We were last here at Gulf Islands National Seashore, in Ocean Springs, in 2018, when we paddled portions of Davis Bayou the first time. We weren't entirely happy with the visit, because the tide was low and we didn't have a chance to explore deeply into the estuaries. We hoped that, this time, we might hit the high tide and paddle up further inland.
We didn't quite get our wish. We could only get out one of the days we are here, and the tides were not entirely favorable. We were able to paddle at mid-tide, which let us paddle a little deeper into the bayou. However, the weather was cooler and the sea breeze was stiff, so we had to deal with the added elements of wind and waves.
Still, the day was beautiful and brilliant. We worked our way against the wind and waves, out into the deep, outer reaches of Davis Bayou --
-- and then around a point and into the estuarine channels:
Our first stop was a small bridge that we had visited in our 2018 paddle. It looked just the same:
We couldn't help taking another photo of our passage under the bridge --
-- and of Kathy's sweep back under the bridge back on our way out of the backwater:
But there were new experiences this time. As we reached the boat ramp dock area, we spotted this fellow pulling in a crab trap. He had been successful, although the crab was on the small side:
We wanted to get over to the Visitor Center and its fishing piers and boat moorage, so we made our way out into open water. This cormorant had beat us to the punch, and sat himself on one of the channel signs, looking for signs of his next meal:
Kathy chose another channel marker ("red right returning") so that she would be in the deep channel as we paddled out into the deeper water:
We rounded a point past the Visitor Center and had the Park Service fishing dock and boat moorage in sight, when Kathy spotted this osprey on a large, dead tree, feasting on a fish it had caught:
David was able to get a little closer, but the osprey started to get nervous, so we paddled on without further disturbing its lunch:
We turned to the NPS fishing dock --
-- and the moorage where the Park Service had constructed a breakwater to protect its patrol boats:
We hadn't realized how many boats this NPS unit had until we paddled past the breakwater and spotted all of the boats, large and small, fast and faster, moored under shelter and ready to go:
Thus having satisfied our curiosity about the NPS infrastructure, we turned back. The wind and waves had picked up, and it was a bit of a challenge to maintain our heading back into calmer water. As we paddled, we spotted Biloxi and the Biloxi Bay Bridge out across the water, in the background in the photo below:
The Park Service has a boathouse on one of the bayou channels, perched on pilings down a long boardwalk from the Visitor Center building. We had learned the other day that the boathouse is closed to visitors. It appeared that the boathouse and its boardwalk access had been damaged by a recent hurricane, and have not had an opportunity to be repaired yet -- thanks to the insufficient funding the National Park Service gets from Congress in these penurious times. Still, the boathouse looked intact and capable of functioning. It has beautiful lines:
The Visitor Center, too, is an attractive, low profile building that nestles into a grove of trees on a peninsula of David Bayou. We spotted it as we paddled past:
We didn't expect to see a lot of wildlife, but did hope for some shorebirds and raptors. As it turned out, we weren't disappointed. The whole last half of our paddle was graced by one sighting of birds after another. This bald eagle soared over our heads as we paddled back out from inspecting the boathouse:
We headed back to the vicinity of our boat ramp, and found a side channel with some pelicans diving and fishing. We decided to work our way closer to watch them. While we couldn't get an action photo of these skilled skydivers, we did find one fat and happy pelican catching his siesta on a fence pole by the water:
Our campground is set at the end of one of the arms of the estuary in David Bayou. We paddled over to see if we could spot our RV perched high above the water. Kathy finally spotted it, but not before we ran into a Great Blue Heron fishing quietly at the end of the cove:
He really wasn't happy with our approaching him, and before too long, he took flight, squawking in indignation as we got closer:
He didn't fly far, however, and we ran into him again as we worked our way back to our boat ramp. We got close enough for a photo or two, but assured him that we were not going to approach as closely as we just had. He accepted that assurance and remained steadily focused on his fishing, with just one eye on the human intruders.
It was a short paddle back to where we put into the water. As we got to the boat ramp, two other groups of kayakers suddenly appeared and paddled in to debark. We were surprised they came back this quickly, because they had not set out until we had completed half our paddle. Perhaps the wind, waves and cooler temperatures were not to their liking. In any event, all three paddler groups quietly packed up their kayaks and equipment and headed back to the campground -- us to plans for a tasty dinner of chicken, onions and Moroccan carrots. It warmed us right up after a cool outing.