The 2010 flood
In May 2010 Nashville received about 14 to 16 inches of rain in 2 days, the Cumberland River reached 12 feet above flood stage and there was widespread flooding. At the River Campus, the water first entered on the Whites Creek side and swept across the athletic fields towards the wetland.
Athletic equipment, lumber and grounds maintenance supplies were swept towards the wetland area where the larger items were stopped by the tree line. Smaller items entered the wetland and some were left in trees once the water receded. Some turtles were seen sunning on stranded wooden planks.
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When the water level went down, the whole area, including foliage, was coated with mud. This seems to have been remedied by rain (and new growth).
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Boardwalk Construction
The most important step in setting up the wetlands for use by students of all ages was the construction of boardwalks. Many older students, however, still get into hip boots to get down to ground and water level.
The boardwalk framework was constructed professionally by auguring out 4-feet-deep holes and mounting the upright posts in gravel and mud. The cross-struts were then put in place. Volunteers (parents, students, faculty and staff with their spouses, and alumni) did the remainder of the work during two weekends in October, 2001. This involved sawing, sanding and sealing the wood, carrying endless loads of lumber, laying and screwing in the boards for the walk, and mounting the horizontal side rails. 1,000 feet of boardwalk were completed, including an "open air classroom" (see map)
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We are indebted to Quick Foy, parent of alumni, who designed the structure, oversaw construction, put in many hours of work on actual construction, and motivated volunteers with his optimism and enthusiasm. We are also grateful to Mark Meadors, another parent of alumni, who contributed expertise in carpentry and organizing of volunteers, and to the University School of Nashville Association, which provided funding for the project.
On-Site Wetland Information

Students have produced a self-guided tour pamphlet and an information display board to help visitors identify animals and plants.

Wastewater Garden

The River Campus has a small artificial wastewater garden containing wetland plants. These are particularly effective in absorbing pollutants. Wastewater passes over a gravel bed, then filters through the roots of the plants. The roots absorb pollutant chemicals. This system of wastewater treatment was initially developed for Biosphere 2 and is becoming more widely used. The garden contains over 20 species of plants including iris, canna, rushes, water bluebells and thalia.

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The wastewater garden is completely separate from the wetland area and drains in the opposite direction. Water for this facilitiy is pumped from a deep underground river.
Outside Groups
The Adventure Science Center, Nashville's science museum, has had a program in which they bring school groups to USN wetlands for about 2 hours and then take them back to the museum to examine and identify specimens collected.

Belmont University brings Introductory Biology classes to the wetland to collect insects, identify them and calculate insect biodiversity.

USN faculty gave a presentation "Wetland Outdoor Classroom" at the Tennessee Outdoor Classroom Symposium sponsored by Environmental Education in Tennessee (

A Webfoot Workshop (, organized by Warner Parks Nature Center ( to train teachers in using "The Wonders of Wetlands" educator's guide was held at the USN wetland with the assistance of faculty.

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