Clinch River Wildlife Refuge

The Clinch River contains the nation’s greatest concentration of rare and imperiled freshwater animals. Supporting up to 46 species, at least 24 of which are in danger of extinction, the Clinch River is habitat to rare mussels, colorful minnows and darters, and excellent sport fish. 1

It is protected by the Nature Conservancy!

Because of this concentration of rare animals, the Clinch River basin has been identified as the number-one hotspot in the U.S. for imperiled aquatic species. The Clinch and Powell Rivers are formed in the Appalachian Mountains of southwestern Virginia, and are considered the only ecologically intact (undammed) headwaters of the Tennessee River system.



Significantly, the Clinch Valley’s land, water and natural resources also sustain human communities and their economies. The socioeconomic conditions of the area are defined by high unemployment and economic disparity. Our challenge is therefore to develop and promote economically compatible approaches to conservation that not only protect the Clinch River as a natural resource but also allow for its sustainable economic use. Declining water quality, a legacy of coal mining and unsustainable agricultural practices are the primary threats to the Powell and the Clinch Rivers today.



35 varieties of freshwater mussels and 19 rare fish species call the Clinch River home, including the pygmy madtom, a tiny, endangered catfish that is found in only one other river — the Duck River.