Places We Protect

William B. Clark Conservation Area


Swamp at William B. Clark Conservation Area © Byron Jorjorian

This complex ecosystem covers 427 acres of bottomland hardwood forest in the Wolf River watershed.



The William B. Clark Conservation Area contains 427 acres of bottomland hardwood forest in the Wolf River watershed. The Wolf River is 86 miles long and hosts a portion of the once vast floodplain forest ecosystem of the Mississippi River. In fact, eighty percent of the original 24 million acres of forested wetlands in the Mississippi River alluvial floodplain have been cleared or drained. 

This portion represents an exceptionally diverse ecosystem that contains important habitat for birds, mammals, amphibians, fish and invertebrates. The preserve’s forest community has developed in response to many years of natural flooding and the absence of timber harvesting. In addition to providing habitat for many species, the William B. Clark Conservation Area serves as an important area for improving water quality, recycling nutrients and moderating flood peaks of the Wolf River during periods of extensive rainfall. 




Year-round, from Dawn to Dusk


Birdwatching, Wildlife Viewing, Photography


427 acres

Explore our work in this region

Two wet river otters nuzzle each other.
River Otters River otters are one of the species visitors might see at the William B. Clark Conservation Area in Tennessee. © Dmitry Azovtsev


The region's early settlers used rivers like the Wolf as aquatic highways, reliable sources of food and convenient sites for villages and trading centers. Early inhabitants of the area built large earthen mounds that still stand in many places along the Mississippi River.

The heart of the preserve was donated to The Nature Conservancy of Tennessee in 1993 by Mr. William "Buck" Clark Jr. in honor of his father. Since 1993, The Nature Conservancy has acquired other areas in the Wolf River watershed. In the spring of 2001, a boardwalk that runs for a third of a mile was completed along the river. Today, the William B. Clark Conservation Area is a Tennessee State Natural Area as well as a Nature Conservancy preserve. It is monitored and kept up by both organizations.

Clark Preserve Habitats & Critters

Get inspired by the William B. Clark Conservation area's biodiversity.

An owl rests on a person's arm.
A boardwalk winds into a thick forest.
A beaver swims with its head above water.
A thick tree trunk emerges from water.
A colorful duck walks through green grass.
A leafy forest floor surrounds a knobby tree trunk.
A tall tree reaches up to a blue sky.
A small black bird with red wings flies behind a large blue bird.
A yellow bird rests on a branch and sings to the sky.
Green plants emerge from a pond.


    • WILDLIFE You might see beavers, otters and turtles. Depending on the season, you will be able to see or hear prothonotary warblers, common yellowthroats, wood ducks, great blue herons, barred owls and red-shouldered hawks.
    • SNAKES Snakes are common in wetland ecosystems. They are also among the most misunderstood creatures one can encounter in the wild. Most are shy and retiring, and far from dangerous. Contrary to popular belief, only four of Tennessee’s 32 snake species are venomous. Even the venomous snakes are generally not aggressive and pose no threat to humans. If you see a snake, watch it from a safe distance and let it be. Remember: it is illegal to harm, kill or remove snakes in Tennessee.
    • BEAVERS Beaver dams regulate flowing water and often create vast wetland systems. These wetland areas help prevent stream bank erosion, improve water quality by trapping sediment and provide safe havens for young fish and amphibians.
    • TREES Bald Cypress and Black Gum trees are common. Tupelo have a swollen base but no visible roots, while cypress usually have a network of aerial roots called "knees." The understory is dominated by Virginia willow, which turns purple-red in the fall. Yellow pond lilies are also common and provide a source of food for beavers and muskrat. 
    • PLANTS Rare plants such as Cumberland rosemary and white prairie clover inhabit the area.
    • DEAD TREES Whether falling or still standing, dead trees, or snag trees, are an integral part of the floodplain ecosystem. They provide important abitat for fish, birds, mammals, plants and insects. 
  • The Clark Conservation Area is located in a transitional area between two floodplain ecosystems: a bottomland hardwood forest and a tupelo swamp. Seasonal flooding in these wetlands renews nutrients in the soil, which filters pollutants out of the water. 

    • An award-winning 1600ft boardwalk
    • Short gravel trail to a ramp leading to the boardwalk
    • Informational Kiosk
    • Benches
    • Parking Area
    • Check the local weather forecast and dress accordingly. 
    • A hat and drinking water are recommended. During warm weather, light color and light-weight clothing is suggested. 
    • Insect repellent, binoculars and birdwatching field guide(s) are worth bringing. 
    • Dogs are allowed on leash.
    • Biking is not allowed.
    • In late September and early October, bald cypress needles turn fiery copper and bronze and fall to the ground—giving it the name “bald cypress.”
    • During the fall the Virginia willow changes its leaves to a purple-red shade.
    • In early spring, prothonotary warblers choose the Clark Conservation Area’s wetlands swamps and snag trees for mating.
    • During spring and fall, beavers are most active, usually in the evening through early morning.
Fisk Jubilee Singers Members of the celebrated Fisk Jubilee Singers, with music director Dr. Paul Kwami, talk about the bald cypress.

Stand Up For Nature

Support our work to protect nature in Tennessee.