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How a Huge Earthquake Break up Tennessee’s Largest Lake from the Mississippi River

Think about an earthquake so highly effective it makes the Mississippi circulation backward. Throughout a interval of three months stretching from December 1811 to February 1812, a collection of earthquakes within the Southeast nook of Missouri and surrounding areas had been so highly effective they had been felt throughout a million sq. miles.

These large earthquakes:

  • Occurred within the Mississippi River valley however had been felt as far-off as Boston, Washington D.C., and New York Metropolis.
  • Lasted for 3 months with some estimates of the most important earthquake registering 8.5 on the Richter scale. For comparability, the 1906 earthquake that destroyed San Franciso is estimated at a 7.9.
  • Crated sand boils stretching greater than a mile, spewed golf ball measurement tarballs, and even turned the sky pitch black.
  • And even shifted the Mississippi River a lot the earthquakes created what right this moment is the most important lake in Tennessee – Reelfoot Lake.

What occurs when large earthquakes shifts the land round one of many largest rivers on the earth?  The land heaves, bushes twist, landslides erupt and the bottom opens deep crevices. How might a complete new lake be shaped by an earthquake? Let’s discover out.

What occurred through the New Madrid earthquakes?

Estimates fluctuate for the New Madrid earthquakes however some place them above an 8 on the Richter scale.

Inked Pixels/

The New Madrid earthquakes came about between December 16, 1811 and February 7, 1812. On the time, the western frontiers of the USA had been flippantly populated, principally with forts and small settlements. The earthquakes are notable as a result of they occured in an space not recognized for seismic exercise, and to at the present time stay the most important earthquake east of the Rocky Mountains in recorded historical past.

Let’s dive into every of the earthquakes that occurred throughout these three months.

  • Earthquake 1: December 16, 1811, northeast Arkansas, 2:15am native time. M7.5. Affected an space of 600,000 sq. kilometers and though there weren’t many man-made buildings on the time there have been chimneys damaged and the bottom shook violently. The earthquake might be felt so far as New York Metropolis! The city of Little Prairie, Missouri was destroyed.
  • Aftershock 1: December 16, 1811, 7:15am. Though thought of an aftershock it nonetheless was an estimated magnitude of seven.0 and was felt by individuals so far as the East Coast.
  • Aftershock 2, 3 and 4: Highly effective aftershocks had been recorded on December 16 and seventeenth
  • Earthquake 2: January 23, 1812, New Madrid, Missouri, M7.3. Reported because the mildest of the three main earthquakes however nonetheless damaging inflicting landslides and riverbanks to break down.
  • Earthquake 3: February 7, 1812, New Madrid, Missouri, between jap Missouri and western Tennessee, M7.5 (with some estimates reaching as excessive as M8.6). New Madrid was hit once more and this time it will destroy all the city. In St. Louis Missouri, many homes suffered injury. The demise toll for all the earthquakes is estimated at round 1,000 individuals.

Did the Mississippi River actually circulation backward for a number of hours?

Sure! The earthquake on February 7, 1812 brought about the Mississippi to circulation backward for a number of hours.  The violent motion of the earth created a “fluvial tsunami”, basically that means a river tsunami. The land below the river raised up and compelled the water to run in the wrong way in the beginning settled again down, returning the river to a southern circulation.

What’s the identify of the 15,000 acre lake shaped by an enormous earthquake?

Reelfoot Lake
Reelfoot Lake is the most important pure lake in Tennessee

anthony heflin/

Reelfoot Lake was shaped by the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812. The 15,000-acre lake is within the far NW nook of Tennessee with the closest city being Tiptonville. Extremely, whereas Reelfoot Lake is simply a little bit greater than 200 years outdated, right this moment it’s Tennessee’s largest pure lake!

How was Reelfoot Lake shaped?

1653095089 39 13 of the Most Polluted Rivers in the World 2 - August 20, 2022
Big waves had been created on the Mississippi River through the earthquake inflicting riverbanks to break down.

Throughout the third main earthquake, on February 7, 1812, the earthquake created large waves on the Mississippi River destroying boats and sending different boats ashore. The river banks weren’t in a position to include the river and the eastside of the riverbank collapsed sending tens of millions of gallons of water onto dry land. All of this water started to pool in an space the place the earth had shifted opening up some areas 5 to just about 20 ft deep! Though a number of the water receded again into the river a 15,000 acre, 20-mile-long lake stays!

How deep is the lake shaped by an enormous earthquake?

