The Wild And Scenic Pascagoula River - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

04/27/04

The Wild And Scenic Pascagoula River

By this time next year the Pascagoula River will most likely be listed on the National Register of Wild and Scenic Rivers.

Before this happens the river must go through two approval phases. It has already made it through the first one in which the river was graded and met 97 of the 100 criteria points.

The next phase involves the passing of legislation to bestow the designation.

Jay Mengel a local naturalist and river tour guide says receiving the designation will help conservationists preserve the body of water.

"This is the only major river in the lower 48 that's still unchanneled. It's undammed, there's no levies, there's no flood control so it floods regularly," says Mengel.

The Pascagoula River Basin is home to more than 1,000 species of plants, birds and animals. More than 320 different types of birds migrate to the area each year prompting the National Audubon Society to label the river as a birding hot spot. It's also a refuge for many endangered species.

"By one list we've got 22 endangered or threatened species," says Mengel.

The river also helps maintain South Mississippi's Ecosystem.

"It cleanses the river water before it gets out into the gulf... keeps the Gulf clean,"said Mengel. "The marsh is a breeding ground for everything that's out there in that Gulf. 95 percent of our food fish rely on something in that salt marsh."

It is also abundant in plant life.

"The botanist that come up here tell me that within a meter square piece of property that they can identify upwards of 50 different species of plants so we're talking probably one of the most diverse areas in all of North America," said Mengel.

It will take approximately one year for the river's designation to be finalized.

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