The lake itself is Reelfoot Lake State Park’s main attraction, but there’s plenty of exploring to be done on foot, too. More bayou than lake, Reelfoot was formed by a series of tremendous earthquakes in 1811 and 1812, which caused the Mississippi River to back up on itself and fill in this vast cypress forest. The area is steeped in history, including time spent here by famous frontiersman Davy Crockett and a series of raids by the vigilante Night Riders in the early 1900s. Today, the lake is covered in lily pads and lotus flowers, and trails around the park offer visitors a view of the 20-square-mile lake.
What Makes It Great
Hiking trails at Reelfoot Lake State Park range in distance from half a mile to two miles, and all are rated easy. The Airpark Trail, 1.5 miles each way, runs through old cypress and hardwood forest, and in the early summer you’ll see wildflowers here. The Keystone Trail, also 1.5 miles each way, follows Reelfoot Lake’s shoreline and is the park’s only lakeside trail. Keystone is right at the lake’s level and gets hikers up close and personal with the park’s beloved cypress trees. The Black Bayou Trail is two miles long and winds through the cypress forest and the Black Bayou Slough. This is the best trail for observing wildlife, including owls and several species of songbird.
Check the weather forecast or chat with a naturalist at the Visitor Center before you head out onto the trails at Reelfoot Lake State Park. Depending on the season, you may encounter ankle-deep mud on some sections of the natural trails (all except the Visitor Center Boardwalk). This is also a great opportunity to find out what bird species are around and where’s the trail to spot them.
Who is Going to Love It
The Visitor Center Boardwalk and Campground Trail, at just half a mile each, are short and accessible for families with young children. There aren’t any strenuous trails at Reelfoot Lake, so while it’s not the best destination for a serious workout, but you’ll find gorgeous views and wildlife observation opportunities here year round. Head to Reelfoot Lake in the winter months, especially January and February, for countless bald and golden eagles. There’s also birdwatching here year-round: check in at the Visitor Center when you arrive to find out where to go to see the species du jour.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Reelfoot Lake State Park is located at 2595 Hwy 21 E in Tiptonville, about two hours north of Memphis.