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Lower Hatchie
National Wildlife Refuge


234 Fort Prudhomme Drive
Henning, TN   39041
E-mail: lowerhatchie@fws.gov
Phone Number: 731-738-2296
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
http://www.fws.gov/lowerhatchie/
The uniqueness of Lower Hatchie NWR is enjoyed by thousands of wintering waterfowl annually.
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  Overview
Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge
Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) sits along the lower 17 miles of the Hatchie River in western Tennessee. Unlike most Mississippi River tributaries that have been straightened and levees constructed for flood control, the Hatchie River remains the longest continuous stretch of naturally meandering river in the lower Mississippi River Valley. In result, wildlife and fisheries thrive in its almost pristine watershed ecosystems. The refuge helps protect and enhance the ever diminishing bottomland hardwood forests, along with other important habitats within the Hatchie River watershed. The refuge currently comprises 9,451 acres.


Getting There . . .
Lower Hatchie NWR is located north of Memphis between Covington and Ripley, west of Highway 51N on Highway 87W. The refuge headquarters is located approximately 18 miles down Highway 87W on the left (sign will read Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge) just before the Mississippi River.

Sunk Lake PUNA is located off Highway 87W; take Sunk Lake Road to the right after passing Woodard's Grocery. The main entrance (i.e. look for the sign and gate) to the southern unit is approximately 4 miles down Sunk Lake Road on the right.


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Wildlife and Habitat

Lower Hatchie NWR is unique in many different aspects; one of which is that it encompasses the bulk of the remaining bottomland hardwood forests along the banks of the lower 17 miles of the Hatchie River. It is a very significant landholding for conservation and management along the Mississippi Flyway within the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley floodplain. The Hatchie River bisects the refuge and flows into the Mississippi River at the westernmost point of the refuge boundary. Thus, the majority of refuge lands make up a significant portion of the Hatchie and Mississippi Rivers' floodplain in rural western Tennessee. Primary habitat types on the refuge include 5,852 acres of bottomland hardwood forest, 887 acres of marshlands, 750 acres of croplands, 119 acres of lakes/open water, 388 acres of upland forest, 89 acres of grasslands, and an additional 1,300 acres of bottomland and upland areas that have been reforested. The area is home to hundreds of wildlife species including bald eagles, Mississippi kites, wild turkey, neotropical songbirds, waterfowl, shorebirds, as well as numerous species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds, and insects.

The managed impoundments within the waterfowl sanctuary of the refuge are an extremely important component of refuge management. They are also the center of attraction to visitors and are the primary means of active wildlife management on the area. Refuge managers are able to manipulate the natural ecosystem through a network of levees and water control structures to enhance wildlife habitat at vital times throughout the year. "Moist-soil" management is a process in which flooding of an impoundment is controlled to produce varying results. The frequency, depth, and duration of flooding are managed to influence plant community succession over time. Yearly cycles in moist-soil management often include lowering water levels in spring to accommodate migrating shorebirds, and additional lowering of summer levels to stimulate desired plant species growth. In fall, impoundments are gradually flooded to accommodate wintering waterfowl and other wildlife species. This manipulated system mimics the natural floodplain system, so plant species tied to wetland ecosystems thrive in this type of management scheme with little effort except for water control.

Cooperative farming is also a management technique utilized during summer to grow desirable "hot foods" for wintering waterfowl. The refuge currently has 1,256 acres on a cropland/moist soil on rotation. This process enables managers to setback plant succession through soil disturbance to stimulate the growth of annual plants (i.e. which produce a large number of seeds for waterfowl) in following years when the impoundment is set aside for moist-soil management. Therefore, water management in the sanctuary benefits a whole host of wildlife species and is the center of management activities on the area.

More than 7,500 acres of forested habitats, including cypress/tupelo swamps, bottomland hardwoods, and upland hardwoods are managed through timber stand improvements and reforestation to benefit wildlife and mimic historical forest ecosystems.

