Tennessee River is the largest tributary of the Ohio River. It
is approximately 652 miles (1,049 km) long and is located in the
United States in the
Tennessee Valley. The river was once
popularly known as the
Cherokee River, among other names, as many of
Cherokee had their territory along its banks, especially in
Tennessee and northern Alabama. Its current name is derived
Cherokee village Tanasi.
3 Important cities and towns
4.3 Water rights and border dispute between Georgia and Tennessee
5 Modern use
7 Popular culture
Tennessee River tributaries
9 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
Tennessee River is formed at the confluence of the Holston and
French Broad rivers on the east side of present-day Knoxville,
Tennessee. From Knoxville, it flows southwest through East Tennessee
Chattanooga before crossing into Alabama. It loops through
Alabama and eventually forms a small part of the state's
border with Mississippi, before returning to Tennessee. At this point,
it defines the boundary between two of Tennessee's Grand Divisions:
Middle and West Tennessee.
The Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
project providing navigation on the
Tombigbee River and a link to the
Port of Mobile, enters the
Tennessee River near the
Mississippi boundary. This waterway reduces the
navigation distance from Tennessee, north Alabama, and northern
Mississippi to the
Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico by hundreds of miles. The final part
of the Tennessee's run is in Kentucky, where it separates the Jackson
Purchase from the rest of the state. It flows into the
Ohio River at
The river has been dammed numerous times, primarily in the 20th
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) projects since the 1930s.
The placement of TVA's
Kentucky Dam on the
Tennessee River and the
Corps of Engineers'
Barkley Dam on the
Cumberland River led to the
development of associated lakes, and the creation of what is called
Land Between the Lakes. A navigation canal located at Grand Rivers,
Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. The canal allows for a
shorter trip for river traffic going from the
Tennessee to most of the
Ohio River, and for traffic going down the
Cumberland River toward the
Important cities and towns
Cities in bold type have more than 30,000 residents
Grand Rivers, Kentucky
Lenoir City, Tennessee
Muscle Shoals, Alabama
New Johnsonville, Tennessee
Redstone Arsenal, Alabama
Signal Mountain, Tennessee
South Pittsburg, Tennessee
The river appears on French maps from the late 17th century with the
names "Caquinampo" or "Kasqui." Maps from the early 18th century call
it "Cussate," "Hogohegee," "Callamaco," and "Acanseapi." A 1755
British map showed the
Tennessee River as the "River of the
Cherakees." By the late 18th century, it had come to be called
"Tennessee," a name derived from the
Cherokee village named
Tanasi. The river was a major highway to transport goods and
explorers in the years when
Tennessee was not yet settled. Some major
towns that still exist today, and major ports at them were established
by those who rode down the river, and settled along it.
Fish catch near Wilson Dam on the
Tennessee River around 1940.
Tennessee River begins at mile post 652, where the French Broad
River meets the Holston River, but historically there were several
different definitions of its starting point. In the late 18th century,
the mouth of the Little
Tennessee River (at Lenoir City) was
considered to be the beginning of the
Tennessee River. Through much of
the 19th century, the
Tennessee River was considered to start at the
Clinch River (at Kingston). An 1889 declaration by the
Tennessee General Assembly designated Kingsport (on the Holston River)
as the start of the Tennessee, but the following year a federal law
was enacted that finally fixed the start of the river at its current
Water rights and border dispute between Georgia and Tennessee
At various points since the early 19th century, Georgia has disputed
its northern border with Tennessee. In 1796, when
admitted to the Union, the border was originally defined by United
States Congress as located on the 35th parallel, thereby ensuring that
at least a portion of the river would be located within Georgia. As a
result of an erroneously conducted survey in 1818 (ratified by the
Tennessee legislature, but not Georgia), however, the actual border
line was set on the ground approximately one mile south, thus placing
the disputed portion of the river entirely in Tennessee.
Georgia made several unsuccessful attempts to correct what Georgia
felt was an erroneous survey line "in the 1890s, 1905, 1915, 1922,
1941, 1947 and 1971 to 'resolve' the dispute", according to C. Crews
Townsend, Joseph McCoin, Robert F. Parsley, Alison Martin and Zachary
H. Greene, writing for the
Tennessee Bar Journal, a publication of the
Tennessee Bar Association, appearing on May 12, 2008.
In 2008, as a result of a serious drought and resulting water
Georgia General Assembly
Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution directing
the governor to pursue its claim in the
United States Supreme
According to a story aired on
Chattanooga on March 14,
2008, a local attorney familiar with case law on border disputes, says
the U.S. Supreme Court generally will maintain the original borders
between states and avoid stepping into border disputes, preferring the
parties work out their differences.
