Reelfoot Lake Class I Scenic-Recreational State Natural Area

Reelfoot-2 T Bonham (1)

Reelfoot Lake is an 18,000- acre natural area located in Lake and Obion Counties in northwest Tennessee. The lake was created by a series of violent New Madrid fault zone earthquakes in the winter of 1811-1812. The lake and surrounding forests attract a large diversity of wintering and breeding populations of waterfowl, and boasts a significant population of wintering bald eagles. Reelfoot is also recognized by the United States Department of Interior as a National Natural Landmark. It is one of only fourteen National Natural Landmarks in Tennessee. These landmarks are recognized as the country’s best remaining examples of major biotic communities and geologic features.

The natural area includes about 10,900 acres of open water and marshes, and about 7,100 acres of bottomland hardwood forests and cypress dominated bottoms and sloughs. The large expanse of such diverse aquatic and terrestrial plant communities provide a great number of habitats for wildlife. Reelfoot Lake is considered by some birders to be the best place in Tennessee for bird watching and in fact has been designated an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society. Over 270 bird species have been reported from the Reelfoot Lake area. This list includes numerous rare birds. Winter is an excellent time to observed waterfowl and bald eagles. The Reelfoot Lake State Park staff offer eagle tours every winter. Reelfoot also offers plenty of opportunities for seeing different species of snakes and turtles, amphibians, mammals and invertebrates such as butterflies and dragonflies. For these reasons, Reelfoot Lake is a premier place for outdoor recreational activities such as wildlife viewing especially bird watching. The lake also offers excellent opportunities for fishing and surrounding uplands for hunting.

The contiguous area within Reelfoot Lake State Natural Area and Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge is home to over 30 species of rare or endangered plants and animals. There are at least 14 rare bird species benefiting from this large aquatic/terrestrial landscape. These include the bald eagle, Swainson’s warbler, peregrine falcon, and Mississippi kite. There are also 12 rare plant species including copper iris (Iris fulva), American featherfoil (Hottonia inflata), and yellow water-crowsfoot (Ranunculus longirostris) found in the seasonally flooded sloughs and bottoms surrounding the lake. There are eight rare species of animals including mammals, amphibians, and invertebrates protected at Reelfoot Lake. The diversity of habitat and the large scale and continuity of the landscape offer a significant refugium for all types of wildlife that are migrating through or inhabiting this Mississippi River floodplain. View more information about Reelfoot Lake State Park.

Site Management

Reelfoot WMA, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, 200 Lowell Thomas Drive, Jackson, TN 38301, phone (731) 423-5725. Reelfoot Lake State Park, 3120 State Rt. 213, Tiptonville TN, 38079-9799, phone (731) 253-7756. Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge, 4343 Highway 157, Union City TN 38261, phone (731) 538-2481. Division of Natural Areas, Jackson Field Office, 1625 Hollywood Drive, Jackson TN 38305, phone (731) 512-1369. Division of Natural Areas, William R. Snodgrass Tennessee Tower, 312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, 2nd Floor, Nashville TN 37243, phone (615) 532-0341.

Public Access

Open to the Public - Full Access
Public access is provided in numerous locations with trails, boat ramps, and parking provided. Please contact the visitor center at Reelfoot Lake State Park or Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge for additional information.

Parking: Yes
Trail: Yes
Dogs on Leash: No
Hunting: Yes
Fishing: Yes
Camping: No


To the Reelfoot Lake State Park Visitors Center: From Dyersburg, take State Hwy 78 north to Tiptonville and turn right (east) onto State Hwy. 21 until you reach the visitor center on the left.

Details & Map

  • Map to Reelfoot Lake
  • Owned by the State of Tennessee
  • Tiptonville, Hornbeak, Samburg & Ridgely 7.5-minute quadrangles
  • Mississippi Alluvial Floodplain Physiographic Province
  • Designated in 1973