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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Lower Green River Basin offers many hunting, fishing and recreation options

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth article in an occasional series profiling the river basins of Kentucky.

The Green River Part One: The Lower River Basin

The Green River is 384 miles long, arising in the foothills of the Appalachians in Lincoln County, flowing northwestward through central and western Kentucky to its confluence with the Ohio River near Spottsville, in Henderson County.

The Green River (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

The Green River basin drains 9,430 square miles. It is the longest tributary to the Ohio River in Kentucky that is solely within the state.

The Green River was named for Nathanael Greene, a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, George Washington’s most talented and dependable officer.

In this article, the lower basin is defined as the Green River from its mouth, upstream to Morgantown, in Butler County.

Lower Green River Tributaries

The four largest tributaries in the lower Green River basin are:

Panther Creek arises on the border of Breckinridge and Hancock counties, and flows westward into Daviess County, joining the Green River at Curdsville. It’s a small, narrow stream. From the Ky. 81 bridge, south of Owensboro, to its confluence with the Green River is 21.74 miles.

The Pond River is 90.8 miles long, arising in central Todd County and flowing northwestward along the border of Muhlenberg, Christian, Hopkins and McLean counties to the Green River, west of Calhoun, in McLean County.

The Rough River is 136 miles long, arising in northwestern Hardin County and flowing westward through or along the borders of Grayson, Breckinridge, Ohio and McLean counties. It joins the Green River at Livermore, in McLean County.

Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for the Northern Kentucky Tribune. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

• The Mud River is 70.9 miles long, arising about five miles east of Russellville and flows northward through Logan County and forming the border between Muhlenberg and Butler counties. It joins the Green River at Rochester, in Butler County.

Lakes and Parks

• Panther Creek Park Lake is 3.9 acres, a small lake in the Fishing in the Neighborhoods (FINS) program.

It is stocked with catchable-size catfish up to four times a year. Additionally, the lake is stocked with rainbow trout in the spring and fall. Largemouth bass and sunfish are regularly sampled, and supplemental stocking are made, if necessary, to maintain quality populations.

Lake hours are: November 1 through March 31, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and April 1 through October 31, 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

No boats are allowed. There is bank access and a fishing pier.

Possession or use of live shad for bait is prohibited.

Grass carp are stocked to control aquatic vegetation. If caught, they must be immediately released.

The lake supports largemouth bass, rainbow trout, bluegill, red ear sunfish, blue catfish and channel catfish.

Size limits and creel limits for Panther Creek Park Lake

The 125-acre Panther Creek Park is located at 5160 Wayne Bridge Road, off Ky. 81, in Daviess County.

The day-use park has a fishing lake, picnic shelters, seven hiking trails, an 18-hole disc golf course, and six softball and baseball diamonds. A 250-foot suspension bridge spans Panther Creek, as part of the trail network.

There are wildlife viewing opportunities for squirrels, resident Canada geese, wild turkeys and white-tailed deer.

Rough River Lake is 16 miles northwest of Leitchfield, in Breckinridge, Grayson and Hardin Counties.

The lake was completed in June, 1961. The dam is 89.3 miles above the Rough River’s confluence with the Green River, and six miles above Falls of Rough.

Rough River Lake (Photo from Kentucky Tourism)

At summer pool (elevation 495), the surface acreage is 5,100, with 220 miles of shoreline combined in the north and south forks. Rough River Lake is 65 feet deep just above the dam. The winter drawdown reduces the lake to 2,180 acres at elevation 470.

Rough River Dam State Resort Park is just east of Falls of Rough, off Ky. 79.

Established in 1962, the park encompasses 637 acres. Facilities include a 40-room lodge, restaurant, gift shop, 17 two-bedroom cabins, swimming pool for lodge guests, beach, airstrip, hiking trails, and orienteering course.

For information telephone (270) 257-2311.

Special regulations for fishing, boat ramps for trailered boats and bank access on Rough River Lake

• Lake Malone is 18 miles north of Russellville, in Muhlenberg, Todd, and Logan counties.

The lake was impounded from Rocky Creek, a tributary to the Mud River. It was built by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources in cooperation with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, and opened in 1963.

The 10-mile-long, steep-sided reservoir has 767 surface acres and 34 miles of shoreline.

Lake Malone (Image from Bing Maps; click for larger image)

A flat-bottomed lake, Lake Malone has an average depth of about 21 feet, with a maximum depth of about 35 feet.

There is very little fluctuation in the lake’s level. Excess water simply spills over an earthen and concrete dam.

Lake Malone State Park is on the north shore of the lake west of Dunmor, off Ky 973, in Muhlenberg County.

Established in 1962, the park encompasses 338 acres.

Facilities include a campground, open seasonally, with 34 primitive sites for tent campers, 25 sites for RVs, with water and electric hookups.

There’s also a beach, and three easy trails along the lakeshore where hikers can see soaring hardwood forests, diverse stands of wild flowers, rock shelters used by Native Americans, and 50-foot sandstone cliffs.