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History
The lower Mississippi River Valley was historically a vast expanse of bottomland and adjacent upland hardwood forests with scattered openings primarily created by fire, beaver, or large flood events by the Mississippi River and its tributaries. These openings were generally comprised of herbaceous moist-soil areas that created excellent waterfowl and other wetland wildlife habitat or giant switchcane that was almost impenetrable and an extremely important habitat component for a variety of wildlife species. Once covering 21 million acres in the Mississippi River Alluvial Plain, bottomland hardwood forests have decreased in extent to only 4.9 million acres. Extensive clearing for agriculture (i.e. soybeans, corn, or cotton) and urbanization are two of the primary reasons giant baldcypress and oak trees of presettlement times no longer exist. However, giant baldcypress and oak trees characteristic of yesteryear can still be seen on sections of Lower Hatchie NWR. The refuge was established in 1980 to benefit migratory birds with a special emphasis on wintering waterfowl management. Secondary objectives were to protect, manage, and enhance the ever diminishing bottomland hardwood forest ecosystem, to protect endangered species, and to protect, manage, and enhance habitat for other species of wildlife and plants, and to provide compatible public use opportunities. It is managed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Lower Hatchie NWR is one of more than 540 National Wildlife Refuges and is one of four National Wildlife Refuges managed from the West Tennessee complex office in Dyersburg. The refuge, along with other adjacent public conservation areas, are surrounded by a sea of agriculture but are important components that help sustain wildlife populations and humankind alike.

Sunk Lake Public Use Natural Area (PUNA) is also administered by the Lower Hatchie NWR management staff. It was established in 1986 by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and is managed by the USFWS through 10 year lease agreements with TDEC. The area encompasses 1,873 acres, which include 175 acres of open water in eight lakes, 290 acres of baldcyress swamp, and 1,408 acres of bottomland hardwood forest. As part of the lease agreement for the management of Sunk Lake PUNA, the USFWS is primarily responsible for resource protection, maintenance of the boat access and boardwalk areas, boundary maintenance, along with biological research and data collection. Other management activities include reforestation and wetland forest management practices that benefit wildlife.

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    Recreation and Education Opportunities
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Management Activities
The managed impoundments within the sanctuary of the refuge are an extremely important component of refuge management. They are also the center of attraction to visitors and are the primary means of active wildlife management on the area. Refuge managers are able to manipulate the natural ecosystem through a network of levees and water control structures to enhance wildlife habitat at vital times throughout the year.

"Moist-soil" management is a process in which flooding of an impoundment is controlled to produce varying results. The frequency, depth, and duration of flooding are managed to influence plant community succession over time. Yearly cycles in moist-soil management often include lowering water levels in spring to accommodate migrating shorebirds, and additional lowering of summer levels to stimulate desired plant species growth. In fall, impoundments are gradually flooded to accommodate wintering waterfowl and other wildlife species. This manipulated system mimics the natural floodplain system, so plant species tied to wetland ecosystems thrive in this type of management scheme with little or no effort except for water control.

Cooperative farming is also a management technique utilized during summer to grow desirable "hot foods" for wintering waterfowl. The refuge currently has 1,278 acres of cropland/moist soil. This process also enables managers to set back plant succession through soil disturbance to stimulate the growth of annual plants (i.e. which produce a large number of seeds for waterfowl) in following years when the impoundment is set aside for moist-soil management. Therefore, water management in the sanctuary benefits a whole host of wildlife species and is the center of management activities on the area.

More than 6,000 acres of forested habitats, including cypress swamps, bottomland hardwoods, and upland hardwoods are managed through timber stand improvements, reforestation, and water level management to benefit wildlife.

As part of the lease agreement for the management of Sunk Lake (PUNA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is primarily responsible for resource protection, maintenance of the boat access and boardwalk areas, boundary maintenance, along with biological research and data collection. Other management activities include reforestation and wetland forest management practices that benefit wildlife.