3120 State Rte. 213, Tiptonville, Tennessee
A cataclysmic earthquake on February 7, 1812—perhaps the most violent ever to strike the continental United States—caused an enormous area of land to sink as much as 10 feet. Water from the Mississippi River entered this depression, creating a 14-mile-long lake. Much of the lake’s charm and strangeness is imparted by the venerable bald cypress trees that fringe its margins. They rise tall and ghostly from the dark water and in spring and summer canopy the shoreline with delicate, fresh green foliage.
The shallow 15,000 acres of water are dotted with islands. The park includes a narrow strip around most of the shore, where campgrounds, picnic and day-use areas, and boat launches are available. From May through Sept., a cruise boat leaves from a jetty near the visitors center every morning for a three-hour cruise, stopping at Caney Island, where visitors can walk a nature trail and see Native American mounds. In mid-summer the American lotus blooms abundantly in parts of the lake; when that happens, the cruise boat stops to let people pick the flowers.
A sanctuary for wildlife, Reel-foot Lake is a resting place for a large number of migrating waterfowl and therefore a favorite with birders. Between Jan. 2 and the first weekend in March, the park conducts daily bus tours to look for wintering bald eagles. The tours depart from the Reelfoot Lake State Airpark Inn in the morning and take about two hours. Reservations are required.
Known as the Turtle Capital of the World, the lake features thousands of sliders, stinkpots, and mud-and-map turtles. The visitors center, located in Tiptonville, has a small museum of natural and local history.
Park open year-round. Fee charged for tours and cruises.
(731) 253-8003(731) 253-7756 For bald eagle tours.