BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - There's a joke around the newsroom that I'm the reporter that gets called on for every "boat story."
And that's not far from the truth.
Actually, I readily volunteer for such stories.
It seems a little ironic that this reporter who grew up "land locked" in central Illinois, should be first in line for stories that involve trips on the water.
Fact is, I love being on the water. I frequently go on assignment with the Department of Marine Resources.
These water stories have included oyster reef stories, shrimping stories, boating safety stories or the occasional trips to the barrier islands.
Most recently, I was on the water with Mississippi Power Company which was holding its fourth annual Renew Our Rivers program.
That worthy program involves recruiting dozens of volunteers and boats to comb area waterways, picking up litter and debris. They've collected more than 100 tons of marine debris since the program began.
This year, the clean-up along the Tchoutacabouffa River resulted in less trash than in past years. I hope that's a good sign.
Boaters, fishermen and anyone else who enjoys our beautiful waterways must also carry the responsibility to keep those rivers and streams clean.
It's not that difficult. Why not adopt the Boy Scout credo of leaving a camp site, or place you visit, a little nicer than the way you found it?
Pack a trash bag and pick up some litter, even if it's not your own. If everyone would simply pick up after themselves, we wouldn't have to have river clean-ups and other programs that target debris and trash.
Along with the boat trips for work, I also spend a good deal of personal, recreational time on area waterways.
About six years ago, I invested in a kayak. It was the best investment I've ever made. During the summer especially, I try to get out in my kayak at least several times a month. I have a two-seater, so I can take a friend or my daughter along. Unfortunately, the wife doesn't do water sports.
My normal kayak spot is launching from Davis Bayou inside Gulf Islands National Seashore Park. That's because I live in the neighborhood next door to the park and can have my kayak in the water in about ten minutes.
I have a good friend who recently bought a kayak and we're planning a paddle to Horn Island sometime this summer as well.
A week ago, I joined a dozen men from my church for a kayak adventure on the Pascagoula River. We paddled about eight miles from Cumbest Bridge (Wade-Vancleave Road) to the Cumbest Bluff boat ramp. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. You simply much check out the Pascagoula River. It's a true treasure and among the most scenic waterways I've ever paddled.
South Mississippi is blessed with an abundance of scenic waterways. Along with the Pascagoula, there's the Wolf River, the Tchoutacabouffa, and the Biloxi River.
Barrier islands are another great water spot to consider for recreation.
If you've always thought about getting a kayak or canoe, let me encourage you to take action. You won't regret it. Not only will you be able to enjoy all these wonderful waterways, but you'll also get some good exercising.
Finally, stay safe on the water. My Wilderness Systems kayak is bright orange for a good reason. I want pleasure motor boaters to see me, and not swamp me.