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Swamp, river tour puts Mississippi’s amazing nature in spotlight

By LISA MONTI

For 17 years, McCoy’s River & Marsh Tours has been giving nature lovers of all ages a closeup look at the creatures and natural beauty found on one of America’s most pristine river swamps.

Captains Benny, Garrett and Lynn McCoy take their passengers on a circular two-hour ride along the beautiful Pascagoula River. The brothers turned their love of nature and the river into a business venture 17 years ago and the tours soon became a popular outing for visitors and residents.

The McCoys are the original Pascagoula river tour guides offering their unique experience and knowledge of the area to their guests. Their motto: Showing God’s creation is what the McCoys love to do.

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Benny McCoy said the Pascagoula is special because “it is one of the largest free flowing rivers in the lower 48 states. “It’s not dammed so it rises and floods as it always has and that’s what makes it unique. On the lower end there are brackish marshes and we also go into the swamps. You see a little bit of everything,” he said.

The trip is educational, entertaining and enjoyable all at once. One rider even commented that the two-hour boat ride “took all my stress away.”

The trip is about a 20-mile loop. “We start off in brackish marshes and end up in the swamp stopping several times along way,” McCoy said.

The 20-passenger boat is outfitted with a top to provide shade and cushioned seats for comfort. Each spot onboard comes with a great view for taking photos or just taking in all of the natural beauty on the water and on the shoreline.

Those in search of wildlife sightings won’t be disappointed. The tour is a favorite of birdwatchers who know the area’s reputation as a popular bird watching destination.

“We’ve got lots of birds,” said Capt. McCoy. Passengers can view osprey, pelicans and bald eagles, among many others. Swallowtail kites are a special favorite among birdwatchers, he said. McCoy recalls the Clapper Rail, one of the larger marsh birds found in the area, that landed on the boat, delighting everyone onboard.

Alligators are often seen and large numbers of turtles basking in the sunshine are easily spotted. Wild pigs have been seen feeding and swimming along the tour.

The McCoys keep the casual narrative going throughout the tour, pointing out critters, birds, native plants, flowers and grasses. They stop several times during the tour to let the guests soak in their surroundings.

When the boat returns to the dock at the end of the tour, passengers always give the outing high marks. “They love it. I have never had a bad review, it’s all very good.”

The tours draw visitors from all of the world and you can usually find South Mississippi residents who come aboard to learn about nature close to home. “A lot of them are surprised all of THIS is in their backyard. They all just love the beauty of a river in its natural form,” said McCoy.

The McCoys’ permanent new location is the new Pascagoula River Audubon Center at 7001 Frank Griffen Road in Moss Point.

The regular scheduled tours are available Wednesday through Saturday and by appointment for schools and other groups. The first tour sets out at 10 a.m. and depending on demand, a second departs at 2 p.m.

The McCoys also offer some special tours, including twilight tours during the summer months, tours of the upper river that last three to five hours and an eight hour river adventure starting at Merrill and coming down all the way to the nature center.

The boat also can be rented for special occasions such as birthdays, weddings and reunions.

The boat tour cost is $28 for adults and $18 for children.

To reserve seating, call (228)-219-4583. CLICK HERE for the website.

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About Lisa Monti

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