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The Cache River National Wildlife Refuge-America’s Great Outdoors Rivers Program

The Cache River south of the Black Swamp in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge.

The Cache River rises in the northern reaches of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley in Arkansas and flows to its  confluence with the White River, just south of Clarendon, Arkansas. In 1972 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began the process of channelizing the lower Cache River for flood control. In doing so they cut off several meanders just north of Clarendon.

Cache River and Meanders north of Clarendon, Arkansas

Led by dentist Rex Hancock, Arkansas duck hunters and environmentalists went nuts, sued the Corps, and held up the project long enough to have the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service establish the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in 1986. The grateful state of Arkansas created and named a wildlife management area for him.

The Black Swamp within the Rex Hancock Wildlife Management Area

Together with the White River National Wildlife Refuge and several Arkansas wildlife management areas, the Cache refuge encompasses 500,000 acres of bottomland hardwood forest, a mere fraction of the 25,000,000 acres that covered the Lower Mississippi Valley. What was forest when Europeans arrived in the 18th and 19th centuries is now land devoted to rice, cotton, and soybeans.

Forty years after the Corps began channelization of the Cache, the engineers are going to restore flow to three meanders that were cut off. When they finish, they will have restored something close to the natural hydrology of the old meanders and enhance the ecology of aquatic organisms-river fish, freshwater mussels, and microscopic aquatic animals.

Project Map

The U.S. Department of the Interior has included the Cache River Restoration Project in the American Great Outdoors Rivers Program, an effort to reconnect Americans with their river heritage. The Corps partners in the project are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which owns the Cache and White River refuges; the Natural Resources Conservation Service; The Natural Conservancy; Craig Campell of the Stephens Group; the City of Clarendon; and the Cache River/Bayou DeView Improvement District.

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