Reelfoot Lake has ‘closed her eyes’

Friday, January 5, 2018
The waters of Reelfoot Lake have frozen over, creating an icy spectacle along the lake’s southern boundary [as seen here at the Blue Bank Park pier], due to the below-freezing temperatures Mother Nature brought forth over the course of the previous two weeks. Legend has it that when the lake has frozen over, it means that Reelfoot Lake has closed her eyes.

BRANDON HUTCHESON

bhutcheson@stategazette.com

Over the previous two weeks, Mother Nature brought forth sub-freezing temperatures and winds, transforming Reelfoot Lake into an icy spectacle. Along the shoreline, ice formations can be seen along the cypress trees and portions of the historic lake are completely frozen over. Local legend says that when the lake has frozen over, it means that ‘Reelfoot Lake has closed her eyes’.

The wintertime phenomenon has generated additional visitors to the lake.

“There are people showing up everywhere right now,” said Reelfoot Lake State Park Ranger David Haggard. “I just saw about 15 cars over by one of the picnic areas [Thursday morning]. People have been out taking pictures, looking at the ice formations and the frozen lake. [The number of visitors] is steadily [increasing].”

Cypress knees along the lake’s shoreline are completely frozen over.

Haggard, who has served as a park ranger at Reelfoot Lake since 1986, credits photos posted on social media in spreading the word of the status of the lake and attracting people from around the area.

“The pictures [posted] on Facebook, it just gets the word out that it’s happening now as opposed to before. The lake has always done it [ice formations, frozen over]. Used to, unless you lived there, you didn’t know the lake did it or didn’t know about it until it was already over,” explained Haggard. “Now, it’s just amazing how fast we can get the pictures out and how many people want to come and see the unusual things like the ice formations and the lake being frozen over.”

When asked if he knew of the most recent time that Reelfoot Lake was frozen over to the current magnitude, Haggard replied, “It didn’t do it last year. I know it did it in 2014 when everybody was talking about the polar vortexes. That’s the last time it did it really big on the ice formations. It takes a really big wind and cold temperatures to get the really big ice formations. In 2014, that was the year that they were just as spectacular as they’ve been in most people’s memory. It doesn’t do this every year, but it does it every couple of years. So, it’s not unusual for it to freeze and have ice formations on the shoreline.”

With the current conditions at Reelfoot Lake, Haggard also mentioned how the changes have affected aquatic wildlife.

“It just changes on where they are having to go to find food and water,” he said. “For instance, right now the ducks, eagles, and geese are up on the refuges where they have the pumps running to keep the water from freezing, instead of being out on the main lake. I drove around yesterday [Wednesday] afternoon and probably saw close to 100 eagles and I don’t know how many thousand ducks and geese. It changes on where the animals concentrate because they have to go to where there is food and water available. Right now, you don’t see the eagles much just driving around the south end of the lake, you have to go up where all the ducks and geese are to find them.”

As for local businesses situated along Reelfoot, Blue Bank Resort owner Mike Hayes mentioned that he and his staff are still in operation, transporting duck hunters to blinds on the lake, though they battle frozen areas.

According to Reelfoot Lake State Park Ranger David Haggard, many people from surrounding areas have visited the lake to view the wintertime phenomenon. People have been out taking pictures, look at the ice formations and the frozen lake. [The number of visitors] is steadily [increasing],’ said Haggard.

“As far as us getting out on the lake, we have all of our blinds open,” said Hayes. “We got guys that go out every few hours to break the ice all night long to keep it open to duck hunt.

“I keep a hole open behind my place where the ducks have a place for water,” added Hayes. “I’ve got 2 boat motors going right now that keeps water open. Sometimes, the eagles hang around there.”

Hayes also noted that early 2014 was his last recollection of Reelfoot Lake being near its current state.

For those who have yet to see the icy paradise, Haggard provided the ideal spots along the lake to view the spectacle.

According to Haggard, due to the northern winds, coupled with the frigid temps, the best spots to view the ice formations and the frozen-over lake are along the southern shores of Reelfoot Lake at Blue Bank and Kiwanis Parks as well as The Spillway along State Highway 21.

“The wind blows across the entire lake, so you get the bigger waves and the way it hits that shoreline, it makes some really nice formations that are easy to get to,” Haggard explained.

Individuals who would like to view the frozen-over Reelfoot Lake, but do not want to endure the cold weather can do so by logging on to State Gazette’s Facebook page, as a live video of the winter splendor can be seen for your enjoyment.

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  • Beautiful photos.....I remember stories of all kind of automobiles taking a ride out on the lake in past such winters....

    -- Posted by MDGA on Sun, Jan 7, 2018, at 9:21 AM
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