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Located in the southern end of the Meeman-Shelby State Park near Memphis, Tennessee, Eagle Lake is a secluded and shallow lake surrounded by a stunning baldcypress forest. Most of the land in the area has been converted to farmland, but Eagle Lake offers a glimpse into the past, showing visitors what the Mississippi River floodplains once looked like before they were drained. Best explored by kayak or canoe, Eagle Lake offers a leisurely tour of some of the last remaining wilderness in the Memphis area.
With an average depth of three feet, Eagle Lake is more of a wetland than a lake. Wetlands used to be common along the Mississippi River, serving as a water filtration system by trapping and transforming water-borne pollutants and improving the water quality of the river. Today most wetlands have been drained and turned into farmland which has had a negative impact on both wildlife and water quality.
As one of the few remaining Mississippi River bayous, Eagle Lake covers approximately 20 acres and has become a sanctuary for a number of mammals, birds, fish and plant life. Great blue herons, bald eagles, egrets, ducks, hawks, and owls can be found living along the shoreline. Muskrat, beaver, river otter, raccoon, bobcat, and fox also make their home around the lake. Although shallow, the murky water is home to several species of fish to include the alligator gar, which can grow up to six feet long, and buffalo fish which are bottom feeding fish that can weigh up to 30 pounds. The lake is also home to a couple types of aquatic salamanders which can grow up to three feet in length.
Eagle Lake is also a haven for a number of unique and endangered plants. The feather foil, which is an underwater plant, is listed by the federal government as rare and endangered. In Eagle Lake, the feather foil is alive and well and increasing every year. The real star of the lake is the baldcypress. Baldcypress trees can live up to 600 years, and grow as high as 150 feet. Known for its protruding "knees," moss-draped crown, and buttressed trunk, the baldcrpress a very important tree in the wetland ecosystem. Wildlife depend on the tall trees for food and cover and natural cavities in the old growth trees provide homes for owls, wood ducks, and raccoons. Although a common site around swamps and wetlands, the cypress tree is the rarest of the deciduous conifers. Large baldcypress forests are becoming fewer and fewer thanks to the timber industry and development of wetlands.
After a tour of Eagle Lake, paddlers may wish to further explore the Meeman-Shelby State Park. The park covers 13,467 acres, two thirds of which are upland and bottomland forests of oak, cypress, and tupelo. There are two man-make lakes for fishing and boating (with electric motors ) in the uplands area and scattered natural lakes and wetland areas in the bottomlands. Over 20 miles of hiking trails, a five mile long biking trail, and a paved road network provide access throughout the park. Over 200 species of birds can be spotted in the forest along with an occasional deer. Camping areas, cabins, a swimming pool and a nature center can all be found in the park. For those wishing to fish or explore the mighty Mississippi, a boat launch is available and is also a good spot to park and watch birds flying along the river.
For lodging other than camping, there are several small cities within a short drive of Eagle Lake. Real estate and vacation rentals in the form of seasonal cabins, lodges, and resorts can be found in the larger cities of Millington and Woodstock.
A half hour drive south of Eagle Lake sits the city of Memphis, one of the most exciting cities in Tennessee. Home to Graceland, Beale Street, Mud Island River Park, museums, theaters, art galleries, parks and plenty of opportunity for great food, original music, and professional sports explains why this city attracts people from all over the country. Golfers will find several golf courses in the area and for family fun; a visit to the Memphis Zoo or a minor league baseball game at Autozone Park is great way to spend a day. To learn more about the history of Memphis, visitors can take the Downtown Trolley on one of its many guided tours. Horse drawn carriages are usually lined up near Beale Street and offer a great way to take in the city. There are also 'Ride the Duck' tours, which is a fun way to cool off on a hot day. Accommodations of all types can also be found in the city.
If you are planning to visit the Memphis area, consider paying a visit to nearby Eagle Lake. Its beautiful baldcypress forest and abundant wildlife will be sure to make a lasting impression.
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