REELFOOT LAKE

3/8/2020

Situated in the old Mississippi River Valley in northwestern Tennessee, sits a roughly 23 square mile lake surrounded by beautiful old cypress trees, with an average depth of 5.5 feet and a maximum depth of 18 feet. In the vicinity, lie lakes that are old abandoned riverbeds of when the Mississippi River’s meandering ways formed 180° bends, touched together and then got left behind. These oxbow lakes straddle both sides of the Mississippi River and play havoc with map makers because the existing navigation channel at the time, was the dividing line between states when they were admitted to the union. The river has changed courses hundreds of times making state border distinction challenging. Reelfoot lake is an oddity. In the late 1700’s it was a small river that emptied into the Mississippi and in 1811/1812, hundreds of quakes from the New Madrid Seismic Zone including 3 large ones (<7 on the Richter Scale) were responsible for sand blows, river bank failures, seiche waves and a liquefaction of the soil resulting in the land tilting and dropping down. Earthquake lakes are formed in 2 different ways; landslides that block a river forming a lake, (Earthquake Lake in Yellowstone National Park) and river water filling in new depressions caused by earthquake subsidence, (Reelfoot Lake). This type of lake is extremely rare and possesses a strange effect on its animal life in that environment. Reelfoot Lake has an immense Crappie, (a subspecies of Sunfish) population that up until 2003 had commercial seine net fishing. These fish made it into the marketplace locally and soon the medical industry observed an increase in the occurrence of Parkinson’s disease in the area. This practice was soon outlawed because the fish from that lake carried a unique genetic marker that was transmitted up the food chain to the predators who fed on them, similar to the DDT phenomenon. Eating excessive amounts of fish taken from a quake lake over time, will give you tremors. 

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