Bowed Radio at the New Madrid Bend
New Madrid Bend, KY, USA

If you take a look at a map of Kentucky, you will see a small piece of land disconnected from the rest of the state - almost completely surrounded by the Mississippi River. This is the New Madrid Bend - also called the Kentucky Bend or the Bessie Bend (and for the record, it is pronounced "MAD rid" - not like "ma DRID" the capital of Spain). The only way to get there is Highway 22 in the northwest corner of Tennessee.

The Bend is the site of the epicenter of the most powerful earthquake to hit North America. From December 1811 to March 1812, over 2000 earthquakes hit this area, four of which are estimated to have exceeded 8.0 on the Richter scale. Nearby Reelfoot Lake in was created as a result of these quakes. This area was mentioned in Twain's "Life in the Mississippi" as the site of a bitter fued between two resident families. The Civil War Battle of Island No. 10 was fought just west of the bend (the actual Island No. 10 has since eroded away).

Anyone wanting to see the bend should plan it as a diversion from their weekend at Reelfoot Lake. The lake itself is gorgeous, and its tourist base - Tiptonville, TN - was packed with tourists even though it was the off-season. Even though the Bend is politically part of Kentucky, its residents have Tiptonville mailing addresses and the kids that live there go to Tiptonville schools; it is only a five minute drive north from there. Two roads go into the Bend - Route 22 on the eastern side (which turns into Kentucky Bend Rd.) and Tony Toehead Rd. on the west side. There is a lot of information on the web about the Madrid Bend Church and this was the target of my trip to the Bend - I wanted to grab some pictures of it. Unfortunately that church does not exist, though apparently it DID exist at one point. Nearly got stuck down a dirt road looking for the thing.

One road on the bend had a "Dead End" sign riddled with bullets. Naively perhaps, but that sign left me a little intimidated from getting friendly with the locals, though I did get the address of the Bend's ambassador to the world - Daisy Wilson. Apparently if you write to her ahead of time, she'll show you around.

Please stop by and visit my photo gallery The New Madrid Bend. Thanks!

Mark Allender
Host-Producer, Bowed Radio
14 Oct, 2007

- Wikipedia entry.
- Article on life on the Bend (featuring Daisy Wilson)
- 2000 Census tract for the The Bend

Front marker for the New Mardid Bend Familes' Cemetery. This is known in official maps and refistries as the Whitson Cemetery


Southern border of the bend




Satellite view of the Bend courtesy of Google Earth.