Tennessee River Valley is the watershed of the Tennessee River, one of the major tributaries of the Ohio River. Flowing 652 miles through 6 states- Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee, the river derives its name from the Cherokee town of Tanasi. An important river “highway” for travel, commerce, and exploration, the area was settled as early as 8000 years ago and explored by Spanish expeditions in 1540. One of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, Shiloh was fought on the west bank at Pittsburg Landing. The river was also known for treacherous travel and for devastating flooding in communities located on its shores. As part of FDR’s New Deal, TVA began damming the river to improve navigation and to control flooding, while also bringing electrification and jobs to the Valley.
The Tennessee River is one of the most ecologically important river systems in the country. Birding is a popular activity due to migration and nesting of many species of birds that are found here including eagles, cranes, and herons. The river is home to more than 200 species of fish, including several endangered or threatened species. There are 100 plus species of freshwater mussels living in the watershed, along with endangered plants, birds, bats and salamanders. The Conservation Fund considers the Tennessee Basin to be the single most biologically diverse river system for aquatic organisms in the United States.
The region’s identity has been shaped by the river and the watershed provides an abundance of public land for exploring diverse recreational activities such as camping, hiking, biking, rock climbing, birding, as well as cultural tourism. This project seeks to preserve and protect the natural place based assets of the region while creating sustainable communities that honor the rich history and heritage of the people that call the Valley home.