Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge
Located in northwest Tennessee and southwest Kentucky, the refuge is a major stopover point and wintering area for waterfowl in the Mississippi Flyway. Refuge wetlands, bottomland hardwoods, and croplands provide habitat for more than 239 species of birds, 52 species of mammals, and 75 species of reptiles and amphibians.
Management activities include forest management, protection and enhancement of wetland habitats, production of waterfowl foods through managed croplands, manipulation of native wetland vegetation, and management of Reelfoot Lake water levels. As many as 400,000 ducks, 150,000 Canada geese, and 200 bald eagles inhabit Reelfoot during the winter.
The refuge provides a wide variety of interpretive, educational, and wildlife recreational opportunities for the visiting public. Seasonal hunting and fishing are permitted. Facilities include a Visitor Contact Station, a self-guided auto tour, boat access, two observation towers, hiking trails, and a backyard watchable wildlife habitat showcase. Most of the programs and facilities are fully accessible.
Recreational opportunities in this area include: visitor center, visitor contact station, educational programs, wildlife observation, hiking trails, auto tour route, motorized watercraft, non-motorized boating, hunting, fishing.
Accessibility: The National Wildlife Refuge System is working to ensure that facilities and programs are accessible to visitors. Please contact the refuge office for information about accessibility at this unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Reelfoot NWR is divided into two management units, Grassy Island and Long Point. The primary access to the Grassy Island Unit is the 2 1/2 mile auto tour located south of Walnut Log. Open year-round, it gives visitors a unique opportunity to observe a remnant of bottomland hardwoods from the comfort of a vehicle. Parking is provided along the way for a 1/2 mile hiking trail that is seasonally open. The auto tour terminates at a boat ramp and a boardwalk where visitors may view scenic Reelfoot Lake and the majestic bald cypress.
The Long Point unit is the refuge's premier waterfowl management area where crops and natural vegetation are managed for the benefit of waterfowl. Ten miles of gravel roads are open to the public use from March 15-November 15. Otherwise, the unit is closed for waterfowl sanctuary except for a parking area and observation tower on the main entrance road strategically located for waterfowl viewing.
The refuge visitors center contains numerous natural and historical exhibits related to the Reelfoot Lake area. Outside the visitors center is the backyard watchable wildlife showcase. This living exhibit contains a 1/2 mile walking trail and demonstrates how visitors might attract wildlife to their own backyards.
Reelfoot also offers limited hunting and fishing opportunities. Please call for current regulations.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the water levels for the entire lake. Reelfoot Lake is approximately 13,000 acres and provides numerous recreational opportunities including sport fishing and hunting. Reelfoot is a major wintering stopover on the Mississippi Flyway.
Approximately 1,150 acres of croplands are managed to provide "hot" foods for waterfowl. Natural foods are also very important and 150 acres of moist soil habitat are managed for that purpose. Nearly 6,050 acres of bottomland hardwoods are managed as a green tree reservoir by timber stand improvement practices and reforestation.
Waterfowl surveys are conducted on a biweekly basis from November through March. Approximately 97 wood duck nesting structures are maintained and monitored throughout the year. The refuge also bands wood ducks between the months of June and September.
Bald eagles frequent the refuge during the winter. Numbers as high as 200 can be found in the Reelfoot area. Refuge staff conduct aerial surveys from December through March.
The refuge allows hunting of upland species such as deer and turkey. Population censusing and health checks play a vital role in season lengths and bag limits.
Follow Highway 22 north from Union City, Tennessee. Approximately 15 miles out of Union City turn right on to Highway 157. The refuge headquarters is exactly 1 mile on the west side of the highway.
4343 Highway 157
Union City, TN 38261
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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