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Reelfoot Lake Campground, TN

Trip Overview

Reelfoot Lake, Tiptonville, TN ………. Aug 1 – 3, 2019 ……………... I’m often traveling by truck and trailer with the kayaks on the truck. We often take our time and visit a lot of paddling opportunities along the way to our trip objective. As usual we spend two to three times as long traveling to our destination as we spend at the destination. This is one of those occasions. I intended upon writing up a different location, but when we arrived and started to enjoy this location I knew I had to do a report on Reelfoot Lake, TN. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………... Reelfoot Lake is one of those country places that has a small following of people that are aware of the location and come and enjoy the country feel of the place. We stayed at the Reelfoot Lake State Park Camp Ground near Tiptonville TN. The state park is one of those places where it is broken up into multiple locations mostly by function. There might be a boat ramp and cabins at one place, a boat ramp and picnic area at another and a camp ground at still another place. They are all joined by the lake. Small and simple is the watch word for the facilities. Our camp ground had 86 camp sites nestled among trees on the south side of the lake. The water front side had sites right on the water. Our trailer was less than 10 ft. to the bulkhead that divided the Cypress ringed water of the lake and our camp site. No sooner had we arrived when a concerned camper arrived walking on the bulkhead warning us that there were water moccasins in the water and they often fall out of trees and try to get into boats. I thanked him for his concern. We’ll keep an eye out for them. But he was certain we’d have problems…..until I noted that we didn’t have much problems with them in the Okefenokee or the Everglades but we’d keep a look out. He was still concerned. We didn’t see any snakes. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………. The lake has different stories as to its origins. The geologists and science folks tell us it is left over oxbows from the Mississippi. They have charts that list the different river tracks for the last 20,000 years showing how the Mississippi wandered and closed itself off. But that story is boring. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………... The fun story relates back to the earthquakes of 1811. It seems back then there was a Native American who had a deformed foot. Thus when he walked he “reeled” around. My internet dictionary says, Reeled, "walk in a staggering or lurching manner”. Thus that Indian was named Reelfoot. Now Reelfoot proposed marriage to a woman from a neighboring tribe and she refused. Reelfoot got his buddies and made a raiding party and kidnapped the woman so they could be wed. Which upset the Creator and caused the earth quake that swallowed up the tribe while creating the lake. It was said that the action was so abrupt that the Mississippi flowed backwards for a while. The geologists claim that a dome was created on the south end by the earthquake cutting off the river from the old oxbow. It also consolidated the bottom of the channel creating the current river and lake. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. I don’t know. I just like the legion of Reelfoot better than the story by the scientists. It has more movie quality to it. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………... What is evident though is the uniqueness of the lake. It is a long lake of some 14 miles long and five miles wide. It is divided up by swampy areas of water loving trees mostly cypress with lots of knees. If you look at the map it shows a big lake. If you look at the satellite photos is shows lakes with lots of marshy areas projecting outward into what the map shows as a lake. It is a very common configuration in many southeastern lakes and swamps. Much of the swamp area has had canals cut through the trees to allow passage from one side to the other. It forms a unique opportunity for the kayaker to make open water passages and small “creek” paddles in the same trip. The lake is relatively shallow so waves can develop. There are plenty of cypress trees in the water such that you can wander in and out among them. Looking for the snakes I suppose. The lake is known for bass, blue gill, bream, cat fish and black crappie. We didn’t fish. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. We did paddle. We went out one morning and paddled across the lake following a trail of buoys. They were the white markers usually placed over hazards like shoals, sand bars and no wake zones. They were likely placed for an event since the first was at ¼ mile, the second at ½ mile and the third at 1 mile. They were marked “Make better healthy choices”. This was accented at one marker by a long protruding piece of rebar stuck in the bottom projecting above the water to catch the unwary. Made me wonder what the “better health choice” was. The lake at this point was about one mile wide from the state park boat ramp to the Green Island Point. We paddled up the point along the trees. There were a few duck blinds on this point. Their design allowed the guide to place the boat under the blind so the dog could get out to get the ducks while the hunters stood above at the windows to shoot. We counted 8 of these around the lake where we paddled. As we paddled northward we saw flowers, birds and much fish activity. Didn’t see any snakes. