Located just 30 minutes from downtown Jackson and 25 minutes from the airport by car, the Ross-Barnett Reservoir in Jackson, Mississippi, is a perfect destination for an easily-accessible respite from a fast paced world. This 33,000-acre body of water, fed by the Pearl River, and the the 17,000 acres of land surrounding it is the ideal place to swim, boat, kayak, fish, bike, play disc golf, listen to the blues and taste down-home cooking in a slow, sweet Southern environment.
If you’re feeling sporty, the Rez, as it’s affectionately called by locals, has lots to offer. There are two hiking trails and a bicycle trail. Try your hand at disc-golf on the 18-hole wooded course at the Pelahatchie Shore Park, and when you’re done, take a swim in the sandy beach area adjacent to the course. Although the water is safe to swim in at the beach and in the middle of the lake, please remember that it’s not a good idea to swim close to the shore in non-designated areas so that gators don’t get you. However, kayaking in the nooks and crannies of the lake is a favorite activity here so you can get up close and personal with these archaic creatures.
Rent a kayak from Pearl River Kayaks and explore the swampier corners of the lake. My favorite place to launch from is the Pelahatchie Bay Trading Post, heading east under the 471 Bridge. Alligators are in abundance here. How many can you spot? I spotted five in one day. One was completely banked on land, showing off all thirteen feet (four meters) of its body! Although no person has been attacked from an alligator at the Rez, they will go after pets and if baited could be dangerous. Much more docile than the crocodile, alligators are still territorial, so leave them alone and they’ll do the same for you.
Taste southern flavors
Ready for a livelier atmosphere? A great restaurant and bar on the water is Pelican Cove Grill. Here, you can listen to live music nightly and even during the days on weekends. Jackson is one of the South’s homes to the blues, so you’re in for a cultural experience with local musicians showcasing this genre. Order a local beer and some fried pickles or fried green tomatoes for a taste of the south, and watch the ducks swim in the harbor just beside you.
Attached to Pelican Cove is the Main Harbor Store. Here you can rent different kinds of boats or jet skis, including a slow moving Party Barge for 16 people with upper deck for sunbathing and two-story slide for around 300 USD a day. This is a slow moving barge, great for having a party and sunbathing. Or get a jet ski for 60 USD/hour to go fast on the water and explore around the Rez. They even rent wakeboards, skis, tubes and knee boards!
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Stay in your kind of style
Now that you know how much fun can be had here, where should you stay? The Rez offers five different campgrounds on the water where you can camp for less than 20 USD/ night. My favorites are Leake County Water Park and Timberlake Campgrounds for their pools, lake and hiking trails access! For a more luxurious feel, try the lakefront properties on AirBnb for up to 400 USD/night for a vacation rental.
Discover Mississippi on the Rez
This is the perfect getaway in for some bluesy, summer fun. Grab your swimsuit, dancing shoes and favorite Jackson-native Eudora Welty book and settle in. Anywhere on this gorgeous body of water, you’re sure to enjoy some southern hospitality and abundant nature.
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