Partnerships make wetlands possible at Cave Run Lake

Published Sept. 26, 2008

If you visit the Cave Run Lake Tailwater Recreation Area and explore off the beaten path, you might notice a few changes to the landscape. Thanks to diligent partnership work across several agencies and organizations, a small series of emergent and ephemeral wetlands have recently been constructed in the Cave Run Tailwater Recreation Area.

The construction of the project was made possible with several different agencies and organizations contributing funding, planning and expertise. Those involved include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Sheltowee Environmental Education Coalition, PRIDE, The Eastern Regional Wetland Restoration Institute, Kentucky Natural Resource Conservation Service and Utterback Excavating.

These emergent and ephemeral pools were built to appear and function like natural wetlands. Once they fill with ground/surface water and re-vegetate, evidence of construction will be nearly non-existent. Construction techniques involved excavating and separating existing soils and then compacting soils that were high in clay to create a core. Remaining soils were then landscaped to form the shape of the wetlands which range from 0.06 to 0.50 acre.

These wetlands are shallow, from 16-20 inches deep, contain gradual slopes and a low profile, and will require little, if any, maintenance. Some will dry in the fall, eliminating possibly introduced predatory fishes and maximizing amphibian, reptile and aquatic invertebrate abundance and diversity. A variety of native plants has been established in and around the wetlands, and both large and small woody debris have been placed in each wetland.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Natural Resource Specialist Brian Given and U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Biologist Tom Biebighauser headed the project with two primary goals in mind. The first was to enhance the habitat of the area that was primarily barren and was used as a borrow area during the construction of the dam.

The new ecosystem will provide habitat for amphibians, reptiles, aquatic plants, invertebrates, birds and mammals, as well as increase public wildlife viewing opportunities in the Tailwater Recreation Area. The Federally Endangered Indiana bat can also be expected to use these restored ecosystems.

The second goal was to increase educational opportunities for local schools, colleges and the visiting public. Plans are currently in the works to establish a self-guided interpretive trail that would be illustrated with kiosks to distribute a variety of information.

This information would include different types of wetlands, their benefits and the different species of plants, mammals and invertebrates that benefit from them. Since the Tailwater Recreation area hosts over 150,000 visitors annually, this would be a low maintenance interpretive trail and an effective educational tool.