Reelfoot Lake, located in the northwest portion of Tennessee, is home to many natural wonders. Beautiful Cypress trees rise from the lake with their knees poking out of the water. Bald Eagles call the area home, but that’s not all! There are so many different opportunities on Reelfoot Lake that people are unaware of. Kayakers, photographers, and bird watchers have made themselves welcome additions to this 18,000-acre sportsman’s paradise.
Reelfoot has an interesting history behind its formation. As many of you know, West Tennessee rests on the New Madrid Faultline. As best as it can be determined, a massive earthquake occurred around the fall of 1811. The earthquake was so powerful that it caused the Mississippi River to ‘run backward for a day’ as the locals say. The earthquake also caused a depression in the land, which river water filled, forming Reelfoot Lake.
The name behind Reelfoot Lake also has an interesting history. Around the time of the earthquake, there were no European settlers on this side of the Mississippi River. The Native Americans here had a chief named Reelfoot. He earned his name because of his clubbed foot. Legend has it that Chief Reelfoot was the cause of the great earthquake. He had fallen in love with a maiden further along the Mississippi River. When she rejected him, he kidnapped her, angering the Great Spirit. His defiance is allegedly what caused the terrible earthquake that wiped out his tribe.
Alisha Weber, the Park Manager for Reelfoot Lake State Park was able to give us some insights to just what all you can find at the lake. She said, “Every season is different here at the lake, a pontoon boat tour through the cypress and along the canals of the lake is highly recommended. It’s offered spring through late summer or fall with water levels sometimes canceling the tours. Winter bus tours for Bald Eagles and Waterfowl is a must during January and February.”
A couple of us at Cypress Magazine were able to go on a boat tour of the lake thanks to our good friend and fellow writer, Gary Mason. He was at Blue Basin Resort and had Jo Hamilton III drive us around the lake. This wonderful experience provided a unique experience on the lake. Most of the areas we were in only had a depth of 3-6 feet but some areas are as deep as 16-18 feet. Some of the more popular species of fish are the white and black crappie, Bluegill, Catfish, and Bass. Another fish you can find in the Lake is the Asian (or Silver) carp; this invasive species eat the same microorganisms as the native fish species causing an imbalance in this delicate ecosystem. Jo, our guide, is able to help keep an eye on this problem since he is on the water nearly every day. The lake is more familiar to him than the back of his hand. Jo also introduced us to native plant species. What can be mistaken for bright green algae sitting atop the water is actually Duckweed. The clover looking grasses that spring up in some areas are what he called Pennywort. Last, but not least Jo took us through areas covered in Lily Pads. In small ponds and lakes this plant can absolutely take over, but at Reelfoot, lily pads are actually helpful when it comes to looking for certain types of fish. We had a lot of fun spending a morning on Reelfoot Lake. Getting a fishing license is cheap and you can do a lot of sightseeing along the way!
Whether you’re at Reelfoot in the summer, winter, spring, fall you’ll find all kinds of interesting and fun things to do on and around the lake any time of the year. Reelfoot State Park has a Visitor Center that is open to the public. The Discovery Park of America in Union City also has an exhibit on the lake. Ice formations in the winter create gorgeous formations and picturesque scenes. Visit Reelfoot and see just what all it has to offer!
Blue Basin Resort