News and Activities

Obed Wild and Scenic River, Tennessee, Restoration Plan Being Developed

Date Posted: October 27, 2008

In cooperation with the National Park Service, environmental contaminants biologists from the Fish and Wildlife Service's Cookeville, Tennessee, office are developing a restoration plan for damages associated with a major oil spill that occurred in the Obed Wild and Scenic River.

The Obed Wild and Scenic River is located in Morgan and Cumberland Counties in East Tennessee on the Cumberland Plateau. The park includes parts of the Obed River, Clear Creek, Daddys Creek and the Emory River. Over 45 miles of creeks and rivers are included in the wild and scenic river area. These waterways have cut rugged gorges with bluffs as high as 500 feet above the whitewater in the streams. Outdoor recreation such as whitewater boating, rock climbing, hiking and fishing are popular seasonal activities in the Obed.

On 19 July 2002, the Howard/White Unit No. 1 oil well was being drilled to test for commercial oil production from the geologic formation called the Nashville Group in northeastern Tennessee. The oil well is located in Morgan County on High Point Road, accessible via State Road 62. After drilling to a certain depth, oil flow occurred. The pressure of the flow increased and began to spill oil around the well and outside of the containment area at an estimated 200-500 barrels per hour. At approximately 2400 hours, the oil well caught fire. The spilled oil had flowed downhill from the wellhead into White Creek, at approximately 0.21 mi above its confluence with Clear Creek, and into Clear Creek, at approximately 0.37 mi above Barnett Bridge. The fire followed both oiled paths, burning the vegetation and the oil-soaked soils. Some of the large boulders on the slope fractured from the heat of the fire. The oil adjacent to the banks in both creeks caught fire as well. After the initial spill, oil continued to seep from the creek bank into Clear Creek, with sheens continuing to be released as late as August 2003.

In addition to assisting in developing the Obed River restoration plan, Environmental Contaminants staff are providing technical assistance to local governments and Non-Governmental Organizations on water quality and habitat related issues in the Obed River, Collins River, and Harpeth River watersheds.

Steve Alexander 931-528-6481

Cookeville Field Office

U.S. National Park Service. Obed Wild & Scenic River -

Obed Website Home Page


Last updated: June 12, 2015