Reelfoot Lake, Kentucky & Tennessee, USA
Welcome to the ultimate guide to Reelfoot Lake — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!
Topics we cover in this article:
- All About Reelfoot Lake
- Things to Do
- Fish Species
- Where to Stay
- Vacation Planning Tools
- Reelfoot Lake Map
- Statistics / Weather / Helpful Links
- Shop Reelfoot Lake Gifts
Looking for Reelfoot Lake cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.
All About Reelfoot Lake
Reelfoot Lake makes its home in northwestern Tennessee and extends into southern Kentucky. The lake is young: popular history says that after the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812, water from the Mississippi River flowed into the newly-formed land, creating what we now call Reelfoot Lake. Today, at approximately 10,400 acres and 22 miles of shoreline, Reelfoot Lake is the largest natural lake in Tennessee.
Regardless of how the lake was created, Reelfoot Lake is undisputedly a popular destination for hunting, fishing, and nature watching. The lake has an ideal aquatic environment for many types of fish, so anglers come to the lake 365 days a year to catch bass, bream, catfish, and crappie, the four most prolific species in the lake. In fact, up until 2003, Reelfoot Lake was the world’s only legal commercial fishery for crappie, a testament to the fish’s high population.
The State of Tennessee owns more than 24,000 acres in and around Reelfoot Lake. In 1941 the State leased 7,860 acres to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for 75 years to implement provisions of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act. The leased land also includes the spillway and gates that control water levels on Reelfoot Lake. The Tennessee acres, along with 2,300 adjacent Kentucky acres owned by FWS, became the Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is a major stop-over and wintering place for up to 500,000 migratory waterfowl, due to its proximity to the Mississippi River.
Approximately 200 American Bald Eagles over-winter at Reelfoot Lake. Viisitors can take one of the daily Bald Eagle and Waterfowl Tours, which provide a glimpse at the birds in their natural habitat. Look through a telescope, binoculars, or your own naked eye to view the graceful and powerful eagles, perched in trees, soaring through the skies, or snatching fish right out of the lake. The tour’s informative speakers will fill you in on bald eagle life as well as the history of this beautiful lake.
Another popular activity at Reelfoot Lake is boating, and you’ll find everything from speedboats and pontoon boats to individual canoes and kayaks. If you choose to use a power boat, be forewarned that the lake is shallow and you should always go slowly. The maximum depth is 18 feet with an average depth of 5.5 feet. No water skiing, wake boarding, or tubing is allowed. And if you’d prefer to leave the driving up to someone else, take a guided Pontoon Boat Cruise available May through September. These cruises introduce visitors to the natural splendor of the lake and provide educate about area vegetation.
The nature lover in you will go wild for the abundant offerings of the area, beginning with the three hiking trails at Reelfoot Lake State Park. Varying in difficulty, the hiking paths weave through old cypress forest, wind along the shores of lake, and trek through the old bayou, giving you the opportunity to see some of the lake’s natural and spectacular wildlife. Reelfoot Lake State Park also features the R.C. Donaldson Memorial Museum, a nature center where you can learn about the fauna of the area on your own time. Read about raptors, snakes, birds, and water dwellers at Reelfoot, and leave a bit more knowledgeable than you entered.
Reelfoot Lake is large, beautiful, and a wonderful place to spend a weekend, week, or more. Beautiful landscapes are made even better by setting suns, bright blues skies, and the occasional swooping eagle. As any previous visitor will tell you, time spent at this Tennessee lake is certainly time well spent.
Things to Do at Reelfoot Lake
- Vacation Rentals
- Water Skiing
- Wildlife Viewing
- National Wildlife Refuge
- State Park
Fish Species Found at Reelfoot Lake
Find Places to Stay at Reelfoot Lake
If you’re considering a Reelfoot Lake lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.
Recommended Sites to Book a Reelfoot Lake Vacation
If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Reelfoot Lake lodging partners.
- VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
- Booking.com – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, Booking.com connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
- Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
- Hotels.com – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, Hotels.com is an industry leader in online accommodations.
- TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
- Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
- KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
- RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
- CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.
Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.
Reelfoot Lake Statistics & Helpful Links
Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed
Water Level Control: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Surface Area: 10,427 acres
Shoreline Length: 22 miles
Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 282 feet
Average Depth: 6 feet
Maximum Depth: 18 feet
Water Volume: 80,300 acre-feet
Drainage Area: 240 sq. miles
Trophic State: Eutrophic
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