Reelfoot Lake is 5-18 ft deep with the typical depth being 5 ft. Lots of the areas are solely 3 ft deep or characterised as swamp. Immediately about 30 uncommon or endangered species stay close to or within the lake, that features amphibians, snakes, turtles, and plenty of different species. With few massive pure lakes round it, Reelfoot Lake has turn into considerably of a haven for a lot of species of wildlife starting from reptiles, to birds, to bugs.

What’s on the backside of Reelfoot Lake?

1653588398 112 How a Massive Earthquake Split Tennessees Largest Lake from the - August 20, 2022
The waters of the Mississippi River overflowed to cowl a complete Cypress forest. Cypress bushes nonetheless stay in and across the lake.

Jeff Holcombe/

In the event you scuba-dived to the underside of Reelfoot lake (keep in mind it isn’t that deep) you wouldn’t discover an underwater ghost city of a flooded metropolis. The world in 1812 was a Cypress forest with tall majestic bushes. Lots of the bushes died out from the water so the underside of the lake is studded with Cyrpess tree stumps, however there are nonetheless massive populations of Cypress bushes that proceed to develop in and across the lake.

What sort of fish stay in Reelfoot Lake and the way did they get there?

what do bluegills eat
Bluegill and crappies are the commonest fish within the lake however largemouth bass and catfish are current too.

If a model new lake is shaped by an enormous earthquake all of a sudden, how does wildlife modify? Definitely, there was wildlife that didn’t make it that had been dwelling within the Cypress forest when the water flooded the realm. However many water birds and birds of prey had been in a position to stay. The fish that used to stay within the Mississippi River earlier than getting displaced to the brand new Reelfoot Lake, now made the Lake their residence. Immediately you will discover bluegills, crappies, largemouth bass, and even catfish within the Lake.

What different animals stay round Reelfoot Lake?

Largest Eagles in the World: American Bald Eagle
Bald eagles are protected within the Reelfoot Nationwide Wildlife Refuge. They steadily nest within the Cypress bushes.

Dennis W Donohue/

This space is understood for its bald eagle populations. The Reelfoot Nationwide Wildlife Refuge is situated within the northern a part of the lake and offers a protected space for bald eagles and different migratory waterfowl like wooden geese.

Are there alligators in Reelfoot Lake?

american crocodile vs american alligator
Alligators haven’t been documented in Reelfoot Lake, however they may stay within the swampy habitat.

Alligators aren’t frequent in Tennessee; they sometimes desire the hotter climates of Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Nevertheless, because of habitat loss, extra alligators are transferring north to seek out new houses together with areas of western Tennessee. There haven’t been sightings of alligators in Reelfoot Lake however the swampy areas alongside the shore would make for a great alligator habitat.  

Are there toxic snakes in Reelfoot Lake?

banded water snake in the water
Broad-Banded water snakes may be present in Reelfoot Lake. They’re non-venomous and never harmful to individuals. Capps

There are 4 species of toxic (venomous) snakes in Tennessee. Cottonmouths (or water moccasins) are an aquatic snake that might make the lake their residence however there doesn’t appear to be frequent sightings. The broad-banded watersnake are a subspecies of the southern watersnake and stay in Reelfoot Lake however are a non-venomous snake and NOT harmful. These snakes can develop to be 3 ft lengthy and are a heavy-bodied snake, with a body-color of darkish yellow with darkish brown banding.

Has there ever been one other lake shaped by an enormous earthquake?

Sure! Huge Lake on the Arkansas and Missouri border was additionally created through the earthquakes of 1811-1812. Immediately the Huge Lake Nationwide Wildlife Refuge manages the 8,138-acre lake and surrounding space. The typical depth of the lake is simply 3 ft and far of the realm is swampland. It’s a common migration spot for waterfowl and might have as much as 200,000 wooden geese within the winter. River otters and beavers make this space their residence as nicely. If you wish to attempt to beat the largemouth bass file this is likely to be the spot to fish because the Arkansas record-breaking largemouth was caught right here weighing 16 lbs 8 oz.

river otter swimming in water
River otters are present in Huge Lake, which is one other lake shaped by an enormous earthquake. Farley

May an earthquake just like the New Madrid Earthquake of 1811-1812 occur once more?

Sure! Scientists from Stanford have concluded that large earthquakes alongside the New Madrid fault might occur once more. The excellent news is they may not occur once more till the 12 months 2311. Their analysis acknowledged, “Paleoseismic proof collected in current many years signifies that sturdy “earthquake triplets” comparable in magnitude to the 1811-12 temblors have occurred roughly each 500 years alongside the New Madrid fault and are more likely to occur once more.” Maybe a number of new lakes can be shaped within the aftermath of the Nice Midwest Earthquakes of 2311.

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