Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
The Hatchie River in West Tennessee is remarkable as the longest free-flowing tributary of the lower Mississippi, and contains the largest forested floodplain in Tennessee. Because it has remained undammed and largely unchannelized, the natural flood processes that drive the ecosystem are intact, sustaining the river and wetland habitats that support a rich ecological diversity.
The Hatchie River ecosystem encompasses bottomland hardwood forests, canebrakes, swamps, sloughs, rivers and lakes. These habitats support more than 100 species of fish and 35 species of mussels. Some of Tennessee's largest fish species, the alligator gar and the flathead catfish are found in the Hatchie River. With 11 species of catfish, the Hatchie probably contains more species of catfish than any other river in North America. About 250 species of birds use the Hatchie’s forests at some point during the seasons. Swainson’s and cerulean warblers are some of the rarer birds found in its forests. Among other wildlife found along the Hatchie are river otters, beavers, white-tailed deer, and turtles, including the eastern box turtle.
Excessive sedimentation from eroding tributary streams is the primary threat to the Hatchie. Most of these sediments originate from agricultural fields and instream sources where tributaries are actively becoming degraded. Excessive sedimentation directly alters stream habitats important to fishes, mussels and other invertebrates. Additionally, these sediments form large shoals at stream confluences and can cause the river to abandon its natural meander bends.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The Hatchie River continues to be one of the priceless gems of West Tennessee, thanks to the good stewardship of local landowners, citizen conservationists, and the protection afforded by the area's two national wildlife refuges: the Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge and the Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge. Both of these refuges have been significantly expanded over the years through land purchases by The Nature Conservancy.