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Cheatham Lake Wildlife Management Area

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More Photos

Migrated wetlands in Hudgin's Slough.

Photo by Randy Cromer

Mitigated wetlands in Hudgin's Slough.

Location:  All the Corps of Engineers land in the Cumberland River bottom from the Cheatham Lake Dam (river mile 148.7) upstream to the Tennessee 49 bridge at Ashland City (river mile 158.1) to include the Dyson's Ditch Refuge and the Pardue Pond Refuge among other impoundments, and the mouth of the Harpeth River and Sycamore Creek, in the counties of Cheatham and Dickson, Tennessee.
Physiographic Province:  PIF 14 (Interior Low Plateaus [Central Basin]); BCR 27 (Southeastern Coastal Plain)
Tennessee IBA Site Map - Cheatham Lake WMA.bmp (80006 bytes)
Geographical Coordinates:
    Cheatham Lake--Lat. 361912N  Long. 0871321W
    Dyson's Ditch Refuge--Lat. 361845N  Long. 0870930W
    Pardue Pond Refuge--Lat. 361832N  Long. 0871042W
    Harpeth Island--Lat 361738N  Long. 0870652W
Elevation Range: 358' - 390'
    358' Cheatham Lake
    384' Dyson's Ditch Refuge
    387' Pardue Pond Refuge
    390' Harpeth Island
Size:  5,152 acres + open water acres of Cheatham Lake (Cumberland River)
USGS 7.5' quad:  Cheatham Dam

Description:  Cheatham Lake Dam on the Cumberland River was closed in 1957 to form Cheatham Lake. The Harpeth River and Sycamore Creek are major tributaries to the river. This area was formerly named the Cheatham Reservoir Wildlife Management Area but was changed in the 1980's to Cheatham Lake Wildlife Management Area to reflect the name change of the lake by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The area is bottomland along the river to include eight "sub-impoundments"--Borham's Pond, Dyson's Ditch, Harpeth Island, Hudgen's Slough, Johnson's Creek, Mark's Creek, Marrowbone Embayment, and Pardue Pond. There is a small, mitigated wetland within Hudgen's Slough. There are 983 acres that are farmable; 2,169 acres of bottomland hardwood, secondary growth hardwood (including fallow fields), and natural wetlands; and 2,000 acres of impounded permanent water. Six areas are temporarily flooded in the winter for waterfowl--Dyson's Ditch, Harpeth Island wade in area, Hudgen's Slough, Johnson's Creek areas, Mark's Creek wade in area, and Pardue Pond. Ninety percent of the farmable land is sharecropped and 10% is cultivated by TWRA personnel. Crops grown include corn, milo, soybeans, winter wheat, and hay crops. TWRA receives around 23% of the sharecropped portion consisting of grain crops such as corn, milo, or millet. The Pardue Pond Refuge is a resting site for waterfowl and is closed October 15-February 14.

IBA Criteria:  4a, 4g

Sub-adult Bald Eagle in Johnson Creek.

Photo by Twana Chick

This sub-adult Bald Eagle rests along Johnson's Creek. Bald Eagles have nested in the area since the early 1990's.

