Formation + Geography

Moon Lake was likely created by the Mississippi River [1], though now the famous river lies west, having left behind the beautiful, crescent-shaped lake just inside of the Mississippi border. There are several oxbow lakes created by the meandering nature of the Mississippi. As the path of the river changes, it often leaves remnants of its path behind in other states as well, such as Louisiana [2].

Moon Lake’s curves almost resemble the graceful form of a swan, with Alcorn island sitting wing-shaped in the lower half the lake. Today the lake covers about three square miles of land, lying northwards of Clarksdale, MS. 

Map of Moon Lake from the Civil War, showing the position and oxbow shape of the lake
An old map of Moon Lake and its surrounding areas, likely from the mid to late 19th century.

Yazoo Pass Expedition

“Moon Lake is a small lunated sheet of water, about eight miles in length, with an average width of half or two-thirds of a mile, and bearing unmistakable indications of having at some past time been a section of the bed of the Mississippi River. It lies directly east of the Mississippi, and is reached through a very narrow and difficult pass, about a mile in length, forming the western end of the Yazoo Pass. To speak as intelligently as possible, I should say that the Yazoo Pass runs through this lake.” [3]

During the Civil War, Moon Lake played an important role in the Yazoo Pass Expedition, which was an attempt by Union troops to capture the important Mississippi city of Vicksburg right by the Mississippi River. In order to prevent access to the river by the Confederate army, a plan to cut a levee that stood between the MS River and Moon Lake was devised. This would help Union-led flotillas to pass through multiple waterways that began with Moon Lake, and provided a path to a bayou called Yazoo Pass, which finally led through tributaries that emptied into the Mississippi River, close to Vicksburg [4]. 

The plan was enacted in February 1863. The process proved difficult, however. After the levee was partially blown up, work still had to be done in Yazoo Pass as Confederate soldiers had left fallen trees in an attempt to slow Union progress and passage to Vicksburg. 

Later that same month, Union forces used Moon Lake to enter the pass and then the tributaries, but the passage was challenging due to the overgrown vegetation and tricky water channels. Despite difficulties, the Union still damaged the property of many plantations and local residents along the way.

March brought conflicts with Confederate troops, as well as an inability to make landfall as a lot of the surrounding land was flooded. Once Union reinforcements finally joined, efforts were futile, and the expedition was ordered to return [4].

Literary Connections and Moon Lake Casino

Eudora Welty, a pulitzer-prize winning author from Jackson, Mississippi, wrote a short story about a girls’ camp at Moon Lake that was included in her interconnected short story collection titled The Golden Apples [5]. She also mentioned Moon Lake in her novel Delta Wedding [6]. (To learn more about Welty’s short story “Moon Lake,” click here.) 

Born in Columbus, Mississippi, but growing up in Clarksdale, famous playwright Tennessee Williams made Moon Lake known through his life and works. A prominent figure during the mid-1900s, most of his plays, including A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie, all reference Moon Lake, especially Moon Lake Casino [7]. 

Beginning as a speakeasy during the Prohibition days of the 1920s, the Moon Lake Club was a common meeting place for locals and visitors alike. The club changed ownership in the 1940s, purchased by a man named Henry Trevino. It became known as “Uncle Henry’s” and served as a restaurant and inn before closing its doors permanently [8]. William Faulkner is also said to have visited Moon Lake and its casino [9].

The original sign designating Uncle Henry's, aka Moon Lake Casino. Next to it is a state historical marker, describing Uncle Henry's and its place in local history.
Uncle Henry's now has a state historical marker, describing its literary significance.

Historical Wildlife

Moon Lake has been the sight of some truly breathtaking creatures. While home to some lovely wildlife such as bobwhites and whip-poor-wills, the lake remains mostly known for its fishing, featuring bass, crappie, catfish, and more [10].

Amazingly, in 1910, an alligator gar that measured nearly ten feet long was caught in Moon Lake! Click here for an image of this incredible occurrence. 

Moon Lake Today

Today the lake remains a popular spot for fishing, as well as those interested in exploring the region’s rich history! Moon Lake is a common stop for those interested in Southern literature, or simply those interested in relaxing by our tranquil waters. 


[1] Smith, Caleb, “Lakes,” Mississippi Encyclopedia, retrieved June 22, 2020, from

[2] Reader’s Digest: Scenic Wonders of America, Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1973, p. 189.

[3] “The Yazoo Pass Expedition.; Moon Lake the Rendezvous of the Expedition,” The New York Times, 6 Mar. 1863,

[4] Losson, C. T., “Battle of Yazoo Pass,” Mississippi Encyclopedia, retrieved June 17, 2020, from

[5] Welty, Eudora, “Moon Lake,” Eudora Welty: Stories, Essays, & Memoir, The Library of America, 1998, pp. 412-450.

[6] Welty, Eudora, Delta Wedding, 1973, Harcourt, Inc., pp. 5, 109. 

[7] Gussow, Mel, “Echoes of Tennessee,” Playbill, retrieved June 25, 2020, from

[8] Black, Patti Carr and Marion Barnwell, Touring Literary Mississippi, University Press of Mississippi, 2002.

[9] Bass, Erin, “Mississippi Literary Road Trip, Part Two,” Deep South Magazine, retrieved June 23, 2020, from

[10] “Fishing and Boating,” Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, retrieved June 25, 2020, from