Coming soon: Eagle tours at historic Reelfoot Lake

Coming soon: Eagle tours at historic Reelfoot Lake
Coming soon: Eagle tours at historic Reelfoot Lake | Coming soon: Eagle tours at historic Reelfoot Lake
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Eagle watching season is just around the corner at Reelfoot Lake.
Eagle tours will begin Jan. 6, 2012, at Reelfoot Lake and there are a variety of special events scheduled at the lake through February.
The 2012 eagle watching season at Reelfoot Lake is historically significant. This season marks the 200th anniversary of the formation of Reelfoot Lake.
A committee headed by state naturalist David Haggard has been meeting for more than a year, planning events to coincide with the bicentennial.
A benefit auction held in November raised $1,400 to help finance some of the bicentennial activities, which include special history displays, a history day, the 8th Annual Eagle Festival (Feb. 4-5, 2012) and a variety of special programs and events.
A special Reelfoot Lake Bicentennial exhibit will be put on display at the Obion County Public Library during January and February 2012.
The bicentennial celebration and the arrival of the wintering bald eagles will keep local state park officials busy for the next few months.
Bald eagles annually migrate to the Reelfoot Lake area around late October every year and remain in the area through mid-February.
For those wanting to view the magnificent bald eagles, bus tours will leave from the Reelfoot Lake Visitors Center on Highway 22 at 10 a.m. daily starting Jan. 6. The bus tours run seven days a week and the tours last about two hours.
On weekends, the state park staff will offer additional afternoon bus tours, starting at 1:30 p.m. and leaving from the visitors center.
Reservations are required for the bus tours and there is a $5 fee per person. Knowledgeable tour guides will provide binoculars and telescopes so visitors can see the bald eagles and other birds during the tour.
To make a reservation for the eagle tours, call the Reelfoot Lake Visitors Center at (731) 253-9652.
Tennessee’s winter bald eagle population ranges from 300 to 500, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The wintering bald eagles at Reelfoot Lake during January through March draw more than 100,000 visitors to the state park every year, according to the TWRA.
The winter speakers series at the visitors center will kick off Jan. 7 with a program on the wildlife at Reelfoot Lake. Organizers of the speakers series are still working on booking special programs that will be held in the visitors center each Friday and Saturday night through February 2012.
One of the highlights of the bicentennial celebration at Reelfoot Lake will be “Steamboat A-Comin’: The Legacy of the New Orleans.” The traveling exhibit will be on display at the visitors center from Feb. 4-29, 2012.
The exhibit is on loan from The Rivers Institute at Hanover College and documents events surrounding Nicholas Roosevelt’s 1811 steamboat trip up and down the Ohio River and eventually to New Orleans on the Mississippi River.
His journey was considered a major feat for that time period. His trip is an event described as one that changed the course of history in North America and the world and was a trip that many thought impossible at that time.
“This exhibit introduces the adventurers who first dared to take a steamboat on the Ohio River, the technology they used and the ramification, both positive and negative, of their actions,” a news release states.
The display is described as one that will provide visitors “with an understanding and appreciation of the adventurous spirit that colored much of early river travel, the technological achievements, the vast impact on landscape and economy and the rich culture we have today as a result.”
The exhibit is made up of 19 panels featuring historic information and imagery focused on what was the first steamboat to successfully navigate America’s western inland rivers.
Steamboat operator Tom Schiffer of Florence, Ky., will present a special program Feb. 18 detailing the New Madrid earthquakes that formed Reelfoot Lake, as well as Roosevelt’s New Orleans steamboat trip.
Schiffer is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and, along with his wife, owns two steamers, one of which is 101 years old. He has been retired since 2000 and has written extensively about river-related topics.
Also scheduled to be on display at the Visitors Center in February will be a 75th anniversary state park exhibit and a Reelfoot Lake Bicentennial exhibit.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at kmbowden @ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 12.13.11

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