Blue River Conservation Work

The Blue River is a high quality stream in the cave country of far southern Indiana. The watershed for the Blue River is 620 square miles and drains portions of seven counties.

The Blue River is an Outstanding State Water Resource designated by Indiana's DNR Division of Outdoor Recreation. This status is afforded to less than 10% of all river miles in the state. A vibrant canoe livery exists on the river and many people canoe, kayak and swim in the Blue River. It is also an excellent smallmouth bass fishery.

A spring-fed river, the Blue has cool water that is oxygen-rich for fish and other aquatic animals. The Nature Conservancy works to conserve clean water because numerous plants and animals love their Blue River home and we want to keep them there.

Hellbender salamanders love Blue River and have inspired a 5K, the Hellbender Hustle, to raise awareness of their need for clean water. Purdue University has a large research project focused on increasing the Blue River’s hellbender population.

Darters love Blue River for its oxygen-rich riffles, which canoeists call “white water”. These riffles create the perfect feeding grounds for darters.

Short’s goldenrod exists in only two places in the entire world, and the Blue River is one of those places. It grows from the cracks of limestone that line the river banks.

Freshwater mussels can filter over 30 liters of water a day! They clean the water as they filter, but also depend upon water with the right algae content to nourish themselves. The Blue River supports more than 20 mussel species, with colorful names like elephantear and three-horned wartyback.

Bats use the Blue River corridor to feed. They like the open “highway” along the river that is sheltered by a tree canopy above them. Blue River’s good water yields lots of flying insects that emerge in the summer coinciding with the time baby bats are born.

The sinkhole plain that drains to Blue River plays an important role in water quality. What enters a sinkhole eventually enters the Blue River.

Northern cavefish live in some cave streams that feed into Blue River. The Nature Conservancy recently assisted the Indiana Karst Conservancy in purchasing a portion of the Shawnee Cave system that has Indiana’s most significant Northern cavefish population.

The Nature Conservancy has helped Blue River by planting over half a million trees in the watershed, partnering with cities and counties to improve wastewater handling, helping private landowners manage their forest land for sustainable timber production and by continuing to purchase special natural areas.


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