MEMPHIS, Tenn. – April 11, 2024 – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded $16,155,550 to the City of West Memphis, Arkansas to restore hundreds of acres of Mississippi River floodplain with wetlands and riparian forest at Ducks Unlimited Park at Big River Crossing. The park is a 1,500-acre project led by Big River Park Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited (DU). 

The park, which may be accessed from Downtown Memphis via Big River Crossing, currently holds a 7-mile paved trail loop and a half-mile out-and-back trail. It also connects to the Big River Levee Trail System, which includes more than 110 miles of riverside trails atop the Mississippi River’s levee system.

"DU is proud to call Memphis home, and our staff live, work and play on both sides of the Mississippi River," said DU CEO Adam Putnam. "Ducks Unlimited Park at Big River Crossing not only supports the historic floodplain, it supports our people and our communities in both states. This investment will help DU, Big River Park Conservancy and our partners to restore wetlands and wildlife habitat using natural infrastructure that improves water quality, provides outdoor recreation opportunities, and makes our communities more flood resilient."

The funding is being awarded to the City of West Memphis through DOT’s Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) program.

"This is a big win for our community, environment, and Ducks Unlimited Park at Big River Crossing," said West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon. "Thanks to the Department of Transportation's PROTECT program, this project will create a destination space for outdoor enthusiasts and our families to play, learn, and grow together. Our partnership with Ducks Unlimited, Big River Park Conservancy, and other key stakeholders showcases what we can do when we come together for the greater good of our communities and our planet. It’s a proud moment for all of us in West Memphis and our entire region."

The increasing severity and frequency of flooding in recent years has threatened important bridges and other infrastructure while causing significant floodplain degradation. This project represents a unique, collaborative opportunity to restore resilience to the area between Memphis, Tennessee and West Memphis, Arkansas using natural infrastructure. The project will restore functional bottomland hardwood wetlands, which are paramount to the area's wildlife, water quality and healthy ecosystem.

"Today, thanks to this federal investment, we can fulfill the promise of Big River Crossing by improving our infrastructure and activating a riverfront with not only recreation but also conservation," said Dow McVean, President of Big River Park Conservancy. "Ducks Unlimited Park will be a cutting-edge example of the intersection of ecotourism, economic development, and environmental protection."

When completed, the restored wetlands will strengthen the floodplain and help deter a new chute of the Mississippi River from forming through the area, which would be catastrophic to critical surface transportation systems. 

Ducks Unlimited is leading the conservation strategy, returning the land to its natural habitat and introducing further options for outdoor recreation, including new trails, a welcome pavilion with an outdoor classroom and restrooms, and an off-leash retriever training dog park over the coming years. 

DU would also like to recognize the many individuals, organizations and entities that have supported the grant application for this project, including: 

Sen. Boozman (AR), Sen. Cotton (AR), Rep. Steve Cohen (TN), Rep. Crawford (AR), Rep. Kustoff (TN), US Army Corps of Engineers, Arkansas Gov. Huckabee Sanders, State Sen. Tucker (AR), State Rep. Nicks (AR), State Rep. Ferguson (AR), State Sen. Murdock (AR), State Rep. Moody (TN), State Rep. Leatherwood (TN), State Sen. Rose (TN), State Sen. Clarke Tucker (AR), State Sen. Jeff Yarbro (TN), Arkansas Department of Transportation, Tennessee Department of Transportation, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner, Memphis Mayor Strickland, Memphis City Councilmember Ford Canale, Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, Crittenden County, City of Southaven, City of Lakeland TN, City of Marion, City of Hernando, City of Olive Branch, Town of Atoka, Town of Collierville, Union Pacific, Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee, Big River Park Conservancy, Memphis Hightailers Bicycle Club, Greater Memphis Chamber, TennGreen Land Conservancy, Start2Finish Event Management, West Memphis School District, Memphis Tourism, Memphis and Shelby County TN Division of Planning and Development, AutoZone, FedEx, Regional One Health, Memphis Runners Track Club, Downtown Memphis Commission, The Armstrong Company, St Francis Levee District, West Memphis Chamber of Commerce, Major Taylor Memphis, University of Memphis, Arkansas State University

Grant: FY22/23 Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Discretionary Grant Program
Project: Mississippi River Bridges: Resilience of Multimodal Infrastructure through Floodplain Restoration and Protection
Locality: West Memphis, AR
Applicant: West Memphis, City of
Grant Amount: $16,155,550

For more information, visit, and be sure to Follow DU’s Twitter feed – @DucksUnlimited and @DUConserve – to get the most up-to-date news from Ducks Unlimited.

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing wetlands, grasslands and other waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has restored or protected more than 18 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science, DU’s projects benefit waterfowl, wildlife and people in all 50 states. DU is growing its mission through a historic $3 billion Conservation For A Continent comprehensive campaign. Learn more at
Big River Park Conservancy is a 501(c)3 committed to ensuring a sustainable future for the Mississippi River wetlands and serving the ever-growing recreational and outdoor needs of the region. Its collection of projects activate and celebrate the Mississippi River and its surrounding landscape, including the Big River Crossing, an active biking and pedestrian bridge over the Mississippi River connecting Tennessee and Arkansas, and the Big River Trail System, a mixed-use trail network spanning over 110 miles with 7 miles of established trails in Big River Park.


Media Contact:
Parker Williams
(202) 621-1646