Flowing through the heart of downtown Clinton, the Little Red River’s Archey Fork is a natural spot for young and old to fish, splash, explore or just relax beside the rippling water. But this hasn’t always been the case.
Following a devastating flood in 1982, the Archey Fork was channelized to address future flooding concerns. But the channel didn’t stay put; eventually it shifted, tripled in width, and eroded into an unhealthy, unusable eyesore. Fish that once had access to other forks of the Little Red were cut off from their habitat. Riverbanks were unreachable for recreation. Neighbors were losing land to erosion.
City leaders worked with the Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and many other partners on a way to restore the river without disrupting essential flood protection. With generous gifts from Southwestern Energy Company, the Conservancy began a carefully designed restoration based on the river’s natural course.
“We appreciate the people of Clinton including us in this project. It means a lot to us to help improve water quality,” said Mark Boling, President of V+ Development Solutions for Southwestern Energy Company.
Phases one and two are now complete, and when put to the test by heavy rains soon after construction, the restoration performed exactly as planned with no visible erosion. Now people are fishing, swimming and paddling, trees are growing, and the river is flowing much like it did before the channelization. And less sediment is being washed into Greers Ferry Lake, the region’s drinking water source.
“We have all enjoyed watching what was once an eyesore become a positive addition to our community and park,” said Don Richardson, former mayor of Clinton and dedicated advocate of the project.
The river is once again teeming with life, including some species that make their home only in the Little Red. So next time you are in Clinton, drop by Archey Fork Park to see the progress!