Doug Travis WMA

A good place to fish and bird watch in western Kentucky

By Lee McClellan


          The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service once considered a site where Hickman and Carlisle counties meet in the bottomlands along the Mississippi River as a potential national wildlife refuge.

          The agency eventually chose a McCracken County site as Kentucky’s first national wildlife refuge. A paper company then bought the Mississippi River bottomland site.

          The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources recently acquired the 4,118-acre paper company site, which was once known as the Mead-Westvaco Wildlife Management Area (WMA). It was recently renamed the Doug Travis WMA to honor the conservation educator who has worked 59 years for the department.

          “There is a lot of plantation timber for paper pulp on the area,” said Pat Brandon, wildlife public lands regional coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “We plan to get rid of it and put it back to more desirable habitats such as bottomland hardwoods.”

          Doug Travis WMA features sloughs and swamps carved from centuries of Mississippi River floods. Tens of thousands of ducks often converge on the area in winter, but Brandon said visitors can see waterfowl all year long.

          There are also cypress tree ringed sloughs and wetlands on the property that more closely resemble Louisiana than Kentucky. Fishing for panfish, bass, catfish and Asian carp exists in the management area’s sloughs. They are open under statewide regulations when the area is open to public use.

          There is access to the Mississippi River at the Laketon Road boat ramp at the northern border of the property. Boaters must consider the significant current at this ramp when launching or retrieving a boat. This part of the Mississippi is excellent for blue, flathead and channel catfish.

          March and April are also excellent times to view neo-tropical songbirds such as warblers, rose-breasted grosbeaks and wood thrushes. There are also bald eagle nests on the area.

          “We are getting to the time of the year where we see some great hawk migrations,” Brandon explained. “By April, you’ll be seeing a lot of them.”

          Bird watchers may also catch a glimpse at one of the rarest raptor species in Kentucky, the Mississippi kite. They show up at Doug Travis WMA in March and April as well.

          The area also holds deer, turkey, squirrels and furbearers. Wood ducks stay on the area year round.

          Kentucky Fish and Wildlife recently acquired this property for public use, so some of the area is open to use and some of the area is not. Signage should alert visitors to open areas. Hunting seasons for next fall are still to be determined.


How to get there

From Paducah, take U.S. 62 to Bardwell, then KY 123 south to Berkley. The area office is on the right, one-half mile south of Berkley. Access via Berkley-Fishlake Road.