Lake Isom National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Lake Isom National Wildlife Refuge


(731) 538-2481

Map Directions

Things To Do


During the winter of 1811-12, a series of 1,874 recorded tremors within the New Madrid fault dramatically altered the landscape on some 30-50,000 square miles of land creating Lake Isom in extreme northwest Tennessee. A miniature version of the much larger Reelfoot Lake located approximately 3 miles to the north. Lake Isom National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) encompasses 1,850 acres and was set aside as an inviolate sanctuary for waterfowl in 1938. Lake Isom NWR is the oldest refuge in Tennessee. Due to the refuge's proximity to the Mississippi River, it has always been an important stopover point and wintering area for waterfowl of the Mississippi Flyway. In recent years, mallard populations peak at nearly 100,000 birds in midwinter, with Canada goose populations occasionally reaching 30,000 birds by mid-January. These often spectacular concentrations are enhanced with a variety of other waterfowl species, as well as several wintering bald eagles. Some 239 species of birds have been documented on the refuge, along with 52 species of mammals and 75 species of reptiles and amphibians. The refuge is managed and staffed by personnel from Reelfoot NWR.

Map of Lake Isom NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 36.318445, -89.414978



  • Boating

    Boat launching is limited to established boat ramp; bank fishing is permitted, however, due to the swampy nature of the terrain around the lake this opportunity is limited. Boats are limited to electric motors and outboards of 10 hp or less.

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    Contact park for auto/motorcycle touring information.

  • Fishing

    Lake Isom is open to public fishing from March 15-November 15. Panfish are the most highly sought after species; however, due to the shallow nature of the lake, fish kills are common, and fishing success is normally poor.

  • Hunting

    Limited hunting opportunities for whitetailed deer, raccoon, and squirrel are available on the refuge. Contact the refuge for current regulations and season dates. Waterfowl hunting is prohibitted on the refuge.


The refuge is open during daylight hours from March 15-November 15 for wildlife observation and photography from sunrise to dark. Mosquitos and cottonmouth moccasins are abundant on the refuge during the warmer months; visitors should be prepared when venturing into the refuge's swampy habitats. This refuge is staffed by employees from Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge.



The Refuge Headquarters are located approximately 15 miles southwest of Union City, Tennessee. From Union City, take Highway 22 north approximately 15 miles, turn right on Highway 157; refuge headquarters are located exactly 1 mile on left. Lake Isom is located approximately 3 miles south of Reelfoot Lake.

Phone Numbers


(731) 538-2481