Ross Barnett Reservoir

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Ross Barnett Reservoir
Ross Barnett Reservoir sunset picture.jpg
July sunset at the Ross Barnett Reservoir, showing the public fishing pier on Spillway Road.
Location Rankin / Madison counties, Mississippi, US
Coordinates 32°27′26″N 90°01′04″W / 32.4571°N 90.0179°W / 32.4571; -90.0179Coordinates: 32°27′26″N 90°01′04″W / 32.4571°N 90.0179°W / 32.4571; -90.0179
Lake type reservoir
Primary inflows Pearl River
Primary outflows Pearl River
Basin countries United States
Max. length 16 mi (25.74 km)
Max. width 7 mi (11.26 km)
Surface area 52 sq mi (134.67 sq km)
Average depth 12 ft (3.66 m)
Max. depth 60 ft (10.67 m)
Shore length1 105 mi (168.95 km)
Settlements Jackson / Brandon / Ridgeland / Madison
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

The Ross Barnett Reservoir (also known as "The Rez") is an impoundment of the Pearl River between Madison and Rankin counties in the U.S. state of Mississippi. The 33,000-acre (130 km2) lake serves as the state's largest drinking water resource, and is managed by the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District. The lake features 105 miles (169 km) of shoreline impounded on the south by a 3.5-mile (5.6 km) man-made dam and spillway. The western shore is bounded by the historic Natchez Trace Parkway.[1]


Named for Ross R. Barnett, the 52nd Governor of Mississippi, construction on the Ross Barnett Reservoir began in 1960 by MWH Engineering (now MWH Global)[2][3] under the direction of the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District. The main purpose of the infrastructure project was to create a permanent water source to supply drinking water for the Mississippi capital city of Jackson. Flooding of the Jackson section of the Pearl River had been studied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since 1930 and city leaders envisioned commercial and industrial benefits from land reclamation associated with flood control.[4] The Jackson Chamber of Commerce prior to the completion of the reservoir promoted riparian land reclamation with industrial development, a new bypass for U.S. Highway 49 constructed upon a levee, straightening the Pearl River channel and potential navigation.[5] Construction on the lake was completed in 1963, and the water level reached average capacity in 1965. In the 1980s two power companies including the local electricity producer, Mississippi Power and Light Company, made an applications to the federal government authorities to modify the dam to produce hydropower.[6]

Planning began to provide parks and recreation areas in conjunction with the newly formed lake. Today, the Ross Barnett Reservoir serves as a significant water source, a major recreational area, and a catalyst for residential and economic development. There are 4,600 homes along the reservoir in Madison and Rankin counties.[7]


The Ross Barnett Reservoir is managed by the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District (PRVWSD), an agency of the State of Mississippi. In addition to recreation, the reservoir serves as the primary source of drinking water for the City of Jackson's O. B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant. Water released into the Pearl River is monitored and controlled from an electrical/mechanical spillway and gate system that is part of a man-made earthen dam comprising most of the lake's southern shore. The maximum output of the 10-gate spillway is 170,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). The guaranteed minimum flow was not included in the statute creating the reservoir, but the 173 cfs flow was included in the operational permit.[8] The final design of the reservoir could not be purposed as a flood control project.[9] The target elevation for the lake is 297.5 feet (90.7 m) above sea level in the summer; 297.0 feet (90.5 m) in the winter.[10][11] The average depth is 11 feet, water clarity is 2 feet with occasions of 8 feet, and the water color is stained. The lowest pool level in the last eight years was 294 feet MLS according to a 1996 boating map, but the lowest pool was 293.68 feet according to federal data for 2000.[12] [13] Drought conditions occurred in 2007 prompting local concerns.[14] Seismic tests were performed 8o feet below the surface of the reservoir in the fall of 2012 by an energy company. [15]


Each year over two million people visit the Ross Barnett Reservoir for outdoor recreation: types include boating, fishing, water-skiing, and camping. There are five campgrounds, 16 parks, 22 boat launches, three handicapped-accessible trails, two multi-purpose trails, and a mountain bike trail which meanders near Mule Jail Lake.[16][17] Two state records come from the reservoir: Smallmouth buffalo (57 lbs 12 oz) and Bowfin (18 lbs 14 oz). In 1974 a state record Paddlefish of 65 lbs was caught at the spillway.[18]


  1. ^ "Welcome to the Ross Barnett Reservoir". Retrieved 2012-01-02. 
  2. ^ "Work to fix Reservoir leak begins - WLBT 3 - Jackson, MS:". 2010-07-21. Retrieved 2012-01-02. 
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ (26 October 1930). "Dredging of Pearl Urged" Clarion Ledger. (Jackson) p1. and (2 March 1947) "Engineers, C.C. will study Pearl Flood Control" Jackson Daily News. (Jackson): also in Miss. Dept of Archives & History. "Pearl River Flood Control 1930-1947". "Pearl River 0-1969". Subject files.
  5. ^ Real, Jere. (30 March 1960) "Broad industrial project mapped". Jackson Daily News. (Jackson) also in Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History. "Pearl River 0-1969". Subject file.
  6. ^ Mississippi Power and Light Company.; United States. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. (1984) Ross R. Barnett hydroelectric project : application for license : major project--existing dam at Ross R. Barnett Reservoir near Jackson, Mississippi. Jackson, Miss. : Mississippi Power & Light Company. WorldCat website
  7. ^ "Rezonate — The History". Retrieved 2012-01-02. 
  8. ^ Flow Requirements Jackson, MS Figure 5. Appendix "H" Municipal and Industrial Water Supply and Water Quality Control. Pearl River Comprehensive Basin Study. Vol. 7. (1965) Southeastern Comprehensive Water Pollution Control Project. p. H-9 & H-114
  9. ^ "Barnett Reservoir Board of Directors adopts new lake level plan". (Press Release). Pearl River Valley Water Supply District. 18 April 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  10. ^ "Ross Barnett Reservoir: The Control Tower". Pearl River Valley Water Supply District. 2010-07-14. Retrieved 2012-01-02. 
  11. ^ "Ross Barnett Reservoir: Press Releases". Pearl River Valley Water Supply District. 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  12. ^ United States Geological Survey. (2015) USGS Water Resources USGS website
  13. ^ FHS Maps. "Lake Profile". Ross Barnett Reservoir Fishing and Boating Map. Mississippi Series. (Map) (1996)
  14. ^ Northway, Wally. (July 9, 2007) "Drought conditions affecting summer fun". Mississippi Business Journal. (Jackson) Retrieved 28 September 2015. Miss. Business Journal website
  15. ^ "Reservoir blasts for carbon dioxide". WAPT News. 2012-09-06. Retrieved 21 September 2015. WAPT TV website.
  16. ^ "Ross Barnett Reservoir Multi-Purpose Trails" (PDF). Barnett Reservoir. Retrieved March 2014. 
  17. ^ "Rezonate — The History". Retrieved 2012-01-02. 
  18. ^ State of Mississippi. Miss. Dept. of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks. "Freshwater Fishing Records". Retrieved September 29, 2015. Dept of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks website


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