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………... A ways up the coast we came across a cut off in the trees so we turned to explore the cut. It was the Green Island cut off. Narrow and just as deep as the rest of the lake it went through the green Island. “Island” is a much exaggerated use of the word. Nice to be inside the cut off out of the wind and sun. Once out of the trees we continued around to the point again and started our way across the lake northeast toward Willow Towhead across the Moultrie Field to a line of cypress trees out in the water. It looked like they were planted in a straight line running northwest to south east. When we arrived up there they were not exactly in a straight line. But there were Osprey nests in the trees. We followed the line and it lead us to the house lined edge of the lake along Gum Point in the town of Samburg, TN. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………... We followed the shore line south past houses, and rental cabins towards our campground. We passed many cabins that didn’t appear to have people. It was a week day. I’m sure the weekend would have more people. Just before our camp we passed Blue Bank Fish House and Grill. It is a resort that included cabins, motel rooms, a restaurant, boat rentals and bait. It looked interesting. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. As often our summer paddle custom is to paddle early and endeavor to be done before noon. The paddle was a little short. We did 7.7 miles in an hour and a half. We pulled the boats through the “moccasin infested trees” and pulled out at our camp site. (no snake seen) We got cleaned up and went next door to the Blue Bank Fish house for lunch. Good food and atmosphere. I remember sitting at the table looking out at the deck and docks thinking this would be nice to come back to if they had some live music and libations. ………………………………………………………………………... We spent the rest of the afternoon touring the local area. There was a visitor center south along the lake that had the boring version of the origin of the lake and several nature study exhibits. Outside they had flight pens for owls, hawks and four eagles. It was an interesting, free, visit. The gift shop had trinkets for sale. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………. The nights we were there the wind died down just before sun down so it only seemed natural to go out for a sunset paddle. We launched through the trees out to the lake and took obligatory pictures and enjoyed the light show. Then a short paddle up the shore added live music from the deck at the nearby resort. It was a good paddle and a good location. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. If you decide to go we arrived at the beginning of a weekend. The park was not filled up, but more people came Friday night. The resort next door didn’t look full either. I would though make reservations at both places. The camp ground had sites for $25 to $35. There are other camp grounds for RVs but the state park is the only one directly on the water. Unless you find a spot at a cabin rental area. Walmart is 25 miles away. So if you need things think ahead. There are some supplies available in Tiptonville. As well as a Dairy Queen. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. All in all, Reelfoot Lake is a place we will likely return to. We will likely come back and visit some of the other canals. DP ……………………………………………………………… A. Bing Dictionary, found on Bing. https://www.bing.com/search?q=reeled&form=IENTNB&pc=DCTE&mkt=en-us&httpsmsn=1&refig=24ce3c28a8284036f48f2bb83dd1e8e4&sp=-1&pq=reeled&sc=8-6&qs=n&sk=&cvid=24ce3c28a8284036f48f2bb83dd1e8e4 B. Reelfoot State park, web site……tnstateparks.com . Google Maps location, https://www.google.com/maps/place/Reelfoot+Lake+State+Park/@36.3547141,-89.4055727,15.56z/data=!4m8!1m2!2m1!1sReelfoot!3m4!1s0x8878e2074b414e21:0x9cd36faf6392d330!8m2!3d36.3626864!4d-89.4318257 C. Tennessee State Park web site…… https://tnstateparks.com/parks/reelfoot-lake
  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing, Kayak Fishing, Fishing
  • Skill Level: Beginner, Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water, Open Water/Ocean
  • Number of Portages: 0
  • Portage Description: The program wouldn't let me enter the location of the campground. So if you put in at this location it will be a walk to the camp. The camp is near the intersection of hwy 21 and 22.
1. snakes were said to be present. Conditions appeared "snake possible". None were observed. 2. Duck hunting is popular here. Stay away from the blinds during duck hunting season.
It was calm with maybe 5 mph winds. Waves in the big but shallow lake could rise up fast with a storm.

Locations on this Trip