Encompassing over 51,000 acres of forests, farmland and grasslands, Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1945 to provide feeding, resting, and nesting habitat for migratory birds.
Boat fishing for crappie
Refuge Seeking Comments on Three Public Use Activities

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tennessee NWR Complex has prepared a compatibility determination and appropriateness determination for Bicycle Use, Commercial Fishing and Boating on Tennessee NWR.  These compatibility determinations are available for public review and comment.

Bicycle Use to travel open refuge roads is an existing use that is being re-evaluated.  Bicycle use is requested by a small user group and has occurred on the refuges for over 20 years with no significant environmental impacts or changes in amount of use during this time span.  We have consistently seen less than five bicycle users on the refuges per day and mostly during the summer months.  We believe all refuge user groups should have access to the refuge for wildlife-dependent public uses. Bicycle use was found compatible during a review of the Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and associated Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact and environmental conditions and the use have not changed substantially since the previous analysis. We believe bicycle use on roads will not have any significant impacts on refuges habitats or wildlife and will support priority wildlife dependent recreation uses on the refuges.

The second use being re-evaluated is Commercial Fishing to remove invasive carp and other rough fish from refuge impoundments.  This use was evaluated in the 2010 draft Environmental Assessment and Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for Tennessee NWR and approved through the Regional Director issuance of the Finding of No Significant Impact in 2010.  Invasive carp have the ability to deplete the food resource for smaller bait fish which then impacts game fish and other aquatic organisms.  Invasive carp and rough fish also cause turbidity in the water that impacts aquatic vegetation which can affect waterfowl and other wading birds.  Removal of these invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

Learn more about invasive species
benefits recreational anglers and those coming to the refuge to view wading birds and waterfowl. 


The third use being evaluated is boating – both motorized and human powered – on refuge impoundments.  Boating has been occurring on the refuge since the impoundments were created.  Boating was evaluated through the fishing section of the 2010 draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan.  Boating is used by recreational anglers, commercial anglers, for wildlife viewing and photography and for pleasure. The impacts of boating on wintering waterfowl is mitigated by closing all refuge impoundments from November 15 through March 15.  Other potential impacts are mitigated by no wake speeds and limiting use to daylight use only.  

The Service is seeking public comments on these three draft compatibility determinations.  Copies of these draft compatibility determinations are available from the refuge headquarters office in Springville, TN or by contacting the headquarters office at 731-642-2091.   Comments on the proposed activity will be accepted until May 6, 2022.   You may submit comments in writing to the refuge office at 1371 Wildlife Drive Springville, TN 38256 or by email to Refuge Manager Barron Crawford at barron_crawford@fws.gov.

Visit Us

The refuge has so much to see, including the visitor center that opened in the summer of 2014.  There are three units to explore: Big Sandy, Duck River and Busseltown, each with its own charms, beautiful views and opportunities to connect with nature.

Location and Contact Information

      About Us

      Located on and around Kentucky Lake in Northwest Tennessee, the refuge’s three units, Big Sandy, Duck River, and Busseltown, stretch for 65 miles along the Tennessee River. Established in 1945, the refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and was created as an area for migratory birds. The refuge's primary management is to provide food and protection for waterfowl.  Currently refuge habitats include agricultural crops such as corn, milo and winter wheat; natural plants that grow in moist soil conditions; vegetated wetlands, mudflats and forest lands.  The resulting combination of agricultural grains, natural foods and protected areas, sustain waterfowl through the winter months.  On the refuge they are able to forage for the food and nutrients they need to support their return to spring breeding grounds in good condition.

      What We Do

      Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Refuges strive for biological integrity, diversity and environmental health. Much of the management work of refuges is to maintain, enhance or restore intact and self-sustaining habitats and wildlife populations that existed during historic conditions.

      Our Species

      The Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge contains more than 50,000 acres of diverse habitats that support an equally diverse array of wildlife. Habitat types found on the refuge include rivers and streams, freshwater marshes, water impoundments, agricultural lands, bottomland hardwoods and oak-hickory forests. The refuge’s diversity of habitats also supports breeding, wintering, and migration habitat for over 300 bird species, as well as habitat for 51 mammals, 89 reptiles and amphibians, and 144 species of fish. Large populations of white-tailed deer can be found throughout the area, along with smaller animals such as raccoons, squirrels, beavers, rabbits, and turkeys.

      Our Library

      The refuge virtual library is a collection of documents and brochures for all your reading needs.