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Born of the 1812 New Madrid quakes, Reelfoot Lake is a an outdoor lovers paradise

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Born of the 1812 New Madrid quakes, Reelfoot Lake is a an outdoor lovers paradise

The scenic Reelfoot Lake is unique: it was created over 200 years ago when Tennessee was rocked by a series of earthquakes on what today we call the New Madrid fault.

Located in the northwest corner of Tennessee in Union City, it is noted for its fishing, boating and wildlife viewing. The 15,000 acre lake was created by a series of violent earthquakes in 1811-1812 that caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards for a short period of time. The shallow area that now holds the lake was flooded.

The result is a modern day ecosystem unlike any other place in Tennessee. Reelfoot Lake is a flooded forest. While Majestic Cypress trees rise above the water, below the surface are many submerged Cypress stumps. A variety of aquatic plants and flowers occupy the shoreline and saturate the shallow water. The lake harbors almost every kind of shore and wading bird as well as golden and American bald eagles.

During January and February, Reelfoot Lake is home to thousands of American bald eagles. Experienced park naturalists lead daily bald eagle and waterfowl tours and the annual Reelfoot Eagle Festival in February is a bird watching destination. In March and April, deep swamp canoe trips are offered and scenic pontoon boat tours are offered May through September. Every fall, hundreds of white pelicans stop at the lake on their seasonal migration. More information about the tours can be found under the activity section.


While the shallow lake offers many opportunities for boating and fishing, swimming in the lake is not permitted. The park has several hiking trails that are popular for bird watching and wildlife viewing. There are two campgrounds at Reelfoot Lake State Park. Campsites provide water, electricity, tables and grills with many campsites located on the lake shore.

The Ellington Hall Auditorium is ideal for banquets, reunions and meetings. The 3,700 square foot, air conditioned hall has kitchen facilites and can seat approximately 400 people theater style or 240 banquet style. Some audio/visual equipment is available and outside catering can be used to provide food and beverages. Reservations are accepted up to 12 months in advance.

Interpretive programing is available at the Reelfoot Lake State Park’s R.C. Donaldson Memorial Museum and Nature Center. The center’s attractions include non-releasable raptors, snakes and other wildlife of the area. The museum is open year-round excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Admission is free.

For more information, please contact Reelfoot Lake State Park directly at 731-253-9652.

For a listing of 2018 events, visit the Reelfoot site online.

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