In 2014, Andreas performed his record breaking swim of one of the most famous rivers in the world, the Rhine River in Europe. Currently, he is less than 2 days away from completing his swim of the Tennessee River, one of the longer rivers in the United States at around 652 miles. In the same neighborhood of the Tennessee River, there is another river that does not have the same amount of fame (or length) but it is still an important fixture of the area. This is Clarks River and its accompanying Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge.
Named for Revolutionary War commander and pioneer George Rogers Clark, Clarks River is around 66 miles long and is unique. It is one of the few rivers in the region that has retained its natural state. There have been no modifications such as dams and dredge work. It is the largest of the Mississippi Embayment watersheds, composed mostly of a bottomland hardwood habitat, and empties into the same Tennessee River that Andreas is swimming in near Paducah.
After a lengthy bureaucratic process starting in 1975 and ending in 1997, the Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was established. The refuge is 2-3 miles wide, 20 miles long, and covers around 19,000 acres. It is 74% forest, 23% agricultural lands, 3% swamplands, and 1% open grasses. It is the only national wildlife refuge centered in just Kentucky. The refuge is an active ecosystem with a highly diverse wildlife population including mussels, amphibians, fish, birds, mammals, and waterfowl. The Clarks River NWR is managed mostly to benefit the wildlife but there is also a cooperative farm program on the lands as well. Its membership in the Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative helps the refuge in its missions.
In earlier posts, the wide range of recreational activities available at Kentucky Lake and the Land between the Lakes were discussed. The Clarks River NWR continues this trend. The area allows hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, hiking, canoeing, and kayaking. The paddle activities do come with warnings as some parts of Clarks River are dangerous for even the most experienced paddler (and swimmer).
During this remarkable swim, there have been many posts about the important waters of this area. Even if not about the waters themselves, many of the things discussed would not be possible without them whether it be a town, animal species, or event. Tomorrow’s post will be about the final destination of this swim on the Tennessee River: Paducah, Kentucky and the River Discovery Center.