Lake Isom National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1938 as a sanctuary for wintering waterfowl. It is the oldest National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Tennessee and encompasses 1,850 acres of migratory bird habitat surrounding Lake Isom. The proximity of this lake to the Mississippi River has always made the area a major stopover and wintering ground for migratory waterfowl.
Similar to Reelfoot Lake, Lake Isom was the result of a series of 1,874 recorded tremors within the New Madrid fault during the winter of 1811-1812. It was once connected to Reelfoot Lake, which lies 3 miles north of Lake Isom. However, due to increased land clearing and drainage, the lake is now isolated and covers an area of approximately 650 acres.
Public use opportunities on Lake Isom NWR include:
- Wildlife Observation & Photography
- Environmental Education & Interpretation
Limited hunting opportunities are offered at Lake Isom NWR. Visit the Lake Isom National Wildlife Refuge website or contact the Refuge office to obtain the Public Use Regulations brochure required for hunting.
Lake Isom is open to fishing from March 16 - November 14. Boat launching is limited to one established boat ramp. Only boats with 10 h.p. or less are permitted. Bank fishing is also permitted, but is limited due to the swampy habitats surrounding the lake.
Wildlife Observation & Photography
A viewing tower, located on the northern portion of Lake Isom, offers great opportunities to view and photograph a variety of wildlife species.
Lake Isom offers a viewing tower to see a variety of wildlife species. Birds such as the Mississippi kite and northern harrier can be seen driving down the Lake Isom roads.
Environmental Education & Interpretation
Environmental education and interpretation is one of the primary objectives of the National Wildlife Refuge System, and Lake Isom NWR has a Refuge complex Visitor Services Park Ranger on staff providing opportunities for educational programs on the refuge, in schools, and for community events.
The Refuge is open daily from March 15 - November 15 for public use. Hours are from sunrise to sunset.
Access to the Refuge is free.
Mobility impaired access is provided at the Lake Isom NWR observation tower.
Pet Friendly Notes
Dogs are allowed when pursuing raccoons and squirrels. All hunting dogs are required to wear a collar displaying the owner's name, address, and telephone number.
All other dogs/pets must be kept on a leash while on the Refuge.