Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Real Reelfoot Lake

Sunday was the best day of our KSNH weekend, because the sun finally came out. Since Reelfoot is on the Mississippi flyway, lots of migrating birds stop here. We visited a wetlands with duck blinds for handicapped hunters. Up to five people can use the drive-up blind, but one has to be in a wheelchair. They were in pretty bad shape after last winter's ice storm, and some hunter will have to clean them up before the season starts. Too bad we'll never see them as just duck watching blinds during the season.
Reelfoot Lake NWR is known for its lily ponds. They should be famous for duckweed as well, since it grows any place where fishermen don't take their boats on a regular basis, resembling a smooth grassy lawn under the trees.
Reelfoot Lake is surprisingly shallow. Many places are 5 feet deep, and the deepest pools are only about 18 feet deep. The wind can blow up good sized whitecaps in a storm though. Many of the cypress trees growing away from the shore are remnants of a cypress forest that grew here before the 1812 earthquake that flooded the area and created the lake. The naturalist said that stumps under the water are still in good condition, while those which are exposed sometimes have rotted. It's hard to determine the age of the oldest trees, since the heart wood rots out leaving a large hollow in the middle, while the rest of the tree lives for many more years.
Bald Cypress trees are deciduous conifers, losing their needles in the winter. "Knees" grow up as part of the root system, giving more stability to their foundation in the soft unstable bottom land. The knees also help oxygenate the trees when their roots are under water.
This looks like a group of knee monks heading for mass in the cathedral. Local people will cut the knees off and sell them at roadside stands. They advise you to boil the wood, then drill a hole up the middle to make a lamp. Sorry, not for me.

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