If there is ever an easy answer to the often posed question about where to have an worry-free paddle without the worry of shuttling in Central Mississippi, it has to be the Ross Barnett Reservoir. This week Lucy's Revenge, in conjunction with the newly formed Central Mississippi Paddling Mafia, took to the Ross Barnett with a vengeance in an attempt to see what she had to offer. The idea was to find a way to hit the water quickly and put in a few miles after work, or on a quick whim.
We had no problem.
On Tuesday afternoon Kelly McGinnis, Dawn Henderson, Sharon and I launched from Pelahatchie Shore Park for a sunset tour of Pelahatchie Bay. It was beautful enough that my video from the 4 mile trip inspired another paddling friend, David Ogletree to hit the water this past Sunday to see if he could spot a few of the many hundreds of white pelicans we surprised on the north side of the bay.
Friday night brought a full moon, and an opportune time for an 8 mile paddle from Ratliff Ferry to Tommy's Trading Post at Goshen Springs. Kelly, Sharon and I were joined by Michelle Blair and Daniel Stuart. We watched a beautiful sunset and moonrise and paddled past a few campsites as people readied for what turned out to be a sensational weekend of weather. We made it in 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Saturday morning I awoke determined not to get caught at the house. So, I and my youngest son Rickey headed out for an overnight trip down the Pearl River from the spillway to Lefluer's Bluff; a 12 mile trip. With the help of my trusty shuttling assistant and oldest son Isaac, I dropped my equipment and Rickey at the spillway, drove my vehicle to Lefluer's Bluff and was driven back to start our adventure.
The launch at the spillway was crowded with fisherman, but just beyond the first river bend the noise of the spillway and the mass of humanity surrounding it was already a memory. The water was pushing at a brisk 4 miles per hour, and we easily floated a quick 4 miles before deciding on a sandbar to make camp.
Rickey spent hours that afternoon sitting in the sand next to the river, digging holes, reading, and just being a kid. There's not a video game in the world that can compete with that. There's nothing quite like seeing your kids lose themselves in the slow pace of the outdoors. That evening, we watched another awe inspiring moon rise over the trees, and after hours of rare uninterupted conversation by the campfire we were serenaded to sleep by a chorus of owls singing along to the background sounds of water churning past fallen limbs.
A beautiful sunrise the next morning and a couple of hot chocolates, and we were packed and back on the water. An almost 8 mile trip should have taken us a couple of hours, but the Pearl River was pushing us along fast, and we were landing at Lefluer's Bluff in just over an hour. I'm glad I got the opportunity to take Rickey with me on this trip, but I'm accustomed to putting in over 40 miles in a weekend. I still wasn't satisfied and I wanted more.
The paddling gods were smiling. By the time Rickey and I stopped off for a quick bite at my friend Roberto's restaurant, my phone was buzzing with another opportunity. Kelly was sending out a call to all members of "the family" to meet up at Pelahatchie Shore Park for an afternoon of exploration. My reply to his text was a simple, "I'm in."
Rickey stayed at home to shower and rest up in preparation for a new week at school. I headed south out of Flora towards Ross Barnett, yet again. Entering Pelahatchie Shore Park, I found a mass of people walking, fishing, disc golfing, and some just laying out on the grass looking up at the cottony clouds. There were no signs of my crew, so I found a parking place to wait. That's when David Ogletree drove up and got my attention and we began talking about where I had spotted the white pelicans a couple of days before. A few minutes later my crew began to arrive; first David Christopher then, Michelle and her husband Kelvin, finally Kelly and his daughter and a friend.
We stayed away from the boat launch. It was a site of constant action and turmoil from boaters loading an unloading their fishing rigs. Instead we launched from a small inlet with easy access. Paddling around the tip of the peninsula and avoiding the boats, we headed east. The water began to lose it's chop as we found ourselves among a couple of small islands and interior waterways. We crossed underneath Spillway Road and into a wooded area adjacent to Millcreek Subdivision, finally running into an impassable weir about two and a half miles into the trip. Were the water not being released at such a clip from the spillway due to heavy rains, we likely could have paddled another mile. Forced to turn back, we made our way through the wooded area again.
The west side of the little tributary provided a little visual entertainment: 10-12 foot tall red blooming azalea's, old forgotten camellia's still showing some blooms from their winter show, and the show of light purple wisteria climbing over and through the woods as if in search of something.
We talked of future paddles; our newly formed band of boating brethren.
The summer days are thankfully long, and opportunities are everywhere on and around "The Rez".
Wilderness Tsunami Kayaks
Take Interstate 55 to the Natchez Trace
Drive North on the Natchez Trace, exit on Old Canton and follow the signs, or exit on Hwy 43 and follow the signs.