3 days in a swamp

I was here.

It’s a kinda sorta undisturbed cypress/tupelo swamp that was created by melting glaciers; it’s basically a path that the Ohio River followed thousands of years ago.

In this pic I think the river is less than a foot deep; the tip of my paddle touched mud often.

State Champion Bald Cypress, more than 1000 years old.

There are marked canoe trails but the markers need to be redone every Spring so all I got was an occasional hint, especially since I’m not a rule follower so I don’t stay on trails. The nice lady at the Nature Center told me it was impossible to get lost but I did it several times.

Eagle Pond is a secluded spot that’s hard to find but worth the effort.

There’s an 850-year old Bald Cypress with 209 “knees” in Eagle Pond.

As I paddled and poked around I’d occasionally find spots where all the trees looked old so I’d just stop and hang out and think about how the spot has looked pretty much the same for hundreds of years. I wonder what those trees have seen!

I saw lots of wildlife. I enjoyed watching water birds flying into protected areas marked by National Wildlife Refuge signs. I surprised a lot of fish in shallow water and I’m still not sure what they were even though one jumped well out of the water right next to me and we made eye contact.

After 3 days of swamp paddling I was happy to spend the last day on Cedar Lake; it’s a nice big lake with no development and lots of nooks and crannies for elves and eewoks. It was almost 80 degrees.

There are lots of natural shelters in the area. Here’s one that looks move-in ready to me.


Did you camp?

Depends on what you consider camping. We rented a cabin in Giant City State Park and took advantage of the off-season rates.


Looks great! Has anyone paddled Reelfoot Lake NWR or State Park in NW Tennessee? It was built by the New Madrid quake.

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My kind of camping these days. Sleeping on the ground, which I did for years, is over.

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Looks like a great place to paddle!

There is a 1,500-year-old Bald Cypress in Biedler Forest, SC. When the big old growth cypress was cut down in the area, this section of swamp wasn’t considered worth the trouble. Apparently, the soils were poor and although the tree was ancient it wasn’t as big as what the loggers at the time considered worth cutting.

I thought you must have older trees down south given that Illinois doesn’t have any cypress trees north of this one spot.

Paddling a swamp would be interesting provided you can find some high ground to camp on.

I didn’t see any ground at all. It was raining when we left and flooding was expected in a large area covering parts of Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky and it turns out the river/swamp I was on rose about 12 feet in 12 hours so maybe not the best location for camping.


Interesting destination, I thought about paddling there a year ago, coming back from the mulberry/ buffalo/north fork of the white/jacks fork/red mill pond and stayed at Giant City on the way home and garden of the gods in IL on the way out, I might try to hit it up coming home from a texas river paddle this spring.

Reelfoot lake a favorite of mine. We usually “camp” in the travel trailer at the bulkhead in the state park. We launch at the SP boat ramp. We usually get one or two meals at the resort next door. Plenty of cypress there. Go to the SP visitors center and see the row boat skiff .

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I went to school in Southern Illinois- fanatic outdoors opportunities there. The habitat diversity is incredible for such a small area. Loved paddling those swamps. There are some nice reservoirs to paddle and camp on as well. If you’re at Giant City SP, the spring ephemerals trail is fabulous in season, and the fried chicken at the Lodge is amazing.

What’s it like paddling on Reelfoot Lake? It looks like a great location…hard to get to and not close to anything. The one thing I didn’t like on the state park website was the pics of pontoon and fishing boats. Do you know if canoes/kayaks can get to places in the wilderness area where powerboats can’t go?

I started school and met my wife at SIU but didn’t finish there since I spent way too much time at places like Giant City.

I’m pescatarian so no chicken for me but I can indulge in the Friday night fish fry when I’m on vacation. We visited 3 times in the last 4 months; the whole park was almost empty and we were often the only ones in the dining room in the lodge. The locals thought I was crazy for bringing a canoe in winter and I thought everyone else was crazy for not enjoying the park when temps were in the 40s, 50s, 60s and occasionally 70s.

A few pics of the lodge.

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State park is in a large open area. “Wilderness” is farther away from state park. Majority of SP visitors are more appropriate for power boats.

We had one guy come by and warn us about the water moccasins that would come up from the water and attack our dogs and fall out of trees into out kayaks. I thanked him and told him we didn’t have any trouble in the Everglades or The Okefenokee swamps. We’d be ok. He just went away mumbling.

Didn’t see any there. Did, since, see two in our property back in Florida. No problem there either.


He must have forgotten the gators.

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My gator sense thought the water looked like gator habitat, I didn’t see any.

Here are a few pictures of Reel Foot lake. Named after ReelFoot, an indian, that fell in love with the daughter of a local chief. Who would not let her marry him. So Reelfoot and his buddies kidnapped her and took her back to their tribe… To which the Creator didn’t like what they did and made an earthquake that flooded the tribe drowning them all and creating the lake… well, that’s the story.


Nice pics and thank you for sharing the story Bakerman.

When you paddled on Reelfoot Lake were you also able to get onto Buck Basin and Upper Blue Basin in the adjacent wildlife area?

There is a launch up there.