Located entirely within Haywood County, this refuge established in 1964 transverses 23.5 miles of the south bank of the Hatchie Scenic River. It is bisected by I-40 and TN 76. About 90% of the refuge lies within the floodplain of the Hatchie River. The headwaters of the Hatchie in Mississippi and 33 major tributaries are channelized. However, here the Hatchie River is not, representing the last river of its type in the Lower Mississippi River Valley that still functions under near normal wetland cycles. Habitats consist of open water 270 acres (9 oxbows and 10 created lakes), bottomland hardwoods 9,400 acres, upland forest (primarily loblolly pine, red cedar, and hardwood planted prior to 1964 when the area became a refuge) 435 acres, croplands 850 acres, and warm season native grasses 50 acres.
Major objectives of the refuge include providing forest habitat for migratory waterfowl, neotropical migrants, and other birds; provide nesting habitat for Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers; provide recreation and environmental education for the public; and maintain representative flora and fauna characteristic of bottomland hardwood forest of Western Tennessee.
Mississippi Kite, Cerulean Warbler, and Swainson's Warbler, all In Need of Management species in Tennessee, are uncommon but regularly occur in the bottomland hardwoods found throughout the Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge. This habitat type is large and intact, not only supporting these species but a full complement of other Neotropical migratory landbirds dependent on the habitat type for breeding.
The 9,400 acres of naturally flooded bottomland hardwood forest represents a rare and exceptional large intact tract of woods of this type in Tennessee. For its size, the complement of species and number of individuals (both Neotropical and year-round) that breed here is significant. Common Neotropical migratory breeding birds include Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Northern Parula, American Redstart, Prothonotary Warbler, and Indigo Bunting.
The number of Mississippi Kites, a Tennessee In Need of Management species, that use the area is small in comparison to the populations along the Mississippi River floodplain in Tennessee. The Hatchie River birds represent a finger extension of the Mississippi River population that follow the narrow habitat that the river affords. Even though numbers are not large, breeding birds away from a major breeding area could be beneficial for population stability.
Waterfowl numbers are highly variable and consist primarily of Mallards. "Tennessee Mid-Winter Surveys"2001-2005 totals are: 2001 (1,534), 2002 (487), 2003 (2,323), 2004 (390), and 2005 (25,859). The average number of waterfowl for this five-year period is 6,118 birds (1% of the statewide wintering total).