Visitors Guide to
Reelfoot Lake State Park
Reelfoot Lake State Park is located in the northwest
corner of Tennessee and consists of 280 acres broken into 10 different
segments that are situated along 22 miles of Reelfoot Lake shoreline.
Reelfoot Lake is Tennessee’s largest natural lake and was created by the New
Madrid earthquakes during the winter of 1811 and 1812. This partially
submerged forest encompasses 25,000 acres, 15,000 of which are water, and
harbors almost every kind of shore and wading bird including the golden and
American bald eagles. Other animals are also diverse and abundant here. Its
many species of flowering and non-flowering plants attract botany
enthusiasts. Bald cypress dominates the margins of the lake, but many other
trees and shrubs are also present. Since 1930, water levels in the lake have
been regulated by the construction and operation of a spillway at the
southern end. Poor agricultural practices had resulted in siltation of the
lake occurring far more rapidly than it should, as it was common practice
for cotton and soybeans to be planted up to the water's edge until
governmental agencies purchased the entire shoreline. Reelfoot Lake is said
to be named for an Native American chief who had a deformed foot and was
nicknamed "Reelfoot" by settlers in the early 1800s.
Reelfoot Lake is the home to a large variety of wildlife. The park's three
easy to moderate hiking trails allow access to the unique wetland areas of
Reelfoot Lake. The Airpark Trail
is a 45 minute walk through old cypress forest and second growth vegetation.
The Keystone Trail winds along the shoreline of Reelfoot Lake for 1.5 miles
and is the only lakeshore trail. The Black Bayou Trail goes along the old
bayou for approximately 2 miles. An Auto Tour visits 12 points of interest
and circles Reelfoot Lake. Trail and Auto Tour information is available at
the park's visitor center.
Reelfoot Lake’s location along Mississippi Flyway, which nearly half of
North America's bird species and about 40 percent of its waterfowl use,
creates opportunities to view a variety of waterfowl, shorebirds, herons,
and songbirds. The lake is known as a great place to view bald eagles,
golden eagles, ospreys, and other birds of prey.
Reelfoot Lake State Park is the site of the R.C. Donaldson Memorial Museum
which features a variety of exhibits and audio visual programs explaining
the ecology, history, and culture of the area and includes the cypress
boardwalk nature trail. The nature center at the museum contains various
non-releasable raptors, several snakes, and other wildlife. The facility has
a gift shop that features wildlife field guides, nature books, and books on
During the winter months Reelfoot Lake is home to approximately 200 American
Bald Eagles and spectacular numbers of waterfowl. Experienced park
naturalists lead daily bald eagle and waterfowl bus or van tours from early
January through the end of February. Telescopes for viewing and intriguing
information about the natural and cultural history of the wildlife and area
are provided. Programs by invited guest speakers or park staff are offered
every Saturday night during the winter eagle season. These programs cover a
wide variety of themes such as bald eagles, Reelfoot Lake, photography,
history, other interesting topics, and live birds of prey demonstrations.
Bald Eagle and Waterfowl Tours reservations for individuals or groups are
required and can be made by calling the Visitor Center at 1-731-253-9652.
Boating and fishing are popular activities at Reel Foot Lake. As a flooded
forest Reelfoot Lake is full of submerged cypress stumps. Hitting stumps is
common but usually isn’t a concern unless the boater is going fast. No water
skiing or jet skiing is allowed on Reelfoot Lake. Jon boats are the most
popular boat used along with canoes. Fishing is available year round. Bass,
crappie, bream, and catfish are most popular species sought. Appropriate
Tennessee license and lake permits are required. Some fish cleaning stations
are available. Private bait and boat rental concessions are located in the
vicinity. Piers, boardwalks, and bank fishing are available.
Reelfoot Lake State Park features two campgrounds. The south campground
offers 86 sites open from mid March until mid November. The Airpark
campground offers 14 sites open year round. Both campgrounds have bathhouses
with showers and dumping stations. All sites have water and electric hook
ups and tables and grills. Primitive campsites are also available. Maximum
stay is two weeks. Pets accepted on leash. The park also has a five-unit
motel at the Spillway area. All Spillway units can sleep 3 people and have a
refrigerator, a microwave, and a coffee maker. Three Spillway units provide
kitchenettes. Pet rooms are available.
Reelfoot Lake State Park provides one meeting room. Reelfoot’s 3,750 square
foot air conditioned Ellington Hall Auditorium with kitchen facilities can
seat approximately 400 people theater style or 240 people banquet style.
This room is perfect for banquets, reunions, or meetings. It is available
year round at nominal costs. Reservations are accepted up to 12 months in
advance. The park offers visitors approximately 200 picnic sites. Most of
the sites have grills. All sites are adjacent to drinking water, toilet
facilities, and playgrounds. There are five large pavilions for group use.
All sites are available on a first-come first-serve basis. Pavilions may be
reserved with a nominal fee.
Annual Events at Reelfoot Lake State Park include Bald Eagle and Waterfowl
Tours in January and February, scenic boat tours from May through September,
the Round House Reunion - 50s and 60s Musical Event on the 3rd Sunday in
September, and the Arts and Crafts Festival on the first weekend in October.
Visiting Reelfoot Lake State Park
Open daily from dawn to dusk
Visitor Center Hours: 8 am - 4:30 pm daily
There is no charge to visit Reelfoot Lake State
Reelfoot Lake State Park
is located at various points off TN-21, TN-22, and TN-78 on the
south, west and northwest parts of the lake. The Visitor Center is
located on the southwest portion of the lake off TN-21/TN-22.
Learn more about the
Lake State Park
The official website of Reelfoot Lake State Park.