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The Upper Green River Biological Reserve, located in Hart County, is owned by Western Kentucky University. Durham Knob and Goebel tracts are owned by the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves.

The upper Green River is one of the most biologically important rivers remaining in eastern North America and the WKU Bioreserve and wild rivers properties adjoin one another and protect more than 1.6 miles of river frontage on both banks of the river. The preserve lies approximately 2 miles upstream from Mammoth Cave National Park, which is one of the most biologically diverse parks in North America. The upper Green is noted for its high diversity of freshwater organisms including 109 fish and 60 mussel species. Lands protected in the preserve surround several mussel beds that harbor a number of federally endangered mussels including the fanshell, northern rifleshell, ring pink, clubshell, rough pigtoe and state endangered spectaclecase, pocketbook, and pyramid pigtoe.  In one spring on the northern edge of the preserve, McCoy's blue hole, the federally endangered Mammoth cave shrimp has been documented. Because of the significance of this site for the aquatic life it supports, one of the primary objectives for protecting this habitat is to protect water quality. To achieve this goal, they have closed and capped oil wells and removed storage tanks and flow lines, eliminated gravel mining in the mussel beds and shoals, eliminated cattle grazing and restored bottomland hardwood forest along the river to prevent erosion, and control non-point source pollution by restoring upland forest and barrens. In addition to the aquatic habitats in the river, the preserve also supports a variety of upland habitats ranging from bottomland hardwoods to limestone barrens and glades to mesic and oak-hickory forests and restored prairie and barrens.  More than 600 plant species have been found here including some uncommon species like heartleaf noseburn and southern shagbark hickory. A number of rare plants, including Eggert’s sunflower, royal catchfly, starry cleft phlox, and showy lady slipper orchid have been restored to the property. Upland habitats vary from young evergreen forests dominated by Virginia or loblolly pine and red cedar on the tops of knobs that can grade into limestone glades that are dominated by red cedar with aromatic sumac and southern blackhaw with diverse herb layer of agave, nodding onion, glade coneflower, hoary puccoon, prickly pear cactus, sandwort, prairie tea, flowering spurge, glade st. johns wort, bird foot violet, button blazingstar, eastern whiteflower beard tongue, gray coneflower, wild petunia and short grasses little bluestem and various dropseeds. There is one small barrens with typical grassland species including little bluestem, big bluestem and Indiangrass with hairy sunflower, rattlesnake master, agave, button blazingstar, glade coneflower, bergamot, greater tickseed, gray coneflower, and whorled rosinweed. The upland dry forests are dominated by chinquapin, white, black, and shumard oaks, sugar maple, shagbark hickory, and white and blue ash on calcareous soils and on sandstone soils the dominant species are chestnut, black, and red oak. Mesic forests are dominated by sugar maple, Ohio buckeye, American beech, white and blue ash, tulip poplar, red and chinquapin oak, and American basswood with an understory of paw paw, wild hydrangea, hop hornbeam, and bladdernut. The bottomland hardwood forests are dominated by sycamore, box elder, silver maple, green ash, black walnut, American elm, hornbeam with an understory of giant cane and spicebush with various asters, sedges, wild ryes, and hog peanut in the herb layer.  In the river on the gravel or cobble areas, various asters, river oats, water willow, smart weeds, rice grass, buttonweed, wild rye grasses, fringed loosestrife, goldenrods, and indigo bush can be found.  These terrestrial habitats support more than 95 bird species, numerous mammals including the gray bat, a federally endangered species and the Allegheny wood rat, an uncommon species, and 151 butterflies and moths including the Olympia marble butterfly which only occurs in two other locations in Kentucky.   WKU received the inaugural KHLCF Stewardship award in 2008 for their management efforts on the Green River in cooperation with the Kentucky Division of Water Wild Rivers Program.

Access: Because of the sensitivity of the site and because Western Kentucky University uses the facility to provide an outdoor lab for research and environmental education, this is open only by contacting the preserve manager at Western Kentucky University.


Learn about bat research that takes place on this preserve

Access Type: Research Only
County: Hart
Region: Green River Region
Size: 1619.14
Owner: Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves, Western Kentucky University
Purchased with Assistance of:
Image of Terrapin Creek

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