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Mississippi Gulf Coast

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Mississippi Gulf Coast
Locations along the Mississippi Gulf Coast
The Coast
Location of MS Gulf Coast
Map of Mississippi with the Gulf Coast region highlighted. The counties in red correspond to the Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula MSA. Pearl River County (blue) is included in the geographical definition which includes all of Mississippi south of 31° N.
 • Total2,764,358 acres (1,118,696 ha)
 • Length80 mi (130 km)
 • Width55 mi (89 km)
 • Total370,702
 • Estimate 
 • Density86/sq mi (33/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
Area code228

The Mississippi Gulf Coast, also known as Mississippi Coast, Mississippi Gulf Coast region, Coastal Mississippi, and The Coast, is the area of Mississippi along the Mississippi Sound at the northern extreme of the Gulf of Mexico.


At the state's creation, Hancock and Jackson were the only two counties to make up this region. However, before the end of the first centennial, subdivisions in the counties led to the formation of Harrison County, as well as the pineywoods counties of Pearl River, Stone and George.[2]


The Mississippi Gulf Coast consists of many cities that lie directly on the Mississippi Sound. The U. S. Census Bureau divided the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) for the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2003, which previously consisted of the three coastal counties (Hancock; Harrison; Jackson), into two MSAs that included two additional counties (George; Stone). Cities in the new Metropolitan Statistical Area include the original French settlements Biloxi and Ocean Springs, as well as Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Diamondhead, Pass Christian, Long Beach, Gulfport, D'Iberville, Gautier, Pascagoula, Moss Point, Lucedale, and Wiggins.


Early history[edit]

The Biloxi people lived in the region at least as early as 1699.

Colonial History[edit]

Pierre Lemoyne and company disembarking on Ship Island in the Mississippi Sound

In 1699, Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville arrived to establish a colony near the mouth of the Mississippi River. He landed on the Ship Island, and three days later, arrived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, establishing a colony and building Fort Maurepas, which served as the first capital of French Louisiana. The fort became a base of operations to continue exploring the area.[4]

The French settlers found the area to be difficult to maintain a settlement. According to Bunn & Williams (2007), factors such as death of crops, lack of fresh water, lack of discipline, and illness led to difficulty in maintaining the colonization of the area. Furthermore, due to political concerns, the capital of French Louisiana was moved to Mobile in 1701; the fort was abandoned by 1702. Despite a temporary move of the capital to Biloxi during the construction of New Orleans, previous failures kept the area from playing a further role in French colonization efforts in the region.[4]

Statehood and Antebellum Period[edit]

When Mississippi entered the Union in 1817, the majority of the population lived in Northern parts of the state. At statehood, the population of the coast comprised 2.5% of the state's total. Likewise, the Census lists only 586 of the state's 30,061 slaves as living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.[2] After statehood, the coastal regions remained a frontier, with cultural influences coming from the Mediterranean area. According to Kenneth P'Pool, deputy historic preservation officer at MDAH, "The Coast's situation along ... the Gulf of Mexico — both facilitated the region's ethnic diversity and maintained its ties to the rest of the world much more easily than was possible for other regions of [Mississippi]."[2]

Civil War[edit]

Fort Massachusetts, on Ship Island, was seized during the American Civil War.

Twentieth century[edit]

In the 20th century, Keesler Air Force Base brought development to the region. Hurricane Camille on August 17, 1969, and Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005 caused historic destruction to the Gulf Coast. Originally dubbed "America's Riviera", the Mississippi Gulf Coast gained prominence in the early 1900's as a gambling and tourist mecca, an alternative to Florida as a warm, actively fun area with gaming (although illegal at the time, it was allowed at certain resorts) and home to the longest manmade beach in the world. Golfing also became a strong draw to snowbirds looking to play their game of choice all year long. During the early 90's, gaming was made legal in the two coastal counties of Harrison and Hancock. This brought a new era of growth with Vegas style gaming hotel and casinos; along with this, condo towers started to dot the coast as it became the 2nd largest gaming area in the US based on gaming space alone. After a brief disruption brought on by Hurricane Katrina, the Mississippi Gulf Coast bounced back quickly, even faster than New Orleans, despite massive destruction.


As of May 2019, there are 126 K-12 schools spread across 16 school districts, which serve students in the Mississippi Gulf Coast region.

In addition, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College offers associate degrees and career programs. The University of Southern Mississippi has a branch (Gulf Park campus) located in Long Beach, Mississippi which offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs.[5] In 2009, William Carey University opened its Tradition campus located off Mississippi Highway 67 in rural Harrison County[6] and offers multidisciplinary educational programs at the undergraduate and master's level, as well as a doctoral program in pharmacy.[7]

District Achievement Rating[8][b] Number of Schools[8][c]
Harrison County School District B 20
Hancock County School District B 6
Pearl River County School District B 4
George County School District B 8
Stone County School District B 4
Jackson County School District B 13
Gulfport School District B 10
Biloxi Public School District A 8
Ocean Springs School District A 6
Picayune School District C 9
Pascagoula-Gautier School District B 17
Bay St. Louis-Waveland School District C 4
Long Beach School District A 5
Pass Christian Public School District A 4
Poplarville School District A 4
Moss Point Separate School District D 4

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Adding up the individual areas of Pearl River, Stone, George, Jackson, Harrison, and Hancock counties, the six counties below the 31st parallel mentioned in the reference from the Sun Herald, and converting from square miles to acres provides this result.
  2. ^ Enter school district name into search box.
  3. ^ The reference lists individual schools at the bottom of each school district's result page.


  1. ^ "County Explorer". National Association of Counties. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d Bergeron, Kat (March 30, 2017). "The Coast from 1817 to 1917: From frontier to tourist destination". SunHearld. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  3. ^ "Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula Metro: Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2018 more information 2018 Population Estimates". US Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 14, 2020. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Bunn, J. Michael; Williams, Clay (September 2007). "A Failed Enterprise: The French Colonial Period in Mississippi | Mississippi History Now". www.mshistorynow.mdah.ms.gov. Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  5. ^ "Gulf Park Campus | University | The University of Southern Mississippi". www.usm.edu. Retrieved April 10, 2023.
  6. ^ Noonkester, Myron C. (July 11, 2017). "William Carey University". Mississippi Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 10, 2023.
  7. ^ "Tradition Campus Academics | William Carey University". wmcarey.edu. Retrieved April 10, 2023.
  8. ^ a b "Mississippi Succeeds Report Card". Mississippi Succeeds Report Card. Mississippi Department of Education. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  9. ^ Griffin, David. "NBA guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf house goes up in flames". www.newson6.com. Retrieved August 20, 2022.