The Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge is 6,000 acres (2,500 acres land and 3,500 acres water [Hiwassee River]) located on Chickamauga Lake at the confluence of the Hiwassee River with the Tennessee River. Beginning at Tennessee 60 (over the Tennessee River, about river mile 499.5), the refuge stretches to around river mile 505 at Armstrong Bend and from the mouth of the Hiwassee River upstream to Tennessee 58 at Agency Creek (about river mile 7.4). Included is Hiwassee Island (400 acres). Of the land area, approximately 30% (750 acres) is agricultural land that is cropped. Most of the refuge is farmed by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) personnel. The remaining 70% of the land area (1,750 acres) is a wooded mix, mainly of pine and hardwood forest.
The Chickamauga Wildlife Management Area within the IBA site is composed of around 2,000 acres in 8 units--Mud Creek, New Bethal, Moon Island, Cottonport, Washington Ferry, Goodfield Creek, Gillespie Bend, and Yellow Creek. (The wildlife management area is composed of 16 units of land totaling approximately 4,000 acres along the Tennessee River and Hiwassee River [both part of Chickamauga Lake], beginning immediately downstream from Watts Bar Dam and ending upstream of Chickamauga Dam.) Most of the units are about 50% agriculture and 50% mixed pine-hardwood forest. There are small pockets of early successional stage habitat, i.e. shrubby-grassland areas. Most all lands on the wildlife management area are sharecropped by private, local farmers. Twenty-five percent of the crops are left in the fields for wildlife.
The Yuchi Refuge at Smith Bend, acquired by TWRA in 2001, consists of approximately 2,500 acres in Rhea County. The area is characterized by its rich diversity of habitats ranging from rugged upland areas to wetland swamps and marshes.

Ornithological Summary

This site has the largest winter flock of Sandhill Cranes in the southeast United States outside of Florida. Waterfowl and gull numbers are good for the area of the state. Great Blue Heron numbers are substantial in winter. On the Hiwassee CBC in the period 2001-2005, there was an average of 192 birds with highs of 253 birds (January 1, 2003) and 244 birds (January 1, 2004). Bald Eagle numbers in winter rank among the top five in the state. In the period 2001-2005, Hiwassee CBC counts of Bald Eagles were: January 1, 2001 (20); January 1, 2002 (20); January 1, 2003 (26);January 1, 2004 (15); and January 1, 2005 (20); for a 5-year average of 20.2 birds. One pair of Bald Eagles nest on the refuge and several pairs nearby.
Waterfowl (ducks, geese, and swans) numbers are significant for southeast Tennessee. There are two winter surveys. In the period 2001-2005, the Hiwassee CBC averaged 16 species and 5,485 individuals. Major species averages were: Mallard (3,339), American Black Duck (871), Canada Goose (634), Gadwall (404), and Hooded Merganser (193).
In the "Tennessee Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey," 2001-2005, totals were: 2001 (9,563), 2002 (6,172), 2003 (5,283), 2004 (3,390), and 2005 (5,819), for an average of 6,165 birds. Major species averages were: Mallard (4,820), American Black Duck (371), Canada Goose (362), and Gadwall (82).
Sandhill Crane winter numbers are the highest in the southeastern United States outside of Florida. From a beginning in 1968 with 20 birds, this area now attracts over 14,000 birds each winter. The area is one of only two major staging areas for the eastern population of Sandhill Cranes during the fall and spring migration periods. These birds nest in the area surrounding Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Each fall they migrate from their nesting grounds to the Jasper-Pulaski Wildlife Management Area in Indiana and later use Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge.

Ownership

Owned by Tennessee Valley Authority, but managed by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

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