Best bridges for walking, running

The Biloxi Bay Bridge, at 1.6 miles one way, is a popular site for walkers and runners.
The Biloxi Bay Bridge, at 1.6 miles one way, is a popular site for walkers and runners.

Let’s take a walk. Or a run.

With (slightly) cooler temperatures now on the Coast, the great outdoors is a little more inviting. One of the best ways to enjoy the scenery here is to hike across one of three bridges designed with walkers and runners in mind.

There are several benefits to walking the bridges. The first, which is true of any aerobic activity, is weight loss or maintenance, strengthening bones and muscles, and improving your mood. Another are the breezes and the views. And two of these three bridges offer elevation, a rarity on the flat lands of the Coast.

Other walkers and runners will be glad to see you and will offer a nod and smile or a hello, especially if you follow etiquette and keep to the right side. Don’t forget sunglasses and sunscreen, be sure to wear appropriate shoes (flip-flops not advised although they can be spotted occasionally) and have some water either in hand or waiting for you in the car.

Biloxi Bay Bridge

The Biloxi Bay Bridge is 1.6 miles long and probably the most popular among pedestrians. It’s in the middle of the action, with the Golden Nugget Casino and the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum nearby and plenty of commuters between Biloxi and Ocean Springs. Out and back, it also measures right at the distance for a 5K, so it’s great for training. If your 5K takes you to a hillier destination, the rise on this bridge helps you prepare for that.

The best place to park is on the Ocean Springs side, along Front Beach Drive, between the Ocean Springs Yacht Club and the nearby convenience store. Speaking of convenience, the city provides a portable restroom in this area. There is also an attractive little park at the foot of the bridge here. Appropriately named Bridge Mural Park, it features a mosaic mural arranged and installed by artist Elizabeth Veglia with the works of Patt Odom, Chris Stebly, Susie Ranager and Ching Walters.

You’ll start out with a hill climb here, but the good thing is you get it out of the way. If you need a rest or if nature’s beauty becomes too overwhelming during your trek, there are three benches with great views on the bridge. You’ll also see several bronze artwork plaques along your path. The works were done by local artists and transferred to the plaques “produced from nearly 8,000 pounds of bronze bearing plates that were recovered after Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of the Biloxi Bay Bridge,” according to the Mississippi Department of Transportation. They accompany one-tenth mile markers on the railing. Sculptor and ironworker Greg Moran cast the pieces of art in bronze.

Bay of St. Louis

The Bay of St. Louis Bridge is also known as the Leo W. Seal Jr. Memorial Bridge. Dedicated in 2008, the bridge is 2.1 miles long. The best place to park is along the short street between U.S. 90 and Chapel Hill Road on the Bay St. Louis side, just across Beach Boulevard from the bridge. This is the longest of the three and probably the quietest. Just east of the bridge there is another, shorter one with a narrower walkway, so if you want to train for a 10K, consider adding that bridge to your workout for an out and back. There are a couple of elevated spots but they aren’t as steep as the ones on the Biloxi Bay Bridge.

You’ll find bronze plaques here, too, similarly made from recovered plates. MDOT held a contest in 2007 for artist submissions. While there was no criteria regarding subject, the winners all depict life on or in the water or on the Coast.

Four impressive cement monolith pylons featuring the artwork of Marty Wilson set this bridge apart. The 35-foot pylons are 2 feet thick and 8 feet wide, and they flank the entrances to the bridge. Look across the water and you’ll see the L&M Railroad bridge; occasionally a train will cross. You’re very likely to see recreational fishermen or pleasure craft in the water below.

Popp’s Ferry Bridge

At 0.8 miles, this is the shortest of the three as well as the oldest (completed in 1979) and has the narrowest walkway. This is also a drawbridge, so there’s the possibility it will go up to allow a taller vessel through, delaying your walk or run. The drawbridge grid also has a vibrating feeling underfoot when traffic is on the bridge, so that’s something to get used to. And if you’re claustrophobic, the oncoming traffic might feel a little too close for your comfort. All that said, this is a neat bridge that’s centrally located and offers some breathtaking views.

To walk the bridge, the best place to park is on the south end in the small lot on the east side of Popp’s Ferry Road. There are good sidewalks to the north and south of the bridge, so if you want to extend your walk or run, you might find other places to park. This one is in the most residential area, so your view includes waterfront homes, and folks who live nearby might join you on the bridge. Look for herons in the marshy grass below as well as fish jumping in the water. Sunrises and sunsets can be spectacular here.

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1