For over two decades this site was owned and operated by a timber company, Kimball International, under management practices for sustainable forestry developed by the Forest Stewardship Council. The KHLCF worked with the United States Forest Service Forest Legacy program and the Imperiled Bat Conservation Fund of the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust to acquire Kimball’s property at the confluence of the Ohio and Tradewater Rivers. The management area includes several miles of Ohio River frontage, which has lost over 50 % of its riparian forest habitat along its entire length to development. Nearly 4.5 miles of the Tradewater River is also protected here on both banks; the Tradewater is the only free-flowing tributary of the Ohio River in the Commonwealth. The site includes habitat for several federally listed species, including the copperbelly water snake, Indiana bat, gray bat, fat pocketbook mussel, piping plover, and the interior least tern. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources also plans to breed and restore fat pocketbooks at the site, as well as the state-listed alligator gar. When it comes to habitat conservation, bigger is better and the Big Rivers site is directly across the Ohio River from the 277,000 acre Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois, which is designated a “source forest” for native bird populations by the Central Hardwoods Joint Venture. This means that the survival of many of our native songbirds depends on the health of this large habitat block. The diverse ecological communities her include the state-imperiled wet bottomland hardwood forest, which is dominated by swamp white, cherrybark, and burr oaks; the xerohyridic flatwoods, a globally imperiled community dominated by post, blackjack, southern red oaks; and over 200 acres of palustrine wetlands, 80% of which have been lost in Kentucky. The site is managed for hiking, hunting, fishing and paddling and the area has received an Outstanding Remarkable Value designation for recreation and scenery by the National Park Service.
From Sturgis take KY 109 north for 1.2 miles, then a slight left onto KY 1508 for 1 mile. There are several parking lots and access points on the left, including a boat ramp for the Tradewater. Visit Kentucky Department for Fish and Wildlife for maps and more information.