Just upstream of Neely’s Bend near Madison, Tennessee, lies 20-acre Hill’s Island, a natural oasis in the middle of the Cumberland River. Rich with history, this island was donated to TennGreen Land Conservancy in 2006 by the Tennessee Christian Hospital, owned by Adventist Health System. After years of searching for a permanent home, TennGreen was thrilled to gift this land to a fellow partner in conservation, the Cumberland River Compact, in 2021.
The east side of Hill’s Island gently slopes to the main channel of the Cumberland, making it ideal for walking, swimming, and fishing, while the channel to the west provides a small area perfect for paddling and fishing. Exploring the island’s north end on foot will reveal a pawpaw grove, Tennessee’s native citrus tree. Steep banks edge most of the property, but the island’s south end is easy to access and has a great high perch atop a rock boulder.
Standing tall throughout the property, you’ll find sycamores, red maples, and hackberries. A wide variety of wildlife is attracted to the area, including deer, turkey, herons, raccoons, snakes, otters, and a bald eagle. Downed trees, and the fungi and insects they attract, engulf the land. Large standing trees shield openings covered in native grasses and sedges.
According to The Nature Conservancy, the waters in the Tennessee-Cumberland River basin are the most biologically rich freshwater in the United States. These waters contain an extraordinarily rich collection of freshwater animal species, many of which are imperiled or vulnerable. Only two regions in the United States include 35 percent of all vulnerable and imperiled fish and mussel species—the Tennessee-Cumberland River basins and the Mobile River basin. Seventy percent of these at risk-species occur nowhere else in the world; they are endemic or restricted to one of these two areas.
TennGreen is grateful to know that the Cumberland River Compact will protect rare and wild Hill’s Island, now and for generations to come.