WILDLIFE & VEGETATION
All of the rivers within the Pinebelt Blueways system are nestled within the Pascagoula Watershed. This system is unique in that the Pascagoula River is the largest (by volume) unimpeded river in the contiguous 48 states. This amazing watershed includes the Leaf, Bouie, Chickasawhay, Chunky, Escatawpa and Pascagoula Rivers. The watershed also includes Black Creek, the only waterway in Mississippi designated as a National Wild and Scenic River.
As paddlers drift along these rivers they will encounter beautiful bottomland trees including spruce pine, bald cypress, sweetbay magnolias, silver maples and tulip poplars. River bluffs will have river birches, red maples, white oaks and cottonwoods. Wild azalea and mountain laurel flowers will peek through the forest edges in spring and swamp titis will drape white flowers over the water in early summer. Several species of St. John's wort along the banks will be covered in yellow blossoms in the fall. Lush patches of river oats cover the sunny sides of the banks year-round.
Wildlife is abundant in these rivers. Careful paddlers will spy many riverine reptiles basking on banks or logs. The Pascagoula map turtle is only found within the Pascagoula watershed and can be found sharing basking space with the federally-threatened yellow-blotched map turtle. Spiny softshell turtles can often be found in the shallow waters at the edges of sandbars. Over 300 species of resident and migratory birds utilize the Pascagoula Watershed. Majestic swallow-tailed kites can be seen soaring along the waterways as they migrate here during summers, and bald eagles fish the rivers all year. Two federally-threatened fish, the pearl darter and gulf sturgeon, also reside in our rivers.
The Pinebelt Blueways and the Pascagoula Watershed are nested within the North American Coastal Plain, which has been recently recognized as the newest global biodiversity hotspot. That means that one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world is right here in our own backyard! Enjoy the plants and animals of the Pinebelt Blueways as you navigate one of the most unique river systems on the planet!