Red River

Red River watershed

About the Red River watershed

Drainage Area

1457 square miles

Notable Tributaries

  • West Fork Red River
  • Sulphur Fork


  • Christian County, KY
  • Davidson County, TN
  • Logan County, KY
  • Montgomery County, TN
  • Robertson County. TN
  • Simpson County, KY
  • Stewart County, TN
  • Sumner County, TN
  • Todd County, KY
  • Trigg County, KY

Waters within the Red River watershed drain to the 97-mile Red River before emptying into the Cumberland River in Clarksville, TN. Flatter than the neighboring Lower Cumberland watershed, the Red’s karst-filled terrain interacts with a complex network of above and below ground streams where springs and sinkholes abound.

The Red is distinctive in many ways. It has less surface water and less forest per square mile than any other watershed in the Cumberland River basin. It is home to more cropland than other basin watershed. Tobacco farming has a rich, centuries-old history in the area, and farmers grow corn, soybeans, and grain as well. Cattle, chicken, and egg production are also prevalent. At one time, there was a great deal of bluestem prairie in the Red River watershed, but today there is less native grassland than any other watershed in the basin.

Within the Red River watershed, sections of the Red River, the West and South Fork of the Red, and the Elk Fork and Sulphur Fork are all on the Nationwide Rivers Inventory – a federal listing of streams recognized for having outstanding scenic, recreational, or cultural qualities. Dunbar Cave and Port Royal state parks, as well as the Dunbar Cave State Natural Area, and the Fort Campbell and Cedar Hill Swamp wildlife management areas are all located here.

Like other watersheds in the basin, an abundance of wildlife relies on the Red’s water resources. Even within the watershed’s water-sculpted caves and caverns, there are fascinating species such as translucent “blind cave crayfish” and endangered gray bats. 

Explore the Red River watershed