Clark's Run originates in western Boyle County near Alum Springs and flows approximately twelve miles in a northeasterly direction into Herrington Lake, or the impounded portion of the Dix River. The area's early residents and businesses settled along the creek, and it served as a major water source for the settlers. Today, the stream serves as a habitat corridor for plants and wildlife as it passes through the city of Danville. The stream is a major tributary of Herrington Lake, a drinking water supply source for residents in Boyle, Mercer and Garrard Counties and a popular recreational lake.
The Clark's Run stream is named after George Clark, a brother-in-law of William Whitley, who had a station, or fortified cabin, on the north bank of Clark's Run. Clark, according to historic sources, improved the land in 1776 and produced a corn crop in 1777. The Town Branch tributary of Clark’s Run was used as a water source for Clark and other early settlers in the area.
On the Danville section of the 1876 Beers Map of Mercer and Boyle County, the area along the creek east of South Second Street (Bate-Wood Park) was identified as "Mrs. Tomkin’s Trotting Track." The 1876 map shows bridges across Clark's Run at Fourth and Second Street. In recent years, mid-nineteenth century stone walls were noted along the creek corridor and some of its tributaries, which further highlight the importance of Clark's Run as a central feature to the local community. In the mid-1990s, the area along the creek between the railroad tracks and 4th Street (US 127) was used as the local fairgrounds.
As development progressed, humans impacted the creek in various ways, including:
- Locating landfills adjacent to the creek
- Discharging industrial waste to the creek
- Directing stormwater runoff directly to the creek
(which can carry a variety of pollutants and large volumes of water)
- Discharging treated sewage to the creek
- Straightening the natural meanders of the creek
(which disperse normally act to alleviate high flows)
Water Quality in Clark’s Run
Although Clark's Run has been neglected for some time, it has fared relatively well as an urban stream. A riparian buffer of trees and shrubs lines much of the waterway, which protects the streambanks from excessive erosion and acts to absorb runoff pollutants from the surrounding watershed.
“The 1992 Report to Congress on Water Quality," prepared by the Kentucky Natural Resources
and Environmental Protection Cabinet, cited Clark's Run as failing to adequately support aquatic life. The main causes included high nutrients and low levels of dissolved oxygen. Other water quality studies found Clark 's Run to be affected by non-point source, or stormwater runoff, pollution. According to these reports, specific pollutants included sediment, bacteria and nutrients; and the causes were septic tank leakage, land development and pastureland.
In 1995, a chlorine spill from Danville's sewage treatment plant caused a fish kill in Clark' Run. Following this event, a study by the Kentucky Division of Water showed that the creek was unable to adequately support aquatic life. This served as a red flag and provoked further attention and actions related to the creek. The sewage treatment plant was upgraded to provide better treatment. Centre College students and community residents conducted numerous trash cleanups along Clark's Run, virtually eliminating the eyesore of trash in the creek. Local students and citizens began sampling the creek through Kentucky’s Water Watch and Watershed Watch programs, respectively.
Kentucky River Watershed Watch (KRWW) volunteers sample water quality at multiple sites along Clark 's Run on an annual basis. Water samples are tested for pathogens (fecal coliform) in the summer to verify swimming safety. Water is also tested for dissolved oxygen, temperature, nutrients, herbicides and pesticides, metals and other chemical parameters (alkalinity, chlorides, conductivity, total suspended solids, and total hardness). As of 2007, the following Clark 's Run sites were being sampled by KRWW volunteers:
- K14 and K279 – at bridge on Goggin Lane
- K125 – 1/2 mile upstream of American Greetings
- K180 – at Kentucky School for the Deaf
- K240 – at end of Winterhawk Road , between KY34 and KY52
Click on each picture for a closer view.
Click Here to view data from the sampling sites.
Watershed Watch volunteers have found dissolved oxygen levels in Clark's Run to be within acceptable limits. The nitrogen levels in the stream, although within limits, were twice the amount found in other streams in Kentucky. The causes for the nutrient richness in the stream are uncertain, but may include runoff of residential and agricultural fertilizer application, septic tank leakage and livestock waste. And, pathogen (fecal coliform and E coli) sampling results have frequently exceeded the state’s water quality standard for swimming and wading.
The Kentucky Division of Water issues permits for wastewater discharges into Clark's Run. The sewage treatment pants are among those entities that are permitted and monitored by the state. According to the DOW, the wastewater treatment facility has had occasional episodes of discharges that exceeded the permit limits. During rains, the stormwater penetrates sewage pipes and the large volume of flow leads to unmanageable amounts of water being pumped into the treatment plant. The city of Danville has worked hard to reduce the overflow of untreated water into the stream and has greatly increased the holding capacity of its plants.
Other improvements to the Clark ’s Run watershed include:
- Three landfills located along Clark ’s Run were closed and covered.
- The Clean Community Commission and Centre College students have led several volunteer efforts to clean the stream of illegal dumps.
- Trees continue to be planted along the stream to increase its riparian buffer zone
- The City of Danville ’s Stormwater Ordinances and newly formed stormwater utility will improve overall water quality in the creek.
Recognizing the significance of Clark 's Run, in 1993, the city of Danville developed a Clark's Run Corridor and Trails Plan for creating a recreational/educational trail along the stream. In accordance with this plan, a paved trail of approximately one mile in length was created along a section of Clark 's Run that flows through downtown Danville.