The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th birthday today. Here on the Gulf Coast, we’re fortunate to have hundreds of square miles of federally-protected seashores, forests, and historic sites.
Take a look at all the incredible places we’re able to enjoy thanks to the National Park Service:
Gulf Islands National Seashore
Established in 1971, the Gulf Islands National Seashore protects more than 215 square miles of coastline, bayous, and historic sites stretching from Cat Island in Mississippi to eastward to Destin, Fla. On average, between 4 and 5 million people each year visit the seashore, making it one of the most popular national parks in the country.
Built largely by slaves in 1834, Fort Pickens is one of three forts built in the years leading up to the Civil War to protect Pensacola Bay. Situated at the tip of Santa Rosa Island, Fort Pickens was the only Southern fort to remain in Union control for the duration of the Civil War. Geronimo, the famous Apache chief, was imprisoned at Fort Pickens from 1886-1887.
The Fort Barrancas complex, on the other side of Pensacola Bay, encompasses the Civil War era American fort, the adjacent 18th-century Spanish water battery, and the Advanced Redoubt, a separate fort added later to protect the Pensacola Navy Yard from infantry attacks.
Naval Live Oaks
The Naval Live Oaks Area, east of Gulf Breeze, was originally reserved by the federal government in 1828 for its valuable timber resources. Today’s it’s home to the Gulf Islands National Seashore’s Florida headquarters, as well as 7.5 miles of trails, kayaking, and more.
Named after an African-American soldier killed in the Korean War, Johnson Beach is located on Perdido Key, near the Florida-Alabama state line. In addition to miles of beautiful beaches, the Gulf Islands National Seashore’s Perdido Key Area also offers hiking trails and primitive camping.
West Ship Island and Fort Massachusetts
Known as Ship Island until Hurricane Camille split it in two in 1969, the western chunk is home to Fort Massachusetts, a Civil War era fort that was used to house Confederate prisoners after Union forces retook it in late 1861. The island and fort were also used as a staging ground for the Union’s successful 1862 campaign to capture New Orleans. Ferry service to and from the island is available seasonally.
Located near Ocean Springs, Miss., the seashore’s Davis Bayou Area is home to a two-mile trail that traverses a coastal forest and two bayous. Other amenities include a fishing pier and boat launch.