Mississippi GEMS

Escatawpa River Marsh Preserve

  1. Escatawpa River MarshSite Information Point(s) of Contact: Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Coastal Preserves Program
  2. Geographic Information:
    1. Narrative Description of the Site: The primary boundary of the non-forested portion of this 2,826-acre preserve follows the edge of the estuarine marsh. Eleuterius has noted that a large portion of the marsh cover has been impacted or lost, possibly due to chemical pollution. A tidally restricted sawgrass (Cladium) dominated marsh exists to the east of the railroad crossing. Sawgrass dominates the marsh areas upstream of this site and some portions of marsh downstream. A little further upstream, in an area that is not currently within the primary boundary, there is a bald cypress/black gum swamp and bog that is part of the mid reaches of the Escatawpa River. This area represents a portion of the lower Escatawpa River that has been impacted by a combination of apparent salt-water intrusion associated with channel deepening and marsh impoundment caused by a rail crossing across the river and associated marshes. The nearby paper mill has also impacted and continues to impact this area. A tidally restricted sawgrass (Cladium) dominated marsh exist to the east toward the railroad crossing. This oligohaline area contains a mixture of brackish (e.g. needle rush Juncus roemerianus) and freshwater plant species (e.g. Typha). Sawgrass dominates the marsh areas upstream of this site (i.e. east, northeast) and some portions of marsh downstream. A considerable portion of what was likely a mixture of sawgrass marsh and cypress swamp has been replaced by open-water and scattered patches of marsh dominated by needle rush (Juncus roemerianus). Isolated sawgrass and cypress do occur in this area, but numerous dead cypress stumps and standing trunks are present. Ospreys have been seen here and may nest in this area. This area represents a portion of the lower Escatawpa River that has been impacted by a combination of apparent salt-water intrusion associated with channel deepening and marsh impoundment caused by a rail crossing across the river and associated marshes. A needle rush (Juncus roemerianus) marsh was constructed here about 10 years ago as mitigation for bridge and highway construction. This marsh appears to be doing well. Needle rush (Juncus roemerianus) does appear to be the species replacing sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense) in this area, which is oligohaline. Sawgrass is still present in areas adjacent to the uplands and on islands along the river. Dead cypress trunks are scattered about in the marsh near the center of the river. A bald cypress/black gum swamp and bog that is part of the mid-reaches of the Escatawpa River. This area appears to be tidal, but verification is needed. The swamp portion lay adjacent to the river with generally bare substrate between the trees. The swamp portion contained what may be golden canna (Canna flaccida) near the river’s edge. With distance from the river and a concomitant increase in elevation (10-15 cm), the ground graded into a Sphagnum moss covered bog that included pitcher plants (Sarracenia), sundews (Drosera), yellowed eyed grass (Xyris), and pipewort (Eriocaulon). This habitat type appears to be typical of the broader ecosystem along this stretch of the river. Downstream, the cypress swamp intermixes with sawgrass-dominated marsh habitat. The Escatawpa River Swamp is composed of a mixture of cypress, sawgrass (Cladium) marsh, and water-lily pond habitat. The cypress swamp grades gradually into the sawgrass, with scattered cypress trees in the marsh. The marsh is dominated almost entirely of sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense). The water-lily pond is dominated by water lily (Nymphaea odorata), with floating organic mats scattered about, each having bladderworts, spike rushes, grasses and sedges, and other aquatic plants occur around the pond’s edges. This unique location provides excellent feeding, resting, and wintering habitat for numerous types of migratory bird species, such as the Brown Pelican, White Pelican, Osprey, and cormorants. This area is also known to be a rookery for Osprey.
    2. Date When Information Last Updated: March, 1998
    3. Location: Jackson County
    4. Area of Influence: Coastal plain
  3. Ecological/Cultural Characteristics
    1. Habitat type: The following estuarine communities are expected or known to occur: estuarine subtidal, 1) muddy sand embayment 2) riverine estuary (sand and muddy types); and other, 1) cypress swamp, black gum swamp and pitcher plant bog.
    2. Rare/Endangered Species:
      1. Hibiscus coccineus Brilliant Hibiscus
    3. Breeding/Nursery Area: Osprey Rookery
    4. Migratory Species: This unique location provides excellent feeding, resting, and wintering habitat for numerous types of migratory bird species, such as the Brown Pelican, White Pelican, Osprey, and cormorants.
  4. Current and Potential Use of the Site
    1. Existing or Potential Interpretive Use: Lands within this Coastal Preserve are either privately, locally, state or federally owned. Much of the property is considered tidal wetlands and owned by the State.
    2. Recreational Use: Boaters and anglers use the area on occasional and seasonal basis for waterfowl hunting (sparingly) and fishing.
  5. Management Status
    1. Land Ownership: Lands within this Coastal Preserve are either privately, locally, state or federally owned. Much of the property is considered tidal wetlands and is already owned by the state.
    2. Existing Designations: Mississippi Coastal Preserve
    3. Management Status: Managed by the Department of Marine Resources Coastal Preserves Program.
    4. Existing Monitoring Activities: Monitored by the Department of Marine Resources Coastal Preserves Program.
    5. Acquisition Potential: Active.
    6. Management Needs: The State will manage the area as a coastal preserve. The DMR will have direct responsibility. Some of the property considered tidal wetlands, already owned by the State.
  6. Site Viability
    1. Threats to Ecological Integrity: Residences with open septic systems.
  7. Comments and/or Additional Information on Bayou Portage Preserve: email the Coastal Preserves Manager.

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