Where were you in 1984 when the historic new waterway called the Tenn-Tom Waterway was completed? Completed just one month after Reagan was re elected, this waterway would connect the Tennessee river to the Gulf of Mexico. For the Great American Loop- it offers a recreational boater a route to the Gulf without contending with the lower Mississippi River and its heavy commercial traffic!
Excerpts follow from an article celebrating the grand opening of the waterway:
“COLUMBUS, Miss. — Ceremonies at opposite ends of the Tombigbee River on Saturday officially opened the $2-billion, 234-mile Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, ending more than a century of planning and 14 years of construction.
President Reagan, in a message read by Marsh, congratulated the people of Mississippi and Alabama and other supporters of the Tenn-Tom Waterway for their “foresight, perseverance and patience.”
Wallace presided at the second dedication ceremony, at the Alabama State Docks in Mobile, near the site where former President Richard M. Nixon turned the first shovel to start project construction on May 25, 1971.”
The project was in development for years ; as Nixon had turned the first shovel in 1971!! The final cost was $2billion .
And don’t feel bad if it is not a household name– we had not heard of it until we decided to take rivers from Chicago to the Gulf. Many folks including us, thought our route would mean going down the Mississippi to New Orleans. Were we in for sweet surprise to learn that we would only be on the Mississippi for 180 miles before branching off and eventually reaching the entrance to the Tenn Tom Waterway.
This will be our route for the next 234 miles– taking the waterway to Demopolis. We than join the Black Warrior waterway river system the remaining distance to Mobile; it will take about 2 weeks to get to Mobile Alabama.
Here are a few Ariel views borrowed from the internet:
Elevation will drop 341 feet over the course of 10 locks. Each lock is 600 feet long and 110 feet wide; typically drops 35 feet or so on this section.
The Tenn Tom encompasses 17 public ports, 110,000 acres of land, and another 88,000 acres managed by state conservation agencies for wildlife habitat preservation and recreational use. ( see www.tenntom.org./about/ttwhistory3.htm)
The Tennessee Tombigbee is made up of three sections. the first is the 27 mile canal called the Divide Cut. A whole town was relocated to make room for the building of this section.
The next section is the canal section with 5 locks, the last section is the river system- designed to eliminate many of the bends in the Tombigbee river.
Along the route are many “diversions” here is one that was built to keep the incoming waterway from flowing too fast causing erosion. There were several different types of Diversion designs.
http://history.tenntom.org/construction-process/ The construction of the locks and dams plus the development of the area as a nature preserve as a massive undertaking .
This link gives more detail of the project. The behind the scenes information gave another layer of awe as we motored through this area.