Chattanooga Times Free Press
Chattanooga Times Free Press reported on 25 March 2013 that
Georgia senators approved House Resolution 4 stating that if Tennessee
declines to settle with them, the dispute will be handed over to the
attorney general, who will take
Tennessee before the Supreme Court to
settle the issue once and for all. The Atlantic Wire, in
commenting on Georgia's actions stated: The Great Georgia-Tennessee
Border War of 2013 Is Upon Us Historians, take note: On this day,
which is not a day in 1732, a boundary dispute between two Southern
states took a turn for the wet. In a two-page resolution passed
overwhelmingly by the state senate, Georgia declared that it, not its
neighbor to the north, controls part of the
Tennessee River at
Nickajack. Georgia doesn't want Nickajack. It wants that water..
Tennessee River is an important part of the Great Loop, the
recreational circumnavigation of Eastern North America by water.
Tennessee River has historically been a major highway for
riverboats through the south and today they are still found along the
river in abundance. Major ports include Guntersville, Chattanooga,
Decatur, and Yellow Creek, and Muscle Shoals. Navigation has
contributed greatly to the economic and industrial development of the
Tennessee Valley as a whole. The economies of cities like Decatur and
Chattanooga would not be as dynamic as they are today, were it not for
Tennessee River. Many companies still rely on the river as a means
of transportation for their materials. In Chattanooga, for example,
steel is exported on boats, as it is much more efficient than moving
it on land. Locks along the
Tennessee River waterway provide
passage between reservoirs for more than 13,000 recreational craft
each year. The Chickamauga Dam, located just upstream from
Chattanooga, is currently planned to have a new lock built. However,
the project has been delayed due to a lack of funding. The river
not only has many economic functions, such as the boat building
industry and transportation, but it also provides water and natural
resources to those who live near the river. Many of the major ports on
the river are connected to a settlement that was started because of
its proximity to the river.
Tennessee River and its tributaries host some 102 species of
mussel. Native Americans ate freshwater mussels. Potters of the
Mississippian Culture used crushed mussel shell mixed into clay to
make their pottery stronger.
A "pearl" button industry was established in the
beginning in 1887, producing buttons from the abundant mussel shells.
Button production ceased after
World War II
World War II when plastics replaced
mother-of-pearl as a button material.
Mussel populations have
declined drastically due to dam construction, water pollution, and
Cormac McCarthy's 1979 novel
Suttree concerns a man who forsakes his
life of privilege to become a fisherman along the
Tennessee River in
Knoxville in the early 1950s.
The country music band
Alabama recorded the song "
Tennessee River" in
Darryl Worley's 2003 song "
Tennessee River Run" was written and
recorded about the memories he made over the course of his lifetime on
Tennessee River and at Pickwick Lake, just outside his hometown of
Tennessee River tributaries
Forks-of-the-River in East Knoxville: the French Broad (left) joins
the Holston (right) to form the
Tributaries and sub-tributaries are listed hierarchically in order
from the mouth of the
Tennessee River upstream.
