Approximately 2.5 million people visit the Barnett Reservoir annually to enjoy one of the 48 recreational facilities, from campgrounds to trails to boat launches.
The Pearl River Valley Water Supply District (PRVWSD) is the state agency that manages the 33,000-acre lake and surrounding property.
As part of the PRVWSD, the Parks and Recreation Department oversees the campgrounds and other recreational opportunities available in the district.
Michael Gober, who has served in law enforcement for nearly 30 years, took over as Parks and Recreation Director in March.
As director, Gober oversees 16 staff members, including campground officers, office staff and maintenance staff.
“Parks and Recreation is a large part of the reservoir,” Gober said. “The reservoir has several functions. One, I believe we have over 13,000 residents who live on reservoir properties. And, we are a public facility. We are a water supply district, as the name implies.”
The third part, Gober said, is parks and recreation.
“Being the largest lake in central Mississippi and being located in the Jackson area, we are a large draw to people,” Gober said.
This year has been a bit different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Gober said the lake continues to draw those who need an escape even as restrictions begin to lift.
Each year, they put on a variety of events, including the annual Independence Day Celebration, Thursday night concert series, 5K races, triathlons, car shows and food cooking contests.
“As far as water recreation, that is really two facets. You have your recreational boaters and you have your fishermen. Most of what we do at the reservoir falls under those two things, including fishing tournaments,” Gober said. “Every weekend at one of our boat ramps, we will have 10-15 or up to 50 boats in fishing tournaments. That is a big part of what we do on the reservoir as far as recreational fishing.”
As for recreational boating, Gober said there are several spots along the reservoir that are well known for recreational boating, such as the Cove off the Natchez Trace Overlook, Pelahatchie Shore Park beach area and upriver above Highway 43.
“There are miles of sandbars all the way up to the Highway 13 boat ramp in Leake County that are used by boaters every weekend,” Gober said.
The department also oversees four campgrounds, including Timberlake, Goshen Springs, Lowhead Dam, Leake County Water Park and Coal Bluff, and three day parks, Lakeshore Park, Pelahatchie Bay Park and Old Trace Park.
“The thing that we love about our campgrounds is, unlike some state parks, we have a 33,000-acre reservoir that is accessible to all of our campgrounds, and all of our day parks are waterfront,” Gober said. “The biggest part of what we do as far as recreation all revolves around boating, fishing, park activities, camping and those things.”
Other recreational opportunities include fishing piers and a recreation area below the Spillway, which is primarily used for fishing.
Each campground has an on-site manager and staff.
Some of the campgrounds even allow for long term stays, with some choosing to live month-to-month in one of the reservoir campgrounds.