Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge

Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge, was established in 1962 for the primary purpose of providing feeding and resting habitat for migrating waterfowl in the Tennessee-Kentucky portion of the Mississippi flyway. The 12-mile long refuge consists of rolling hills and high rocky bluffs along the rich bottomlands of the Cumberland River. Hardwood forests make up one-third of the 8,862-acre refuge. With the remaining acres of impounded water, marsh, brush and farmland, this area provides an ideal setting for migrating waterfowl. The refuge also provides suitable habitat for more than 245 other species of birds and numerous species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects.

Waterfowl Haven

Cross Creeks provides wintering habitat and protection for large numbers of waterfowl including puddle ducks such as mallard, gadwall, wigeon, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, wood duck, black duck, shoveler, and pintail. Diving ducks are found in the deeper bodies of water such as South Cross Creek and Elk Reservoirs. Some of the diving duck species include canvasback, ringneck, scaup, ruddy duck, redhead, bufflehead, goldeneye, and common, hooded and red-breasted mergansers.

In January, duck populations may total as many as 60,000 birds, with mallards comprising the highest percentage of this number. Banding information shows that the majority of the ducks wintering here come from the upper prairie states and Canada.

On one of the first surveys conducted, shortly after Cross Creeks Refuge was established, only 40 Canada geese were recorded. Over the years, management practices improved, and wintering Canada goose populations began a steady increase to the present peak of 37,000 birds. These birds make up a portion of the Southern James Bay Canada goose population whose range extends from the southern coast of James Bay southward through the eastern portion of the Mississippi Flyway.

In addition to the thousands of migrating and wintering ducks and geese that visit each year, the refuge also serves as a nesting area for a resident Canada goose flock, wood ducks, and a small number of mallards.

Other Wildlife

A number of other wildlife species make the refuge their home for all or part of the year. Wading birds and shore birds, several species of raptors (hawks), bobwhite quail, mourning doves, and an abundant variety of songbirds are readily seen in all seasons.

Some of the mammals which a visitor may encounter include raccoons, skunks, rabbits, gray and fox squirrels, opossums, gray and red foxes, woodchucks, muskrats, coyotes, mink, beaver and white-tailed deer.

Endangered Species

The bald eagle is one of several endangered species which annually use the refuge, with the wintering population ranging from six to ten eagles. Some of these eagles are now permanent residents of the refuge and may be observed throughout the year. In 1983 the first documented successful bald eagle nesting in Tennessee in 22 years occurred within a half-mile of the refuge. Since then eagles have regularly used the refuge for feeding and rearing their young, and in 1986 a second successful nest was built near the refuge by another pair of eagles. Other endangered species which are occasionally sighted include the peregrine falcon and least tern.

Water and Crop Management

Water levels in refuge pools and impoundments are controlled to stimulate the growth of natural plant species and an abundance of insects, crustaceans, and mollusks, all of which are highly favored food of migratory waterfowl. "Moist soil management", as this technique is called, has proven to be a highly successful method of producing nutritious food that is beneficial to waterfowl and other wildlife.

Local farmers manage the majority of the refuge's 1000 acres of cultivated land on a share basis, leaving a portion of the crop in the fields for wildlife consumption. Summer crops include corn, soybeans, milo (grain sorghum), millet, and buckwheat. Since Canada geese depend on green browse for a substantial part of their diet, an ample amount of winter wheat is also planted each fall.

Volunteer Program

The refuge offers individuals or groups an opportunity to volunteer their time and talents to various tasks on the refuge. Some of the jobs which volunteers may be assigned include assisting with waterfowl banding, wildlife surveys, maintenance projects, conducting tours, staffing the visitor center, or conducting research studies. The volunteer program is a way for people to become involved with the refuge and provide a valuable contribution to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Student internships are available.

Things to Do

Recreational opportunities on the refuge include public fishing, a limited hunting season, wildlife observation, photography, nature study, boating, and mushroom, berry and grape picking. Bicycling and horseback riding are also permitted on established roads during open periods. Consult the refuge map for public use and access information. From November through February, the gated bottoms roads are closed to the public to minimize disturbance to wintering waterfowl. During that time a foot trail and nature drive are available and the visitor center offers wildlife exhibits and audio-visual programs. The refuge Visitor Center is located 3 miles east of Dover, Tennessee off Highway 49 and is open Monday through Friday, 7am to 5pm and on Saturdays, 9am to 5pm. The entire refuge is open from March 1 through October 31. Please note that Barkley Lake and all creeks and boat ramps (except the river ramp at South Cross Creek Reservoir) accessible directly from the Cumberland River are open to 24-hour use year-round for boat launching and fishing. Some areas may be closed during the normal open season due to management activities or for public safety and will be marked by "Closed Area" signs.

Interpretive Wildlife Foot Trail: Two trails available. Consult map.

Auto Tour Route: Open year-round for viewing wildlife, moist soil areas and other management practices. Consult map.

Swimming or Rafting: Prohibited

Water Skiing: Prohibited

Firearms: Must be unloaded and encased or dismantled except when authorized for a refuge hunt.

Camping: Prohibited. Open Fires: Prohibited.

Fishing: Fishing opportunities are numerous. See refuge fishing brochure for specific information.Hunting: Deer and squirrel may be hunted on the refuge during specially conducted hunts. Obtain a refuge hunting brochure for specific information.

Hiking: Permitted* (Consult map)

Wading: Permitted* (Consult map)

Pets on Leash: Permitted* (Consult map)

Launching: Boating is allowed year-round in Lake Barkley waters and areas accessible directly from Lake Barkley. Boating is allowed from March 1-October 1 in the refuge pools and reservoirs.*

Entering restricted areas prohibited.

Artifacts: Surface collecting and digging for archaeological, historical, and/or native American artifacts is prohibited.

Facilities and activities accessible to the disabled are available. Please ask us for details.

* These activities are allowed if in conjunction with permitted activities.

This information was provided by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Refuge Manager
Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge
Route 1, Box 556
Dover, Tennessee 37058
615-232-7477, Monday-Friday, 7am-3:30pm

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 13 Sep 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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