Given the name Jourdan River Blueway Trail, the five and a half mile stretch passes through the eastern portion of a 125,000 acre acoustical buffer surrounding the NASA rocket engine testing site at the Stennis Space Center. The land flanking the stream is undeveloped, the result of an agreement between landowners and NASA in the 1960s when the space center was established. Those with land within the buffer zone were allowed to retain ownership of the land with with the promise no permanent structures would be built and no camping would be allowed in it.
For the first several miles upriver of the park the Jourdan R. is a estuary of Mississippi Sound. It is broad and there is no current. Several oxbow lakes connect to the river affording paddlers a chance to just drift in this haven for birds and wildlife.
There are small signs, in half-mile increments, marking the mileage along the stream. Mile 0 is at the confluence of Bayou Bacon and the slightly larger Catahoula Creek. McLeod Park is about mile 5.5. The markings continue to Bayou Talla, about 2.5 miles downriver from the park.
The Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, www.ltmcp.org, a private conservation group promoting the Jourdan River and several other coastal streams as "blueways" warns in their brochure and map of the Jourdan that the "Jourdan River below McLeod Park is a popular area for high-speed water sports, so remain aware!"
Paddlers on this winter trip saw only one boat. The trip ended up a round trip of about 6.5 miles, the group turning around about where the stream narrows and the slight current begins. From where the group made their turn around the river becomes creek-like and the current increases. It is not strong but it will require about 30-45 minutes of steady paddling by a paddler using a double bladed paddle to make it to the confluence.
Saturday's trip took a little less than four hours and that included a break to snack and recover after one SOT kayak capsized in water waist deep. The unintended dunking was quickly taken care of. After the paddler changed into the dry clothes he had in a dry bag the group continued upstream. There were no other incidents after that.
This was the first-time many of the paddlers on the trip had visited the Jourdan River despite the river being almost in their backyard. (Two paddlers drove from Baton Rouge for the trip.) Paddling the Jourdan River is one of the best kept paddling secrets in the area but if the praise this group had for the trip goes into wide circulation the river won't be a secret much longer.
After the trip members of the group recharged with a delicious meal at the Dockside, 6061 Texas Flat Rd.,(228-344-3247) just off MS 43 and on the way to and from the McLeod Park. Famous for dozens and dozens of snowball flavors the eatery also serves hotdogs, burgers fried seafood sandwiches, poboys and plate lunches in a small dining room or to be enjoyed on tables outside, all at very reasonable prices. Beginning March the restaurant which serves lunch and dinner, will be open seven days a week.
McLeod Park is a large park with both developed and primitive camping. There are ball fields and pavilions too. There is a $2 charge per vehicle to enter the park and no alcohol is permitted. The park can become quite busy when the weather is warm enough for swimming. Contact the park at (228) 467-1894.