Frozen in Time

Ray Pope

Frozen in Time

Bald Eagles in the distance

I was so worried that the weather would cause us to cancel our trip out to Reelfoot Lake, which was scheduled for last Wednesday and Thursday. It was a tad on the cold side, but we were in hopes that the weatherman was not just jerking us around when he said that a slight warming period was on the way. He was mostly correct, but forgot to mention the freezing rain, that greeted us early Thursday morning.

Leaving out at eight o'clock, Wednesday morning, after loading our essentials into the large white van that is used by the Lebanon Senior Citizens Center, we were finally on our way. Piloting the van was Patti Watts, director of the center, along with co-pilot, "me", and eight others, who included, Nadine Dunaway, Marcia Essary, Sue Gaskin, Elaine Gipple, Jay & Gloria Kirkland, Maureen Mandato, and finally, Mr. Gary Wilhoit. The only slow spot in traffic occurred when we tried to merge onto I-24 to get onto the 440 parkway. Some drivers didn't seem to know where they wanted to go, and slowed down to a Nashville crawl. The rest of the drive out was smooth sailing.

The drive out to Jackson, on Interstate 40 was very scenic with plenty of sunshine and Red-tailed Hawks, that was scattered all along the roads to our destination. Patti Watts would ask, quiet ofter, "what kind of bird was that"? Most of the time it would be a Red-tailed Hawk, and she became very proficient at identifying them at our trips end. Other times it would be a Turkey Vulture, or a Black Vulture. With our stomachs beginning to growl we made out first lunch break at an Arbys in Dyersburg. After lunch and a trip to refuel the van, we were once more on the way to Reelfoot Lake.

As we topped the short hill on highway 21coming in from Hornbeak, we could see that the lake was frozen over. That's not too good for the Bald Eagles to be feeding on their favorite food, fish, especially with ice in the way. Our first stop was the Reelfoot Lake State Park Visitors Center, located right on the lake. We toured the facility to better understand the area in which we would be exploring. After a short film at the center, we braved the cold weather to walk out on the boardwalk which took a scenic path next to the open water there. I really meant the icy surface covering the lake.

Our small group stopped off at a small observation area on the boardwalk to scan the area for Bald Eagles, and other birds. Great Blue Herons were also plentiful there and seemed to be in every location in which we stopped to watch. With the lake frozen over, their chances for a meal was slim to none.

There are more duck hunters at Reelfoot, and their love for the sport will not stop just because of a little ice. Wherever they put their boats in, it was acting like a miniature ice-breaker and the hunters drove slowly enough to open a path in the ice field. With the waters open in the boat lane, Bald Eagles flew in to take advantage of the situation. At the observation station, we were able to count 52 Eagles strung out all the way down where the boats had cleared a path going to their duck blinds.

Back at the visitors center they had a reptile room and it was there that I learned that Patti was not impressed with the members of the snake family. She said that they gave her the willies and left the cage area to a more safe environment.

Reelfoot Lake was formed by a huge earthquake back in the winter of 1811 and 1812, which caused the land in that area to drop and the mighty Mississippi river was said to flow backwards and filled up the depression forming the lake. There are also many legends that talk about an Indian chief, named Reelfoot, that angered the "gods" by taking a wife from a different tribe, and in his rage, caused the ground to sink and then the river flowed into this depression, drowning all of his tribe. There is too much to write about on this go round and I will finish my story in next weeks, The Wilson Post.

I would love to hear from you as to what's lurking about in your neighborhood and at your feeders. You can write me at, 606 Fairview Ave., Lebanon, TN, 37087, or e-mail me at,