The Tennessee River begins at the confluence of the Holston and French Broad Rivers, just east of Knoxville, TN. The entire length of the Tennessee River is navigable, being maintained by the U.S. Army Corp on Engineers, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the U.S. Coast Guard. It is a beautiful waterway that offers a variety of scenery and characteristics. It is a boater friendly river with plenty of marinas and anchorage opportunities, along with some great river towns. Above all, my most memorable experiences on the Tennessee River are my encounters with the helpful, friendly people along the river. Source…River Books & Programs
The Tennessee River is not entirely in Tennessee. It begins in the namesake state but also flows across northern Alabama, along the corner of Mississippi, back into Tennessee and then through Kentucky as it ends flowing into the Ohio River. On this modern-day course it forms many lakes, due to the TVA dams with the largest being Kentucky Lake. On a downriver trip, one will experience a river that gradually widens into the lakes, then becomes a river again immediately below each lock & dam. There are nine locks between Knoxville and Paducah. The locks are user-friendly with the Kentucky Dam lock being the busiest. It is often faster to take the Barkley canal to the Cumberland River and lock through the Barkley Lock to get to the Ohio River. This is one of the many tips that will be found in the upcoming Tennessee River Guidebook.
Having traveled the Tennessee River from Paducah to Chattanooga many times while working on the Delta Queen Steamboats, I became very familiar with the river and many of the communities. That experiences provided me with a basis for created a guidebook for the river but that alone was not enough. In June of 2009 I traveled from Kentucky Lake to Knoxville in my 22ft boat to gain small craft experience on the Tennessee. Anyone who has traveled rivers knows that they seem different going downriver than upriver. In fact they are, insomuch as line of site and currents. That is why a separate trip is required that will take me downriver from Knoxville to Paducah. One cannot make every stop along the river to gather important information and we often cannot tell what is available along the shore from the river, so another step is to drive the entire length of the river on both sides, cross every bridge and scout all locations that could be helpful for traveling boaters. Even after experiencing the river by boat and car, aerial views were done for a birds eye view of important details. Click here to see a journal of one of the trips.
I always enjoyed the Tennessee River from the deck of a large steamboat, but that did not compare with the adventure of traveling the river in a small craft. Being able to explore tributaries, coves and other out of the way places made my journeys a whole new experience.