When it comes to furnishings, the cabins in Flint Creek Water Park are not The Ritz.
   Their setting more than makes up for the lack of luxury.
   Regulars at the Water Park near Wiggins in Stone County will tell you Flint Creek is one of South Mississippi's best-kept secrets. That is, if they'll tell you about it. They just might keep the secret to themselves.
   The park opened in 1969 with fishing, swimming, waterskiing and boating on a 640-acre flood control and public water supply reservoir. The fishing soon became legendary.
   Nestled in the piney woods are camp sites, both primitive and for hook-ups, and a nature trail. Watertown opened in the 1980s, and the assortment of adult and children's water slides proved as popular as the fishing.
   Now, there are 46 cabins that tend to stay rented out, for anywhere from $50 to $110.
   Flint Creek Water Park is a state park in the Pat Harrison Waterway District, which boasts nine parks and 12 boat camps in 15 counties. Flint Creek, less than an hour's drive from Gulfport, stages events to lure Coast residents. That includes a Halloween trail, Fourth of July fireworks and outdoor movies.
   Among Flint Creek's allures are the woods and cabins. Katrina damaged both but gave the park a new role.
   "We have 158 RV sites, and 67 of them are occupied by FEMA trailers," said Chris Bowen, executive director of Pat Harrison Water District. "From the beginning we functioned as a haven for relief workers, utility workers, contractors who needed a place to stay. They were in cabins that needed repairs, but it was better than the alternative."
   About half of the cabins were damaged, and half a dozen of those badly. Repairs are under way and by Mardi Gras, Flint Creek expects to have most cabins rentable.
   "We're expecting good Mardi Gras crowds," Bowen said. "They run from New Orleans and the Coast and come here to spend it with us. It's Mardi Gras in the woods.
   "We should have 41 cabins ready by then."
- KAT BERGERON