  2. Geographic Information
    1. Narrative Description of the Site: This is the second largest continuous marsh area in the state. The boundary of this 13,570-acre preserve includes all of the adjoining marshlands bordering the Mississippi Sound from the Pearl River to Point Clear. This saline marsh area includes a historically significant captured relic barrier island (Campbell Island) and an Indian shell midden (Cedar Island) over 1600 years old. The Hancock County Marshes are part of an estuarine system bordering the Mississippi Sound from the Pearl River to Point Clear. Included within the marshes are several low ridges and small hummocks that are above mean high tide. Most important of these areas are Point Clear Island and Campbell Island, which are sandy areas with characteristics similar to the barrier islands. The islands of this marsh support several rare plant species including one of the rarest shrubs in the United States, the tiny-leaved buckthorn (Sageretia minutiflora), found on the shell midden. The marsh area is also well known for an abundance of waterfowl. For example, swallowtail kites can be observed in the summer months. The largely mesohaline area of Bayou Caddy Point Clear Island consists of a mosaic of elevation zones bordering both sides of old dune/ridge systems (Point Clear Island and Campbell Island to the west) that are forested (pines, cedar, oak). The marshes along Bayou Caddy are dominated by needle rush (Juncus roemerianus) in almost pure stands (marsh between Bayou Caddy and Point Clear Island) while those near Ansley are mixed with big cordgrass (Spartina cynosuroides). Smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) occurs as a narrow fringe but forms a larger expanse of marsh along creeks and bayous, to the south and southwest of the "islands". Salt-meadow grass (Spartina patens) occurs as narrow (2-5 m) bands along the upland edges and bulrush (Scirpus robustus) forms pure and mixed stands as does the saltgrass (Distichlis spicata). Common reed (Phragmites australis) also occurs on the high spots. The Pearl River and associated river swamp are tidally influenced with bald-cypress (Taxodium distichum), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica var biflora and Nyssa aquatica) balancing the swamp canopy. The shallow areas of the swamp are comprised of dense stands of southern wild-rice (Zizaniopsis miliacea) and the deeper (10-20 m) pools are vegetated largely by pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata). The river’s fringe contains large beds of cow-lily (Nuphar luteum macrophyllum) and the banks contain scattered patches of southern wild-rice (Zizaniopsis), pickerelweed (Pontederia) and occasionally wild-rice (Zizania aquatica). The oligohaline marsh of Cowan Bayou is dominated by sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense) but contains a variety of freshwater and brackish water species, including duck-potato (Sagittaria latifolia), seashore mallow (Kosteletzkya virginica) and groundsel bush (Baccharis angustifolia).
    2. Date When Information Last Updated: March, 1998
    3. Location: Hancock County, N30E 10'51" W89E 2'21"
    4. Area of Influence: Coastal plain
  3. Ecological/Cultural Characteristics
    1. Habitat type: The ecological communities expected or known to occur are: estuarine subtidal, 1) large tidal creek; estuarine intertidal, 1) sand shore 2) mesohaline marsh 3) oligohaline marsh; and other shell middens.
    2. Rare/Endangered Species:
      1. Nycticorax nycticorax Black-crowned Night-heron
      2. Plegadis chihi White-faced Ibis
      3. Anas fulvigula Mottled Duck
      4. Falco columbarius Merlin
      5. Sterna maxima Royal Tern
      6. Tyto alba Common Barn-Owl
      7. Malaclemys terrapin pilea Mississippi Diamondback Terrapin
      8. Alligator mississippiensi American Alligator
      9. Nerodia clarkii clardii Gulf Salt Marsh Snake
      10. *Sageretia minutiflora Tiny-Leaved Buckthorn
      11. *The islands support several rare plant species including one of the rarest shrubs in the United States: Sageretia minutiflora (Tiny-Leaved Buckthorn) found on midden.
    3. Migratory Species: The marsh area is well known for an abundance of waterfowl. Pearl River Swamp near Logtown is noted for soaring Swallow-tail Kites in the summer.
    4. Uniqueness of Natural Community
      1. Archaeological Features: Indian shell middens
  4. Current and Potential Educational
    1. Recreational Use: Boaters and anglers use the area on occasional and seasonal basis for waterfowl hunting (sparingly) and fishing.
    2. Commercial Use: The harvest of shrimp and oysters.
  5. Management Status
    1. Land Ownership: Lands within this Coastal Preserve are either privately, locally, state or federally owned. Much of the property is considered tidal wetlands and is already owned by the state.
    2. Existing Designations: Mississippi Coastal Preserve
    3. Management Status: The marshes may fall under coastal zone management and management activities should be dictated by those guidelines. Management of the islands would mainly involve monitoring.
    4. Existing Monitoring Activities: Monitored by the Department of Marine Resources Coastal Preserves Program.
    5. Acquisition Potential: Currently active
    6. Management Needs: The State will manage the area as a coastal preserve. The DMR will have direct responsibility. Much of the property considered tidal wetlands, already owned by the State.
  6. Site Viability
    1. Threats to Ecological Integrity: Residences with open septic systems.
  7. Sources of Information: Toups, J.A., and J.A. Jackson. 1987. Birds and birding on the Mississippi
  8. Comments and/or Additional Information on Hancock County Marshes: email the Coastal Preserves Manager.