Horse Creek (Tennessee)
Big Sandy River (Tennessee)
White Oak Creek
Duck River (Tennessee)
Buffalo River (Tennessee)
Little Buffalo River
Piney River (Tennessee)
Little Duck River
Beech River (Tennessee)
Bear Creek (Alabama, Mississippi) 
Buzzard Roost Creek (Alabama) 
Colbert Creek (Alabama) 
Cotaco Creek (Alabama)
Malone Creek (Alabama) 
Mulberry Creek (Alabama) 
Cane Creek (Alabama) 
Dry Creek (Alabama) 
Little Bear Creek (Alabama) 
Spring Creek (Alabama) 
Cypress Creek (Alabama) 
Shoal Creek (Alabama) 
First Creek (Alabama) 
Elk River (Tennessee, Alabama)
Flint Creek (Alabama)
Limestone Creek (Alabama, Tennessee)
Beaverdam Creek (Alabama)
Indian Creek (Alabama)
Barren Fork Creek
Flint River (Alabama, Tennessee)
Paint Rock River
Paint Rock River (Alabama, Tennessee)
Sequatchie River (Tennessee)
Little Sequatchie River
Mountain Creek (Tennessee)
Lookout Creek (Tennessee, Georgia)
Chattanooga Creek (Tennessee, Georgia)
Citico Creek (Tennessee)
Chickamauga Creek (Tennessee, Georgia)
Chickamauga Creek (Tennessee)
Hiwassee River (Tennessee, North Carolina)
Conasauga Creek (Tennessee)
Ocoee River (Tennessee, Georgia)
Nottely River (North Carolina, Georgia)
Piney River (Tennessee)
Clinch River (Tennessee, Virginia)
Emory River (Tennessee)
Little Emory River
Obed River (Tennessee)
Little Obed River
East Fork Poplar Creek
Powell River (Tennessee, Virginia)
Tennessee River (Tennessee, North Carolina)
Tellico River (Tennessee)
Tuckasegee River (North Carolina)
Nantahala River (North Carolina)
Cullasaja River (North Carolina)
Little River (Tennessee)
French Broad River
Little Pigeon River (Tennessee)
Nolichucky River (Tennessee, North Carolina)
Pigeon River (Tennessee, North Carolina)
Swannanoa River (North Carolina)
Holston River (Tennessee)
Holston River (Tennessee, Virginia)
Holston River (Tennessee, Virginia)
Watauga River (Tennessee, North Carolina)
Doe River (Tennessee)
Holston River (Virginia)
List of crossings of the
List of dams and reservoirs of the
List of longest rivers of the
United States (by main stem)
Tennessee River 600
Tennessee River Valley
^ U.S. Geological Survey. Shooks Gap quadrangle, Tennessee. 1:24,000.
7.5 Minute Series. Washington D.C.: USGS, 1987.
^ a b c d U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System:
^ U.S. Geological Survey. Paducah East quadrangle, Kentucky. 1:24,000.
7.5 Minute Series. Washington D.C.: USGS, 1982.
^ a b "Arthur Benke & Colbert Cushing, "Rivers of North America".
Elsevier Academic Press, 2005 ISBN 0-12-088253-1
^ a b Bright, William (2004). Native American placenames of the United
States. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 488.
ISBN 978-0-8061-3598-4. Retrieved 11 April 2011.
^ a b c Ann Toplovich,
Tennessee River System,
of History and Culture, December 25, 2009; updated January 1, 2010;
accessed July 14, 2011
^ "Georgians thirst to move
Tennessee state line". February 8, 2008.
^ "Desperate for water, Georgia revisits border dispute". February 8,
2008. Retrieved 2008-05-13. [dead link]
^ "Crossing the Line
Tennessee Bar Association". Tba.org. Archived
from the original on 2015-07-08. Retrieved 2013-07-10.
^ Jones, Andrea (February 20, 2008). "Ga.'s quest to move Tenn. border
advances". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved
^ Dewan, Shaila (February 22, 2008). "Georgia Claims a Sliver of the
Tennessee River". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-14.
^ Group, Sinclair Broadcast. "CHATTANOOGA News, Weather, Sports,
Breaking News - WTVC".
^ "Tennessee, Georgia at war over state line; battle could go to
Supreme Court". March 25, 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-25.
^ "The Great Georgia-
Tennessee Border War of 2013 Is Upon Us". March
25, 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-25.
^ "Navigation on the
Tennessee River". tva.com. TVA. Retrieved 29
^ "Chickamauga Lock Addition Project". lrn.usace.army.mil. Retrieved
29 October 2014.
^ a b Freshwater Mussels, Virginia Department of Game and Inland
Fisheries website, accessed July 14, 2011
Tennessee Freshwater Mussels, Frank H. McClung Museum website,
accessed July 14, 2011
^ a b c d e f g h
Alabama Department of Transportation (1997). "County
Highway Maps". University of Alabama. Archived from the original
(Lizardtech Plugin) on 2009-01-30. Retrieved 2007-06-25.
^ a b c d Army Corp of Engineers (1997). "
Tennessee River Navigation
Charts". Army Corp of Engineers. Archived from the original on
2003-06-05. Retrieved 2007-07-04.
Woodside, M.D. et al. (2004). Water quality in the lower Tennessee
River Basin, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Georgia,
1999-2001 [U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1233]. Reston, VA: U.S.
Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
Myers, Fred (2004).
Tennessee River CruiseGuide, 5th Edition
Hay, Jerry (2010).
Tennessee River Guidebook, 1st Edition
Rumsey, W.J. (2007). A Cruising Guide to the
Tennessee River, Tenn-Tom
Waterway, and Lower Tombigbee River
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Tennessee River in Alabama
Tennessee River Navigation Charts
Chickamauga dam progress
Works related to