Reelfoot Lake

Oasis on the Mississippi

  • Author(s): Johnson, Jim W.
  • Series:
  • Imprint: University of Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2023-02-28
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $34.95 | Buy Now
  • Available in PDF: Price $34.95 | Buy Now


Each year nearly a quarter million visitors come to Reelfoot Lake, also known as “The Earthquake Lake,” to enjoy its natural splendor. With its twenty-five thousand acres of shimmering water, haunting cypress swamps, and two-hundred-year-old lily marshes, the lake is rich in natural beauty and natural history. Yet, despite being one of the most unique lakes in the country—this natural body of water formed during the New Madrid earthquakes in the early nineteenth century—it is relatively understudied. Biologist and environmentalist Jim W. Johnson grew up on the lake and experienced its natural and cultural history firsthand. As a wildlife biologist, he spent much of his career managing Reelfoot and its surrounding area. Reelfoot Lake: Oasis on the Mississippi is part personal remembrance, part guidebook, and part cautionary tale on river and wetland ecology, conservation, and land management, written by an author intimately knowledgeable about the lake and life on it. By exploring Reelfoot’s ancient and recent history, Johnson illuminates the lives of generations of people who lived and thrived in the floodplain. For those looking to navigate the waters of the lake, this book will make travel through the bayous and canals much easier and more pleasurable. And its discussions about the lake’s ecology will bolster voices calling for the protection and preservation of Reelfoot and other wetlands like it.

Accompanied by stunning photography, Johnson’s book is sure to become a useful outdoor guide to Reelfoot Lake and will increase readers’ appreciation for wetlands.


JIM W. JOHNSON, now retired, was for many years a land management biologist with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency. He is the author of Rivers Under Siege: The Troubled Saga of West Tennessee’s Wetlands.