Western Kentucky University

WKU Green River Preserve

WKU Green River Preserve: Mission

The Green River Preserve (GRP) comprises 1,503 acres of land, and stretches across both banks of the Green River in Hart County, Kentucky. The mission of the WKU Green River Preserve is to foster knowledge and protection of this highly diverse region and our natural heritage through research, education, and conservation.


Habitats and Species: Land and Water

The habitats of the Preserve include bottomlands, uplands, barrens, caves, limestone glades, and of course, the river itself. The Green River and its tributaries are centers of biological diversity for freshwater mussels and fish, hosting over 150 fish species and 71 mussel species. GRP lands surround several mussel beds, including one where eight federally listed endangered mussels have been documented. A large spring known as McCoy Blue Hole is located on the tract north of the river; it empties an underground karst drainage of 34 square miles, and an endangered cave shrimp has been recorded from the  groundwater basin that feeds this spring. A federally endangered bat species has been recorded from a cave on the Preserve property, and the land serves as swarming habitat for it plus another endangered bat species. The Preserve also provides critical breeding and migratory habitat for neotropical songbirds along the Green River corridor.

 Download this summary and presentation for additional details about the breadth and depth of education, research, and conservation at the GRP, including cultural conservation and restoration of the historic Gardner House. We're excited about the students, researchers, and citizens that have made the Preserve the special place it has come to be. We invite you to become a Friend of the Green River Preserve and grow along with us!


News and Events



On Saturday, September 27, 2014, we will host a 10-year anniversary celebration of the opening of the Green River Preserve! Campus, community, and friends are all invited. The program with invited speakers will take place around 10am-noon, lunch will be 12-1pm, and canoe trips will be offered earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon. You're invited! RSVP here.


Green River Preserve night(s) at the movies! Updated July 27, 2014

Animal Planet aired a 1-hour documentary on July 8th on wild places in Kentucky, moving from east to west within the Commonwealth, and footage in several of the segments was shot at the WKU Green River Preserve. Last fall we hosted Red Rock Films (fanciest. cameras. ever.) and they filmed at the GRP and at other protected wild places in Kentucky. The show is called "Call of the Wild: Turtleman's Kentucky" (it's not a regular Turtleman episode). We've received a DVD of the film if you'd like to see it.

Two public TV stations in Kentucky, KET and WKYU, have also been filming special projects that include the Green River Preserve as one of their locations - we're very excited about showing off some truly special aspects of this wonderful place, including - partial spoiler alert! - spring wildflowers and their pollinators, a great blue heron rookery, bat population assessment, and much more. We'll pass on information about airings or clips when we can.

Other Preserve news:

- We've been joined by a new Director for Research, Dr. Justin Kunkle (justin.kunkle@wku.edu), who comes to us with experience in forest physiology from the Kellogg Biological Station. He's been a wonderful addition and we're expecting great things from him.

- We're still working on field house repairs – it's been a long process, but we think we've fixed the outdoor drainage to avoid future flooding or moisture problems. We're back up to a capacity of 11 beds in 3 rooms upstairs. The downstairs is being renovated to be more "waterproof" and to function better both as a classroom or as space for extra beds.

- We co-sponsored a river cleanup during Munfordville's Green River Fest in June, donating use of our 8 canoes and logistic support for volunteers who pulled boatloads of trash, tires, and metal out of the river (and in the process helped to maintain the GRP's 7 miles of riverfront, counting both banks).

- Dr. Darlene Applegate held her summer field archaeology class at the GRP where she led students in a detailed investigation of the kiln site where people made the bricks for the historic Gardner House roughly 200+ years ago.

- We hosted several groups in spring (a joint WKU-NKU-EKU geology and ecology project, the Kentucky Geological Survey, the Gatton Academy, plus ecology, entomology, herpetology, and other classes). We're looking forward to hosting visits from more classes and groups soon!

- We've completed our Final Resource Management Plan for the GRP's Kinney tract (700 pages including 5 research theses conducted in whole or in part there), and we are well into management work and biological surveys at the Lawler Bend tract acquired last December. Our current responsibilities stand at 1,503 acres.

- This fall we'll be conducting several half-day tours of the GRP for faculty, staff, department heads and deans, and community members who are interested in using the Preserve for research, class trips, overnight retreats, and other events. Email us if you'd like to reserve a spot and we'll pick dates that work for everyone.

- In July and August we've hosted / are looking forward to hosting several different groups for canoeing trips and overnights. These include researchers doing intensive fish assessments and quantitative mussel surveys, WKU student recruitment groups (we'd love to see these students in future!), friends of the Preserve, and groups of wounded veterans and their families. At the end of a long day, the blue hole is deliciously cold in the hot summer....

Want to receive occasional Green River Preserve news? Email ouida.meier@wku.edu . Thanks for your interest!

Donation buttonYou can support the work of the WKU Green River Preserve!

Logo showing river flowing between landforms shaped like two mussel shells

This special symbol of the Preserve, using the shapes of mussel shells as landforms on either side of the Green River, was created by Mina Doerner.


This land was purchased with Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Funds

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 Last Modified 8/15/14