In 1811-12 the greatest earthquakes in North American history enlarged existing bodies of water, blocking inflowing streams, and extended the boundaries of a cypress swamp to form Reelfoot Lake, a haven for fish and wildlife which attracted Davy Crockett and other hunters. Originally about 40,000 acres, siltation has shrunk the lake to about 14,000 acres. Conservation efforts seek to preserve the lake and protect its wildlife , which includes the American bald eagle. see other side
This area remained the hunting ground of the Chickasaws until 1818. When settlement began around 1820, use of the lake was held to be a common right. Thus when an organization achieved legal control of the lake in the early 20th century, some area residents organized as "Night Riders" to resist the loss of their fishing rights. Their efforts caused public attention to focus on the problems and potential of Reelfoot and the state acquired ownership in 1914.