Side Trips from Memphis
The flatness of the northern tip of the Mississippi Delta is a sharp contrast to East Tennessee's mountains. Cotton and soybeans thrive in the rich dirt of West Tennessee, particularly around Henning, the hometown of Alex Haley, author of Roots. Those who love the great outdoors will want to make the two-hour trip north to Tiptonville's Reelfoot Lake, and points east of Memphis, such as Jackson and Shiloh National Military Park, will suit the Civil War buff.
The quiet, historic byways north of Memphis seem light-years away from the busy river city. Driving northward along U.S. 51 through the fertile Mississippi River bottomlands brings you into the heart of King Cotton's domain. Less than an hour from Memphis is Henning, a friendly little town remarkably untouched by its world acclaim as the boyhood home and burial place of Alex Haley, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Roots. The Alex Haley House Museum, the only state-owned historic site in West Tennessee, displays family portraits, mementos, and furnishings. 200 Church St., Henning, TN. 731/738–2240. $2.50. Tues.–Sat. 10–5, Sun. 1–5.
Anglers and outdoors lovers of any sort are drawn to Tiptonville, in Tennessee's northwest corner, for its nearby bird and game refuge and spellbinding flora and fauna. The Reelfoot Area Chamber of Commerce can answer questions about dining and lodging. 731/253-8144. www.reelfootareachamber.com.
Tiptonville's Reelfoot Lake gains a peculiar and mysterious beauty from a romantic scattering of cypress trees and charred stumps. The 13,000-acre lake was formed between 1811 and 1812, when the New Madrid earthquakes caused the Mississippi River to flood into the sinking land where a luxuriant forest once stood. From late November through mid-March the lake is a major sanctuary for American bald eagles. The quiet lake provides good fishing year-round for bass, crappie, trout, bream, and catfish.
The Tennessee Department of Conservation conducts eagle-spotting tours at Reelfoot Lake State Park Vistors Center. 731/253-9652. www.reelfootlakeoutdoors.com.
Jackson, site of several Civil War battles, was also a major railroad hub. It was home to John Luther "Casey" Jones, who was immortalized in the "Ballad of Casey Jones." The famed engineer became a hero by staying aboard his locomotive in a vain attempt to stop his engine from plowing into another train. For more information on Jackson, call the Jackson/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, open weekdays 8:30–4:30. 314 E. Main St., Jackson, TN, 38301. 731/425–8333 or 800/498–4748. www.jacksontncvb.com.
In Casey Jones Village. The Casey Jones Village Old Country Store, also in the village, has a restaurant, an 1890s-style ice cream parlor, and gift, souvenir, confectionery, and antiques shops. At U.S. 45 Bypass, Jackson, TN. Museum $4. Jan.–Feb., daily 9–5; Mar.–Dec., daily 8 am–9 pm.
the Casey Jones Home and Railroad Museum contains a diverse assortment of railroad memorabilia. On the grounds is a replica of Old No. 382, Casey's steam engine 731/668–1223. www.caseyjones.com.
Scenic Savannah, on the bluff of the Tennessee River, is a small, quiet town that exemplifies the charm and grace of Southern life. The historic Cherry Mansion, built in 1830, served as General Grant's headquarters during the Battle of Shiloh. The house is privately owned, but visitors are allowed to walk around the grounds and take pictures. 101 Main St., Savannah, TN.
The Tennessee River Museum has exhibits on the Civil War, the river, and fossils from 65 million years ago, when this area was underwater. 507 Main St., Savannah, TN. 731/925–2364. $2. Weekdays 9–5, Sat. 10–5, Sun. 1–5.
Shiloh National Military Park
Shiloh National Military Park. Site of one of the Civil War's grimmest and most pivotal battles, Shiloh National Military Park is the resting place of almost 4,000 soldiers, many unidentified, in the national cemetery. A self-guided auto tour (about 2½ hours) leads you past markers explaining monuments and battle sites. The visitor center runs a 25-minute film explaining the battle's strategy and has a display of Civil War artifacts. To get to Shiloh from Memphis, head east from Memphis on U.S. 64, then 10 mi south on TN 22. TN 22, Shiloh, TN. 731/689–5275. www.nps.gov. $5. Visitor center daily 8–5.
Pickwick Dam. Named after the eponymous character in Charles Dickens's Pickwick Papers, Pickwick Dam is considered by locals to be the playground of southwestern Tennessee's Hardin County.
Pickwick Landing State Resort Park has a resort inn, a restaurant, playgrounds, swimming beaches, picnic areas, campsites, and a par-72, 18-hole golf course. TN 57, TN. 731/689-3135 or 800/250-8615. www.state.tn.us.
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