Ornithological Importance:  The importance of this site is the wintering waterfowl and breeding Cliff Swallows. A pair of Bald Eagles, a Tennessee In Need of Management species, has nested on the lake just above the dam since the early 1990's. The birds are present in the area year-round.
    Note 1. Numbers for waterfowl (ducks, geese, and swans) are respectable for this area of Tennessee. Results from the "Tennessee Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey," 2001-2005 were 2001 (743), 2002 (364), 2003 (3,771), 2004 (1,170), and 2005 (5,335), for an average of 2,277 birds. Resident Canada Geese are not eligible in any totals and all Canada Goose numbers on the survey are considered resident. [Note: The "Tennessee Mid-Winter Survey," lists this site as Cheatham Reservoir. In the 2005 survey the site is listed as not surveyed. In fact, it was surveyed from the ground eight times between November 21, 2004 and March 7, 2005 with December 21, 2004 the peak number. This was the number used in the 2005 total above. The ground surveys were more complete than the previous aerial surveys.]
    Note 2. Cliff Swallows have nested on the Cheatham Lake Dam (Cheatham County), river mile 148.7, at least since 1960. Over these 45 years, upwards of 3,000 birds have been associated with the dam during the nesting season, making it one of the most concentrated nesting locations in Tennessee. In contrast, the Old Hickory Lake Dam (Davidson County), river mile 216.2, the next dam upstream, does not attract any, a distance of 67.5 river miles. There are only isolated nesting records of Cliff Swallow for Davidson County and these border Cheatham County. Within Cheatham County, the next most concentrated site for nesting Cliff Swallows is the
Harpeth River Bridge on Cedar Hill Road west of Griffintown Road at the Cheatham/Dickson County Line, examples May 11, 2002 (15) and May 8, 2004 (250). The next known significant site for nesting Cliff Swallows downstream is at Dover and the US 79 bridge, about river mile 88.8, a distance of about 59.9 river miles. The distance between these significant nesting sites and the fact the Cliff Swallow in this area of the state only nests along the Cumberland River and its tributaries, makes the breeding of this species on Cheatham Lake Dam even more important.
        Historical and recent records of high numbers of Cliff Swallows during the breeding season at the Cheatham Lake Dam include: May 14, 1960 (100 nests), July 16, 1961 (120 active nests, 1,000 nests all stages), May 23, 1970 (70), summer 1976 (300), June 25, 1977 (1,000), May 5, 1984 (3,000 nesting), April 30, 1988 (1,200), May 11, 2002 (300), May 8, 2004 (250), and May 7, 2005 (175). In addition, even through upstream from the boundaries of this site, it should be noted that since the construction of the dam and the creation of the lake, that Cliff Swallows have nested under most of the bridges of the lake east to the Davidson County line. Without Cheatham Lake Dam, Cliff Swallows would probably not have bred or to the extent that they have since there would not be as much open water under these bridges. Some of these sites include Sam's Creek, Pond Creek, Brush Creek, Marrowbone Creek, and John Haywood Road (formerly Robin Hood Road). Historical and recent records at these sites include: May 14, 1960 (25 nests) Marrowbone Creek and (50 nests) Sam's Creek, July 16, 1961 (43 nests) Sam's Creek, April 28, 1962 (100) Sam's Creek, June 10-July 15, 1975 (97, banded) River Road, May 23, 1970 (50 nests) Sam's Creek/Brush Creek, and July 4, 1971 (84 nests) River Road and Ashland City Marsh.

Site Criteria



Avg. No Season

Max. No. Season

Years of Data



Waterfowl (See Note 1 above.)





5, 6

4gCongregatory Species: Cliff Swallow   (See Note 2 above.)                       






Season1   B = Breeding, W = Wintering, SM = Spring Migration, FM = Fall Migration
Source 2  1-Atlas Breeding Birds of Tennessee 2-Breeding Bird Surveys 3-Christmas Bird Counts
4-Point Counts 5-Refuge Counts (Randy Cromer) 6-Personal observations (Randy Cromer)
7-Other (a-Nashville Chapter TOS)

Ownership:  Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency; US Army Corps of Engineers.
  Randy Cromer, Area Manager, Cheatham Lake Wildlife Management Area, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, 615-792-4510, cheathamwma@juno.com.
Resource Manager's Office, US Army Corps of Engineers, 1798 Cheatham Dam Road, Ashland City, TN 37015, 615-792-5697, 615-254-3734.

Conservation Concerns: 

Management Program: None.

Submitted by:  Randy Cromer, Area Manager, Cheatham Lake Wildlife Management Area, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, 615-792-4510, cheathamwma@juno.com.

Additional Contributors:  Sabin Thompson, sabinthompson@wp-pc.com.

Disapproved as an IBA site:  February 2006--Yes 4  No 3

This page was last updated on 02/19/06.