Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge

Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1997 and the first track of land was purchased in 1998, so it is relatively new refuge. It is the only National Wildlife Refuge in the state of Kentucky and is comprised of one of the largest remaining bottomland hardwood forests in the region.

Bottomland hardwood forests are one of the most biologically productive ecosystems on land, and the rich moist soils from seasonal flooding nourish an explosion of wildlife diversity. Freshwater mussels, amphibians, fish, and mammals are all found in abundance here, and migratory songbirds and waterfowl take advantage of this rich habitat on their long flights from nesting to wintering grounds. This diversity and abundance of wildlife provides ample hunting, fishing, and other recreational opportunities. Clarks River NWR protects, manages, and enhances this ecosystem and healthy and viable populations of wildlife found here through habitat and wildlife management, environmental education, and cooperative partnerships with conservation agencies and landowners.

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Latitude: 36.857327 Longitude: -88.33735 Elevation: 363 ft
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Amber Breland

Recreational Opportunities

Visitors can experience the refuge's wildlife and natural habitats through a variety of activities. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Bird Watching
  • Driving the Auto Tour
  • Hiking

Hunting is one of the tools used to manage wildlife populations on the Refuge. Area specific regulations apply in addition to state regulations. Popular hunting seasons include deer, turkey, waterfowl, and small game. Hunters are required to obtain and sign a free refuge hunting permit before arriving to hunt on the Refuge.  Waterfowl hunting on designated waterfowl management units is allowed by quota draw hunt only. For more information on the draw, please see the refuge hunting/fishing permit.

Fishing is enjoyed by visitors of all ages, and is a popular use on the Refuge.  Clarks River is home to a variety of fish species such as largemouth bass, catfish, bluegill, and crappie. Those interested in fishing need to obtain a refuge fishing permit before arriving to fish on the Refuge. Permits can be found on the permits link.

Bird Watching. There are lots of opportunities to bird watch with over 200 species of songbirds that use the refuge. Due to the loss of approximately 81% of the bottomland hardwoods in Kentucky, the refuge plays an important role in providing bottomland hardwood habitat for forest interior songbirds. Among those species are the imperiled Cerulean warbler, Swainson's warbler, and Prothonotary warbler. These three species are among the Service's five highest priority migratory songbirds and can be found on the refuge. 

Other songbirds that can be found on the refuge are Acadian Flycatchers, Indigo Buntings and the Kentucky Warbler.  The refuge supports a resident duck species, the Wood Duck, by placing nesting boxes in ideal habitat. The refuge also supports migrating waterfowl through management of natural habitat and construction of several waterfowl impoundments.

Print a copy of the Refuge's bird list  and see how many birds you can spot on your next trip!

Auto Tour.  The tour starts at the Refuge headquarters where you can find brochures that include a map and GPS locations of each stop to help you find your way through the 13 different stops along the route. These brochures can also be found here.

So, how does this tour work? It’s actually very easy! Just call the tour number using any cell phone. Another option is to use a table to go to the mobile web and enter the stop number listed on the label. Then, simply follow the prompts to hear the interpretive narration for each location. 

Please remember, the auto tour is open during daylight hours only, but the system will recognize your number for up to 24 hours. So, if you get a late start on the tour or need a break for lunch you simply pick right up where you left off!

The Environmental Education and Recreation Area (EERA) is open during daylight hours.

The physical address to the EERA:
1010 Eggner Ferry Road
Benton KY 42025

Do NOT rely on Google Maps to get you to the Headquarters. Please use the directions or the GPS coordinates provided below. 

Directions to Refuge Headquarters (GPS: 36.879829, -88.344359): From I-24, Exit 25 - I-69/Purchase Parkway south: to Exit 43 - Benton/Symsonia to Benton; left on Hwy US 641 North (3rd stoplight); Clarks River NWR is ~1 mile on the left on Hwy 641.  

Directions to Environmental Education and Recreation Area (EERA - GPS: 36.857111, -88.337127): From I-69/Purchase Parkway, Exit 43- Benton Exit, turn right onto Hwy. 348 east; right on Hwy US 641 south (3rd stoplight); left on Hwy 408 east (second stoplight); Environmental Education and Recreation Area is ~ 1 mile on the right.

Seasons Accessible

Your National Wildlife Refuges are open year-round during daylight hours.  The headquarters office is open Monday - Friday, 7:00 am to 3:30 pm. The office is closed on all Federal holidays. 

Portions of the Environmental Education and Recreation Area (EERA) are closed to all entry from November 1 to March 31. 

Pet Friendly Notes

Pets must be on a leash or confined at all times, unless being used for hunting or in accordance with a special use permit. 

Dog owners/handlers must have a collar on each dog with the owner's name, address, and telephone number. We allow dogs for migratory birds, waterfall, small game, and fall turkey hunting. All dogs must be detained by leash or chain if not being legally used for hunting. Other pets must be confined or on a leash. 

The running or training of dogs outside the hunting season for a particular species is permitted by special use permits only. For information on obtaining a special use permit call Refuge Headquarters.

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