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Today is June 3, 2020

Hidden Mississippi Big Creek

Paddling unfamiliar streams with The Man in the Dugout Canoe

By Sandra M. Buckley

Hidden Mississippi Big Creek

Photo by Donna Sones Turner

Since he was a young boy, Drew Turner of Hattiesburg has been drawn to nature and the great outdoors. He especially loves canoeing and has paddled nearly 2,000 miles of Mississippi creeks and waterways — all in his handcrafted dugout canoe he made from a poplar tree nearly 20 years ago. It is this canoe and his passion for sharing his experiences that have resulted in his now being known as “The Man in the Dugout Canoe.”

This famed dugout canoe, which measures 12 feet long and 22 inches wide, weighs nearly 120 pounds and has carried its 60-year-old owner on countless explorations of streams winding throughout Mississippi.

Drew’s wife, Donna, describes her husband as an adventurer who is passionate about discovering more of our beautiful “Hidden Mississippi.” A nurse by trade, she accompanies him on every float, helping document and photograph these journeys for The Man in the Dugout Canoe Facebook page, which is used as a resource for encouraging others to enjoy and explore Mississippi’s many streams and creeks — both familiar and unfamiliar.

One such lesser known waterway in South Mississippi that the Turners both especially enjoy paddling is Big Creek in Leakesville. “It is one of our favorite streams to float in the springtime,” Donna said, “when the water is plentiful.”

In addition to the creek’s nice, mild current and narrow width, the season’s landscape is picturesque. “The scenery of spring flowers and new green foliage is outstanding,” she said, adding that its many bends keep you guessing what splendid scene is around the next turn. “There are also lots of sandbars that are pristine and white, where you can pull over and play in the water or eat a snack or lunch.”   

While Big Creek does not have a boat ramp, Donna explained that the put in and take out is easy.  This is one reason the Turners’ like to recommend it; because sometimes, attempting to access unfamiliar streams can be physically challenging if there is not a cemented boat ramp or the terrain is rocky and steep.

For The Man in the Dugout Canoe, inspiring people to discover our “Hidden Mississippi” is his life’s passion. His many adventures are documented on his Facebook page, featuring hundreds of beautiful photos, helpful information and a touch of humor.

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