Plenty of hidey-holes at Ross Barnett Reservoir

Scott Williams checks out a sandbar on Mill Creek. At right, a variety of vessels is visible at Ross Barnett Reservoir.

I never paid much attention to Ross Barnett Reservoir. With 33,000 acres of open water plied by speedboats, and subdivisions crammed along the banks, what more would I need to know?

That’s the reason my old buddy Scott B. Williams invited me to his new home on Pelahatchie Bay — to show me some of the reservoir’s hidden treasures.

Scott has spent much of his adult life paddling and sailing — such as a sea kayak trip across the Caribbean, followed by a journey down the Mississippi River from Canada to Vicksburg, among countless other adventures.

He has become a successful author, starting out with travel articles and books, then how-to survival books, and now successful series of novels with post-apocalyptic plots — most of them involving boats and water.

Now he and Michelle have bought their own cottage on the water, so Scott can paddle to his heart’s content when he takes a break from writing.

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We slid his Old Town Penobscot 16-foot Royalex canoe into the water behind his house.

The Penobscot is a fine design. I almost bought one myself years ago. It’s straight-shooting, fast and especially good on flat water.

To our right was a road leading to a small park with a public kayak launch. Bicyclists, hikers and joggers occasionally passed.

To the left were houses, many with boats, docks or boat houses.

The air was fresh and sweet off the sunny expanse of open water ahead of us.

But Scott said we were a far piece from the open reservoir. He pointed to a distant causeway at the mouth of Pelahatchie Bay. A yellow boom floated in the water to keep giant salvinia, an invasive plant, out of the bay.

Even with houses and boat docks, there was plenty of nature in the form of cypress, pines and marsh. The banks were dotted with small parks where kids and dogs wandered.

Houses ranged from modest to mansions but all looked attractive, in part due to local building codes.

A pair of anglers stood on a bass boat casting toward the bank. Others fished from their yards.

We angled up a cove that Scott called Mill Creek. It’s one of countless tributaries to the reservoir.

The channel gradually narrowed as we passed houses and docks until we went under a low-hanging bridge. Beyond it, Scott pointed out a library to our right. Yes, he can paddle right up to his local library.

The buildings thinned out as we entered a muddy creek bordered by tall, lush forest.

A large alligator sank ahead of us, leaving a ripple. Gators are an all-too-common sight on the reservoir.

We also saw great blue herons, white egrets, red-winged blackbirds and other birds.

At one point we passed over some sort of metal barrier just inches under the surface. We made it unscathed but a larger boat would have gotten scratched.

Next we encountered rocky shoals that became too shallow even for a canoe, and the creek ended up ahead.

We turned around, paddled down to a thin sandbar and got out to stretch our legs.

Huge trees towered all around — hickory, oak, ash, elm, with a lush understory. Scott noticed an undercut bank up in the woods and we went to explore.

It looked like a good place for a den of some kind, but we saw no fresh tracks. I did find a rusted shotgun shell. Even though what looked like a grassy lawn was visible through the trees, evidently someone hunted out here.

Back on the water, we returned to the bay and explored channels and islands. It was a lovely mix of nature and suburbia — lots of trees, and flowering plants.

As the crow flies we didn’t cover much territory. And that’s the beauty of it.

Scott showed me a map of the reservoir on his smart phone, with all the creeks and backwaters there are to explore.

We’ve already got the next one lined up.

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