Poticaw Bayou/West Pascagoula River
Poticaw Bayou is the location of the northernmost put-in on the West Pascagoula River. Immediately around the ramp are a number of river cabins and houseboats. Most are weekend residences of local fishermen but several seem to be occupied all year long. A few are abandoned following damage from recent storms such as Hurricane Katrina. Its interesting to see a community where there are more boats than cars and more docks than driveways.
Beyond the camp area, the environment in this area is most often referred to as hardwood bottomland which means that deciduous hardwood trees are the predominant type of flora and that the area is prone to seasonal flooding. White oak, red oak, black gum, sweet gum, maples and hickory form a thick upper canopy while the ground below is covered with various species of wildflowers, grasses, vines, and palmetto palms. In the lower, wetter areas cypress trees are more common.
Going up Poticaw Bayou from the boat ramp leads past a dozen or more of these houseboats before the bayou splits into two branches. The left branch dead ends within a few hundred yards while the right branch continues on and opens up as Sams Lake.
On the northern end of Sams Lake, Jonican Bayou starts to the left and wanders along roughly paralleling the path of nearby Ward Bayou. To the right a small unnamed bayou links Sams Lake to Ward Bayou. This connecting bayou is very narrow and had four serious obstacles during the day of my last visit there. Depending on the water level you may be able to either float over or squeeze under the obstacles.
Going down from the ramp near the mouth of the bayou it is just a few yards to the main river. It is 1.5 miles upriver to the point where the Pascagoula splits into its east and west branches. Approximately halfway to the split Ward Bayou comes in from the north. On its southern end, Ward Bayou is almost as big as the Pascagoula itself but within a few miles it shrinks considerably and meanders north into the Ward Bayou Wildlife Management Area. It is accessible on its extreme northern end via a ramp near the Ward Bayou WMA headquarters. Along the way several bayous and lakes branch off to the east. Among these are Old Dead River, Parish Lake Bayou, Parish Lake, Bear Bayou, Big Bear Bayou and Pasture Fence Bayou. Most of these areas are part of either the Ward Bayou WMA or the Pascagoula River WMA. Visitors are required to have an annual pass to use these areas for hunting, fishing or other recreational activities.
Poticaw Bayou and the areas immediately around it make a nice day trip. For an overnight excursion it is an excellent spot on which to be able to launch and go miles in any of several directions. The parking around the ramp seems to be safe as there are year round residents nearby as well as security lighting.
Most of this area falls within the boundaries of either the Pascagoula River Wildlife Management Area or the Ward Bayou Wildlife Management Area. There are little to no public facilities on the river.
The use of the boat ramp and parking at Poticaw Landing carries a $2 fee. If you plan to do much exploring or camping within the Wildlife Management Areas, a user permit is required. In state residents are charged $15 while out of state residents are charged $30. The permits are good for 1 year.
From the center of Vancleave, MS on Mississippi Highway 57, proceed north for 1/2 mile past Vancleave High School to Poticaw Bayou Road. Make a right onto Poticaw Bayou Road and proceed until the road forks. At the fork, bear to the left, staying on Poticaw Bayou Road. Poticaw Bayou Road T's into Ware Lake Road. Make a right onto Ware Lake Road and then an almost immediate left onto Poticaw Landing Road. Proceed to the end of Poticaw Landing Road where it dead ends at the bayou near the boat ramp.
There are 2 concrete boat ramps at the end of Poticaw Landing Road. There are some sandy areas along the edges of the ramps where it is easier to launch a canoe or kayak from.
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks regulates the management areas. For more information visit their website:
DeLorme's Mississippi Atlas