Spasms and convulsions rocked North and South America late in 1811. The force of the shock was centered in the Reelfoot lake area, which was then a huge cypress forest. On December 16 the earth's surface rose and sank and the bottom of the nearby Mississippi River went crazy, the river turned around and flowed backward, and poured into a hissing abyss.

     Huge landslides and tangled forests slid down the bluffs, and more than 15,000 acres of forest land sank beneath the level of the river. As the land subsided the water poured over in a deluge and filled the basin to a depth of 20 feet.

        Practically every variety of fish known from Yellowstone to Pennsylvania was swept into he basin. Cypress trees and willow flourished, but other trees under deep water died. Naked trunks remained and one of the world's greatest natural fish hatcheries resulted.

     It was inevitable that the story of a lake with such a violent origin, surrounded by so much mystery, should be handed down from generation to generation in a colorful legend