Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region

Wildlife Management

Like all National Wildlife Refuges, Clarks River exists for "wildlife first"! We manage refuge lands to provide the best possible habitat for the various species of wildlife that live here.

The purpose of the refuge is to protect, enhance, and manage a valuable bottomland wetland ecosystem, along the East Fork of the Clarks River, for the benefit of waterfowl, neotropical migratory songbirds, forest wildlife, riverine species, and a wide array of other diverse species associated with bottomland hardwood communities. The geographical relationship to other managed lands in the region, and the varied habitat types contributes significantly to diversity of wildlife found on the refuge. Below is information on the various habitats:

Grasslands- The refuge currently manages about 60 acres of native grasslands to benefit white-tailed deer, turkey, quail, migratory songbirds and small mammals. The native warm-season grasses planted here include big bluestem, little bluestem, eastern gamagrass, sideoats grama, Indiangrass, and switchgrass.
Indiangrass
Indiangrass (Sorgastrum nutans)
crop
Milo field on the refuge
Croplands- Some areas of the refuge, once forested, were converted to agriculture and pasture decades ago. The refuge maintains many of these fields through a cooperative farming program. Corn and soybeans are mostly the crops of choice.

Cooperative farmers are encouraged to use filter strips or buffers in fields adjacent to the Clarks River or any of its tributaries. Approximately 725 acres are currently being cultivated through cooperative farming agreements to meet refuge biological objectives.

Cypress pond
A Cypress Pond on the Refuge

Bottomland Hardwoods- The majority of the refuge is forested wetland that consists mostly of bottomland hardwood tree species. The refuge began reforestation of 120 acres in the winter of 2006. Approximately 50,000 seedlings were planted including American elm, bald cypress, bitternut hickory, shellbark hickory, northern pecan, hazel alder, persimmon and seven species of oaks. Other tree species have been allowed to colonize the site naturally. The refuge also plans to harvest about 640 acres of single-species hardwood plantations acquired from a previous owner and then restore those sites to a mixed species composition. Impacts to migratory songbirds and other wildlife will be monitored before, during, and after the restoration.

Managed Impoundments- Four impoundments have been created since the refuge was established to enhance wildlife management opportunities. All four impoundments combined provide approximately 75-100 acres of manageable habitat in the form of standing agricultural crops and wetland plants grown through active moist soil management. At this time, the refuge is dependent on rainfall or overflow flooding from the Clarks River to fill all but one of its impoundments.

beaver dam
 Beaver dam

beaver kill
Dead timber due to beaver activity

Beaver Ponds- Beavers change their environment to suit their needs. They are often seen as a pest by landowners. They are tolerated on the refuge because they create habitat for other wetland species and they occupy only a very small portion of the refuge.

Bryant's Ford Rd
Clarks River on Bryant Ford Road
Flooded timber Clarks River at Oaks Road
Open Water- Due to the area’s low topography and flat floodplains, the Clarks River provides areas of slow-moving open water.

ravine
Shaded Ravine on some of the only uplands that the Refuge contains

Uplands- Uplands are higher elevation land that does not flood often. There is a small amount of upland on the refuge.

Wildlife Associated with these habitats

Important game species on the refuge include white-tailed deer, eastern wild turkey, gray squirrels, eastern cottontail and swamp rabbits, raccoon, opossum, quail, coyote and waterfowl. Probably the most common species of waterfowl on the Refuge is wood duck.

wild turkeys
Eastern Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris)


The refuge bird list includes approximately 200 species; usually, one or two new birds are added each year. These birds use the refuge as breeding, wintering, and resting habitat. Our list includes 36 of 135 species (27%) on the North American Bird Conservation Initiative’s national list and 27 of 30 (90%) on the Central Hardwood Regional List. The refuge provides seasonal habitat for species like the imperiled Cerulean warbler, Swainson's warbler, and Prothonotary warbler. These three species are among the Service's five highest priority migratory songbirds and are dependent upon forested wetlands.

Prothonotary warbler
Prothonotary Warbler

Comprehensive lists of flora and fauna present on the refuge are being compiled. A wildflower survey has catalogued 194 species, and the final list is expected to top 200. Over 50 species of reptiles and amphibians may be present. So far 30 have been confirmed, including one snake and one salamander not expected to occur here. River surveys have documented 54 species of fish, and 24 species of freshwater mollusks. One darter found was listed as threatened, and two freshwater mollusks found were listed as endangered on the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s list.

cottonmouth
Water Moccasin or Cottonmouth
(Agkistrodon piscivorus)
phlox
Smooth Phlox

(Phlox glaberrima)


On the federal endangered species list, there are three species that may exist on the Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge: the American burying beetle, the Indiana bat, and the gray bat. The American burying beetle has not been seen in western Kentucky since the early 1970s. Both the Indiana bat and the gray bat are likely present on the refuge, but surveys are needed to confirm the presence of these species.

Last Updated: 1/26/10