The Green River

The Green River is a national treasure of biodiversity.

The world’s healthiest rivers ebb and flow with the change of the seasons. They are fully connected within themselves and with the surrounding floodplain.

That is our vision for the Green River, where late summer and fall yield a slow and steady flow, while winter and spring bring periodic floods. These seasonal patterns orchestrate a cycle of life for the plants and animals residing in and around the Green, cuing fish to migrate and spawn and floodplain trees to drop their seeds. Even cave-dwelling species such as blind freshwater shrimp depend on the river’s natural pulse.

Biodiversity Hotspot

Restoring the pulse of the Green River began in the in the 1990s when a beautiful 125-mile stretch of the upper Green—surrounded by forest and pastureland, and boasting one of the nation’s most diverse assemblages of freshwater mussels—attracted The Nature Conservancy's attention. Since then, we’ve worked with local landowners and partners on improving the ecology of this stretch of river through a variety of targeted land protection and conservation strategies.

During this time, the Conservancy also began working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on managing the Green River Lake dam to mimic a more natural flow. This ground-breaking partnership has served as a model for subsequent efforts across the country and around the world.

Uniting the Green

More recently, the Conservancy expanded its focus to include the lower Green with the goal of protecting a whole, naturally functioning system. This includes building on the partnership with the Army Corps to mimic more natural flows at dams on the Nolin, Rough and Barren rivers—key tributaries to the Green.

Because of the prevalence of row crop agriculture throughout this portion of the watershed, the Conservancy is also working with farmers on land management practices that reduce nutrient pollution. Preserving healthy soils also improves crop yields and increases carbon storage.

Forest loss, erosion, water demands, and increasingly volatile cycles of flood and drought caused by a changing climate threaten to dramatically and permanently alter the Green River. The river is vitally important to providing wildlife habitat, clean drinking water, irrigation and a vibrant outdoor recreation economy. The Conservancy continues to make immediate and long-term strategic investments in the entire Green River Basin to ensure this jewel of Kentucky’s waters can sustain nature and people for generations to come.


Fish of the Green River

More than 150 fish species have been found in the Green, including the Teardrop darter.

Muskrat Midden

Mussels are abundant in the Green River.


Kentucky's Green River

Learn how changes in flows from the Green River Dam have benefited people and nature.


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