Steve's Blog: Pascagoula River offers unlimited recreation opportunities

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

The Pascagoula River is one of my favorite waterways in South Mississippi.

As many of you know, I love to kayak. And I've had the pleasure of kayaking on the Pascagoula River several times in recent years.

A few years back, my friend and then co-worker Travis Alford (a great photographer) and I had the pleasure of paddling some 25 miles down this beautiful river.

And the Pascagoula truly is remarkable. It is the longest free flowing river in the lower 48 states. That simply means there are no manmade locks or dams that impede the flow of the Pascagoula River. It fluctuates with natural events like rainfall, storms and tide levels.

The Pascagoula is a treasure trove of eco-diversity. You'll find deep, dark forests of giant cypress trees lining the back waters of the river toward its northern most point.

Further south, the river intermingles with a series of marshes, tidal creeks and sawgrass.

Pre-historic looking "gar" fish can be caught in some parts of the river, while the southern portion nearest the Gulf is alive with alligators and more typical saltwater species.

Travis and I enjoyed two days of paddling down the river and enjoying some of the best scenery, serenity and wildlife South Mississippi has to offer.

We camped along a pristine sand bar and spotted numerous tracks from deer, raccoons and wild hogs. The second day a pair of bald eagles provided a wildlife highlight reel.

In researching the river, I first read a book called "Paddling the Pascagoula."  Two South Mississippi guys paddled the length of the waterway; one in a canoe and the other in a kayak.  The book was very informative, interesting and provided some true local color about things one is likely to encounter during a trip down the Pascagoula.

I was reminded of my earlier adventure a few weeks ago. I helped organize a kayak day trip on the Pascagoula River with a group of men from my church, St. Paul United Methodist in Ocean Springs.

All the guys were anxious to hit the water and the weather was near perfect. It was warm and a touch breezy.

A few of the men were experienced paddlers, while a couple had never paddled a kayak or canoe.

The Pascagoula River is great because it's wide and the flow is generally not that strong.  It's a perfect waterway for either a leisurely float down the river, an exercise paddle of several miles, or a two to three day paddling/camping adventure.

We paddled about eight miles of the river on a Saturday. There were 12 of us men, which I thought was a fitting number for a group of Christian guys on a church outing.

We were lucky to have an expert guide. Our pastor, the Rev. Chris Cumbest, happens to be a true river dweller and lover. He lives in Cumbest Bluff, an area along the river that was founded by his kin folks. His father was a longtime game warden along the river.

Chris spends lots of time on the river and he knows the "out of the way" places that your typical kayaker might not discover on his own.

Along with the great weather, we had a great time. There's just something about getting on the water and away from the hustle and anxiety of the working world. It is relaxing, enjoyable and worth repeating as often as possible.

One of our kayak crew provided us a little humor along the journey. This particular guy had never paddled a kayak and had borrowed one from his neighbor.

This guy (who shall remain nameless, but we know who he is) is an athletic type who seems more than capable of participating in any number of sports.

I noticed he was having some real trouble with his borrowed kayak. His boat was shifting from side to side and he almost seemed to be going in circles.

I was surprised, since I would have guessed this friend of mine would have very little trouble catching on.

We discovered the problem about halfway through the trip.  Someone asked him about the position of the foot pegs in his kayak.

He said, "Foot pegs? What are you talking about?"

That's right. My friend had been trying to paddle without the benefit of his foot pegs. His legs were flailing about and his boat wouldn't stay straight.

Any kayaker will tell you that the legs are nearly as important as the arms in directing and propelling your boat on its desired course.

Problem solved, my friend's performance improved 100 percent and he more thoroughly enjoyed the remainder of the trip.

Kayakers, campers, hikers and fishermen; I encourage you to check out the Pascagoula River. It's an awesome waterway with unlimited recreation and enjoyment potential.

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