Established on Nov. 9, 1962, Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge lies within the floodplain of the Cumberland River which is now Barkley Lake. The refuge was established as a result of mitigation proceedings with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when portion of the Kentucky Woodlands NWR was inundated with the creation of the Lake Barkley Project. Its primary purpose is to provide feeding and resting habitat for migratory birds with an emphasis placed on providing habitat for wintering waterfowl. Today, the refuge spans 8,862 acres.
The mixture of open water, wetlands, woodlands, croplands, and grasslands creates a mosaic of wildlife-rich habitats. At peak population times for waterfowl, the refuge will average 35,000 birds per day with numbers that may exceed 80,000 during extremely cold weather. Historically the refuge has held up to 10% of the total black duck population wintering in the Mississippi flyway.
Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge was established on November 9, 1962, by Memorandum of Agreement between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the subsequent transfer of land and land rights by Public Land Order 4560, signed December 27, 1968.
The refuge was set aside as part of a mitigation agreement between the Service and the Corps for the inundation of wetlands habitat on the former Kentucky Woodlands National Wildlife Refuge after the construction of Barkley Dam and the inundation of Lake Barkley. The establishing purpose of the refuge was to provide an inviolate sanctuary and manage habitat for migratory birds. Subsequent statutes also mandate the refuge to manage wildlife and habitat in general and for public uses.
Over the foreseeable future, Cross Creeks NWR will continue its emphasis on managing habitat for waterfowl. The refuge will also expand its management activities to include other native birds and wildlife species. In addition, the refuge will strive to be a model for wise land stewardship, including management for all indigenous species of flora and fauna and the control of invasive plants and animals.
Cross Creeks NWR will also continue to serve the American people by expanding opportunities for compatible, wildlife-dependent recreation, such as hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and environmental education and interpretation. An adequate law enforcement presence will be provided in order to protect the public and natural and cultural resources. Refuge staff will build on existing partnerships with other agencies and stakeholders in implementing this vision.
Cross Creeks and the surrounding area in Stewart County, Tennessee is rich in history. Archaeological investigations indicate that people inhabited the area 8,000 years ago during the Paleo-Indian/Early Archaic period. These Native Americans who were hunters and gatherers lived along the Cumberland River which they called the “Warioto.”
During the 1850’s, much of the nations iron industry was centered in Tennessee and up until 1862; two charcoal iron furnaces were operating on lands that are now within the Refuge. These were the Bellwood and the Rolling Mill Furnaces. Important resources needed in the iron smelting process included limestone that was used as a cleaning agent while the local forest provided timber that was converted into charcoal for melting ore. These resources along with the numerous iron ore deposits made Stewart County one of the top producers of “pig iron” in the state. The only reminder of this industry is a portion of the massive furnace stack at Bellwood. Both it and the Rolling Mill Furnace were destroyed by Union Naval gun boats moving up the Cumberland River following the fall of Fort Donelson in 1862. The Bellwood Furnace is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Another interesting historicalon the refuge is the South Cross Creek Bridge. Constructed in 1901 the “Pratt Truss” Bridge is one of the older metal truss bridges remaining not only in the state of Tennessee but in the U.S. This bridge was part of the original highway leading from Dover to Cumberland City.
Other Facilities in this Complex
Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge is managed as part of the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge Complex.