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group of barrier islands along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in the southern United States, located near Gulfport and Biloxi, southern Mississippi, and near Pensacola, northwestern Florida. It also includes a mainland portion, and some four-fifths of the national seashore is underwater. The national seashore stretches some 160 miles (260 km) from Cat Island in Mississippi (west) to Santa Rosa Island in Florida (east) and is divided by the state of Alabama. The total area of 215 square miles (556 square km) is nearly equally apportioned between Florida and Mississippi. The national seashore was created in 1971.