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Western Kentucky University

WKU Green River Preserve

WKU Green River Preserve: Mission

The Green River Preserve (GRP) comprises 1,520 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 nine 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. Two federally endangered bat species have been recorded from caves on the Preserve property, and the land serves as swarming habitat for bats. 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

 FIRST – please mark your calendars for a celebration on Saturday, September 27, 2014! This event is to celebrate all that YOU and others have done for, with, to, and at the Green River Preserve! This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Preserve's opening in 2004, and we would love to have your company in celebrating all you have done at the Preserve, and in getting ready for the next decade we will share. Shuttle service to the Field House from the entrance begins at 8:30 am, the historic Gardner House will be open for tours and questions, remarks from invited speakers will begin at 11:30 am, and a casual lunch will follow. Reserve your spot for an optional canoeing trip at 9:00 am or at 1:00 pm. Please help us be ready for you - RSVP at Thanks!

Big news – we recently closed on a small 16.6 acre tract addition, thanks to the WKU Research Foundation! This was a one-time-only purchase by the Foundation. The area is ideally suited for and will serve as the location for a future research and education campus at the Preserve. This brings the total size of the Preserve to 1,520 acres. We are very grateful for this addition and excited about the potential new prospects associated with it.

It has been a busy summer at the Green River Preserve. We were able to bring several groups of prospective WKU students out to the Preserve for day excursions with canoeing, including the GEAR Up program at WKU with students from all over Kentucky (thank you to WKU Enrollment Management for donating additional life vests!) and a Jr ROTC group from Allen County - Scottsville High School (fastest. canoe loading. ever.) as well as some other Friends of the Preserve groups. We definitely hope to see these students at WKU and at the Preserve in the future - opportunities for students at the GRP keep growing, especially for bright, hardworking students like these!

In conservation news, Dr. Mike Compton from the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission along with volunteer scientists from other agencies and universities conducted a fish and mussel species assessment along a section of the Green River protected by the Preserve. In just that section, the survey found 50 species of fish, 31 live mussel species (the average square meter of riverbottom held 18 individual mussels and 7.4 different mussel species!), plus a population of endangered spectaclecase - VERY exciting. The mussel rearing facility at the Preserve, directed by Dr. Monte McGregor of the Kentucky Dept of Fish and Wildlife Resources and run jointly by KDFWR and Mammoth Cave, has been busy rearing endangered species of mussels this summer, including pink muckets and black sandshells, to release back into the Green River - that work is a wonderful conservation success story for Kentucky aquatic wildlife.

This summer Dr. Darlene Applegate, a WKU archaeologist, led students in her Archaeology Field Camp course in the careful work of excavating and documenting the site where the actual bricks for the historic Gardner House at the Preserve were made over 200 years ago. The kiln allowed some of the bricks to be fired specially to produce a shiny black glazing along one edge, and this was incorporated into the Flemish Bond construction design of the house - a pinnacle of engineering for strength and aesthetics two centuries ago in Kentucky.

We've made excellent progress on Field House repairs this summer: the bottom floor still needs some work but will be much more suitable for classes than previously. Thanks to everyone who has cheerfully worked on, or put up with, less-than-finished spaces. We're hoping to add mini-posters featuring highlights of people's research, education, and conservation efforts. Kids (of all ages!) this summer have loved the pleasure of simply looking at stuff under moderate-magnification microscopes– snake skins, feathers, insects, flowers – the detail revealed there is always awe-inspiring.

We had our first wedding reception at the Pavilion - 150 guests! - it was beautiful, and the event creators (and happy couple) Jay and Amber Cottrell gave wonderful attention to detail (votive candles floated in glass cylinders of water with river rocks; one canoe in a wooden stand held iced bottles of water and soda, and another held wedding presents from guests). The Pavilion had strings of little white lights, adjacent tents with tables and chairs had "moon lights," and the DJ inspired some of Hart County's best dancers - who knew the concrete floor of the Pavilion was so good for dancing?

We were deeply honored to host Kentucky Wounded Heroes and their families for two canoeing weekends in August. Much of what we do at the Preserve runs on "sweat equity" contributions from many talented and hardworking individuals. We consider these wounded warriors to have invested ultimate sweat equity in their willingness to serve, and for what that service has cost them. We thank them, and their families, for their service. The work of many friends of the Preserve, including Chuck Reed, Kerry and Curtis McDaniel, and volunteers from the Hart Co. Volunteer Fire Dept, make it possible to host these families.

We're now watching plants and animals at the Green River Preserve shift from summer into autumn modes of being. We're continuing long-term research studies and conservation projects, have new graduate students and research projects starting at the Preserve, new classes of students visiting and doing field work, and new opportunities for K-12 teachers and students. It's a very exciting time of work, and we'll let you know more about all of it in our next news email. For now, we hope to see you on the morning of Saturday, September 27th! Don't forget to register at

Thanks for being part of the WKU Green River Preserve!


Want to receive occasional Green River Preserve news? Email . 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 9/25/14