Programs / Overview

River Restoration & Wildlife Protection


The Harpeth Conservancy River Restoration & Wildlife Protection program plans and implements projects that protect and improve water quality and stream ecosystem health in the Harpeth River Watershed. We carry out a large variety of restoration projects every year, with assistance from experts, dedicated volunteers, governmental agencies, corporate partners, civic groups, and other watershed stakeholders. Our restoration efforts, ranging from river cleanups to streambank stabilization, ultimately reduce pollution to the river, enhance habitat, and protect aquatic wildlife. If you would like to get involved with our restoration projects, please visit our volunteer page or call us at 615-790-9767.


Restoration Activities

Tree Planting

Best time of year for implementation: November to March 

Trees and other vegetation, such as grasses and shrubs, along a stream bank provide a buffer between the land and water.  This buffer is known as the Riparian Zone.  A healthy riparian zone is important along the Harpeth River and its tributaries, because it cleans water, reduces flood damage and property loss, restores groundwater supply, and protects biodiversity.  Every year, Harpeth Conservancy completes reforestation projects along the Harpeth River and its tributaries to help restore this riparian zone. 

Stream Bank Stabilization

Best time of year for implementation: July to October

There are many methods used to stabilize stream banks and control stream bank erosion. Successful stream bank restoration requires choosing an appropriate method, or combination of methods for the situation at hand. Bare soil along the upper bank might be restored simply by planting a mix of native trees, shrubs, and prairie plants, while a heavily eroded 300' section of the Harpeth River with 20' high banks sloughing into the river would require more resource-intensive methods, such as terracing, installation of coir bundles, landscaping fabrics, native plantings, and even rocks at the toe.

Live staking is a simple and effective method for fortifying riparian zones and controlling minor erosion and stream bank instability. Live stakes consist of cuttings from trees and shrubs, such as willows and dogwoods, which are easily planted in riparian areas and quickly produce results. Coupled with tree sapling plantings, live staking is an effective technique used by Harpeth Conservancy to restore stream banks to a natural and healthy state. For more information about live staking, see this brochure from University of Tennessee Extension.

Tree revetments are a stream bank stabilization technique used by Harpeth Conservancy to restore severely eroded and undercut stream banks. Revetments are made by anchoring trees along the toe or bottom of a stream bank. They erosive power of incoming river flow while protecting the bank from further erosion. It is an effective, yet inexpensive, method for controlling stream bank erosion. For more information see Tennessee Environmental Council's Resource on Cedar Revetments.

Rain Gardens

Best time of year for installation: end of summer to build and early fall to plant 

Rain gardens are shallow depressions in the ground with certain plants, soils, and mulch that capture and treat stormwater runoff from driveways, parking lots, and other impervious surfaces. Rain garden design encourages both the infiltration of runoff into the ground and filtration of pollutants in the stormwater, such as metals and fluids from cars, sediments, and fertilizers. Rain gardens reduce negative impacts to nearby rivers and creeks while also providing habitat for wildlife and beautifying the landscape. Furthermore, they reduce pressure on existing stormwater treatment structures. Visit our rain garden page for additional information and resources.

Stream Clean-Ups

Best time to carry out: May through November

Harpeth Conservancy organizes and implements stream clean-ups on the Harpeth River and its tributaries to remove trash and debris that accumulate in the stream channel. There is an ever greater need for stream cleanups due to population increases in the watershed. Clean-ups help ensure that the Harpeth River ecosystem remains natural and healthy. Consider volunteering your time or better yet, form a group of volunteers among your family, friends, or co-workers, to work with Harpeth Conservancy to clean up a section of the Harpeth River.

To inquire about restoration project needs in the Harpeth River Watershed or volunteer interests, contact us at or call (615) 790-9767.



Community-Based Restoration Project Examples


January 30, 2016 - Rotary Club of Brentwood 11th Annual Little Harpeth Clean-up

For the eleventh year, the Rotary Club of Brentwood gathered volunteers to clean up the Little Harpeth River that winds more than 10 miles through the city. This year, over 100 folks helped clean up trash and keep the Little Harpeth healthy and beautiful.

     Little Harpeth Rotary 1             



February 27, 2016 - Burns Park Tree Planting in Kingston Springs

Harpeth Conservancy worked with volunteers from Turner Construction to plant roughly 200 native bare-root trees near the Harpeth River in Burns Park, Kingston Springs to reforest nearly 1,000 feet of stream bank, restore a riparian buffer zone and to prevent erosion.  Planting in this area has been an ongoing project because the area has been exposed to flooding and erosion.  This project will directly benefit the Harpeth River going through Burns Park.


March 5, 2016 - Weed Wrangle and Harpeth River Greenway

Harpeth Conservancy worked with a group of volunteers on the Harpeth River Greenway in Bellevue to remove invasive species as part of a city-wide initiative. Weed Wrangle, put on by the Garden Club of Nashville in partnership with Invasive Plant Control, Inc was a huge success with over 15 community partners. Volunteers removed privet, a shrub that shades out native plants on the forest floor as well as winter creeper, a vine that chokes out large native trees.



August, 14 2015 - Canoe Clean-Up

Volunteers from Nissan helped to remove 1.5 tons of debris from the Harpeth River. Volunteers floated downstream from a Franklin canoe access point gathering trash and debris that may have ended up in the waterway from rain events or wind. These clean-ups ensure stable water quality and healthy habitat for wildlife living in or along the Harpeth River.



To find out about upcoming projects and events, please visit our calendar of events

For volunteer information please visit this page or contact us at or (615) 790-9767