That said, it doesn’t lack for superlatives. It is home to more surface water and more wetlands than any other watershed in the Cumberland River basin. All 118 miles of the Cumberland River’s longest impoundment, Lake Barkley, are within the watershed, as well as a short stretch of the Lake Cheatham impoundment, and 32 miles of free-flowing Cumberland River. All together, over 150 miles of the Cumberland River flow through the watershed, accepting roughly 2,750 miles of tributary streams and rivers.
East of the Cumberland River, the topography closely resembles that of the neighboring Red River watershed. Nearer the Cumberland, though, and in the watershed’s south and west areas, the landscape is more rugged. In these areas, an abundance of streams thread hills and ridges before meandering through level bottomlands. The area is less suitable for farming and water quality benefits from the dense oak-hickory forests and low levels of human activity.
The free flowing section of the Cumberland River, as well as sections of Long Creek, Yellow Creek, the Little River, and the Muddy Fork of the Little River are all listed on the Nationwide Rivers Inventory. The watershed hosts an abundance of protected areas, including a majority of the 170,000-acre Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. In addition to Land Between the Lakes, federally protected lands include the Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge, Fort Donelson National Military Park and Fort Campbell Military Reservation. Protected state lands include Mineral Mound and Lake Barkley state parks, Stewart State Forest, Barnett’s Woods and Livingston County state natural areas, as well as seven state wildlife management areas or wildlife refuges. The watershed is rich in biodiversity. Barnett’s Woods alone is home to 443 vascular plant species, including one of only 13 known populations of Price’s potato bean.