The park and its facilities are open seasonally. For information telephone (270) 657-2111.

Special regulations for fishing, and boat ramps for trailered boats on Lake Malone

Paradise An Environmental Anthem

The late John Prine, who died April 7, 2020, at age 73 in Nashville, rallied a generation of opponents of surface mining for coal, in his classic 1971 song Paradise.

The singer-songwriter of country-folk music was born and raised in the Chicago suburb of Maywood, but during the summers he would go back to visit family with his parents near Paradise, Kentucky, in Muhlenberg County, where his parents were born.

The song, written for his father, decried the devastating impact of strip mining for coal, where the top layers of soil, trees and vegetation, were blasted off with dynamite or dug away with steam shovels to reach the coal seams below.

Some of most memorable lyrics from the song include:

“And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where paradise lay?
Well, I’m sorry, my son, but you’re too late in asking
Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away”

“Then the coal company came with the world’s largest shovel
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man”

“When I die let my ashes float down the Green River
Let my soul roll on up to the Rochester dam
I’ll be halfway to Heaven with paradise waitin’
Just five miles away from wherever I am”

Paradise was one of the most covered songs in the genre, recorded by John Denver, Tom T. Hall, The Everly Brothers, Lynn Anderson, Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Buffett, Dwight Yoakam, and John Fogerty.

In accordance with Prine’s wishes, half of his ashes were spread in the Green River. The other half were buried next to his parents in Chicago.

Fish and Wildlife Resources

The bottomlands adjacent to the lower 25 miles of the Green River contain some of the richest soils in Kentucky.

The cypress sloughs, ponds and other wetlands are a haven for migratory birds, especially waterfowl. The timbered uplands are home to wild turkeys, white-tailed deer and many species of mammals.

Three significant public land holdings in the area are:

The Sloughs Wildlife Management Area (WMA), owned in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and managed by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), is 11,173 acres in six units in Henderson and Union counties.

Sloughs WMA (Photo courtesy Kentucky Living)

Landscape types include: sloughs, moist soil management units, woodlands, brush, and open crop fields.

The area is recognized nationally as an important birding area by the National Audubon Society and a high priority area by Ducks Unlimited.

Wintering waterfowl include up to 40,000 geese and 30,000 ducks annually.

Directions to the Sloughs Wildlife Management Area and information on hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing

• Almost 20 years after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) first published a proposal for a national wildlife refuge at the confluence of the Green and Ohio Rivers in Henderson County, Kentucky, the Green River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was officially established on November 22, 2019.

The first step in the creation of the refuge was to determine the Conservation Partnership Area (CPA), which includes five units and a total of 52,631 acres.

The USFWS will acquire 24,000 acres for the refuge by buying easements and land from willing sellers. It may take decades for the refuge to reach 24,000 acres under public ownership.

The largest of the five CPA units is the 29,627-acre Scuffletown Unit, south of the Ohio River and east of the Green River. The area is in agricultural row crops now but could be rehabilitated into a wetland complex, with the removal of tile drains and the construction of a water control system.

Mallard Ducks (Photo from USFWS)

The Scuffletown Bottoms were first identified by KDFWR biologists as an area of interest in the late 1950s because of its long history of use by shorebirds, and migrating waterfowl in the fall and spring.

The purpose of the refuge is to provide habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl, shorebirds, non-game land birds, such as neo-tropical songbirds, and bald eagles, osprey and other birds of prey.

Establishment of the refuge would also preserve habitat for several species of mussels listed as endangered or threatened, many species of wildlife found in wetlands and bottomland hardwood forests, and provide nesting habitat for wood ducks.

The refuge will be a prime destination for many outdoor recreational activities, including waterfowl hunting, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, hiking, birdwatching, wildlife photography, and conservation education/interpretive field trips.

• The John James Audubon State Park on U.S. 41 in Henderson, celebrates the ornithologist, naturalist and painter who resided in Henderson from 1810 to 1819.

The park encompasses 720 acres, plus an additional 649-acre wetland acquired for the park in 2011 by the Friends of Audubon.

The park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988 and is a state nature preserve.

The Audubon Wetlands is a unique ecosystem of Bald Cypress Tree sloughs, shrub wetlands, and floodplain forests. A 750-foot boardwalk overlooks the wetland, offering visitors prime wildlife viewing opportunities for beaver, otter, warblers, waterfowl, and woodland birds, plus a wide variety of turtles, frogs, and fish.

Other facilities and activities at the park include: overnight lodging in cabins, a 69-site campground, with a central service building housing showers and restrooms, a conference room, theater, museum, gift shop, nature center, 6.5 miles of day-hiking trails, 28-acre fishing lake, golf course, picnic grounds, playground, and tennis courts.

For additional information telephone 270-826-2247, or visit their website at parks.ky.gov

Next week: Part Two concentrates on the upper Green River basin

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