Due to a work assignment, I had the dubious pleasure of spending six months in Biloxi, MS, away from my home in New Orleans. However, I was pleasantly surprised to get to know the Back Bay of Biloxi, an excellent and diverse place to kayak. For those who don't know Biloxi, it is built on a peninsula that is bounded on the south by the Gulf of Mexico, and on the north by the Back Bay, which stretches for nearly 10 miles in an east-west direction, before turning into the enormous "Big Lake", which then tapers into Bernard Bayou. The Bay empties into the gulf at its eastern end.
At its opening near the Gulf, the Bayou is at its widest, which is just a few hundred yards. Near this end of the Bay casinos dot the southern shore, and then give way to some residential shoreline housing. Dolphins may be seen in this area of the bay, as there is an abundance of fish throughout the bay. Pelicans, cormorants, Herons, and other water birds abound for the same reasons. This is relatively open water, with some grassy flat islands in the middle. There is an Air Force base along the southern shore with some air traffic, but not heavy at all; there is also some minor industrial boat traffic, but sparse and low-speed. Most boats out are recreational/fishing boats, and people are usually pretty courteous when they see a kayak.
Further up the Bay narrows a bit and there are more islands and a couple of bridges. The first bridge separates the Bay from "Big Lake", which is really just a widening of the bay. Every time I was on big lake, I found it to be the windiest and choppiest part of the bay. This may have just been bad luck, though. On the north shore, there is an industrial canal that leads to a series of shipyards, and it is not open to small craft. However, there is also an opening to the Bayou that is the Biloxi River, leading to multiple smaller waterways that can be explored very well by kayak.
At the inland end of Big Lake is Bernard Bayou, a winding and meandering waterway that is far more protected than the rest of the Back Bay, with less wind and waves. However, it is also more populated with houses along most of its shores. The residents often fishing from their docks or tending to their boats.
Throughout this body of water, you have birds and fish all around you... the fish to an almost shocking extent jumping out of the water all around you. It is relatively warm with lots of sunshine in the winter, and the water is always relatively protected. In the 6 months I was there, I only observed a handful of days of truly choppy, inhospitable waters. Be aware of tides, as it was truly a painful experience getting caught near the top of the bay as the tide began to roll in, though the best kayaking here is truly during low tide.
Biloxi and Gulfport are small cities side by side along the gulf coast, and there is a vast abundance of hotels and motels. Also, there are some large, very nice casino/hotels if you're up to it. The food in Biloxi/Gulfport was also excellent!
None where I had launched.
The website below lists multiple locations for boat launching all along the back bay. My personal favorite was at the Hancock community center. The community center has been closed since Katrina, but the park behind it is open and maintained by the city. I also put-in at cowan road, hiller park, and at Popp's Ferry Road.
- Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
- Skill Level: Beginner
- Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water