Intro to the Tenn Tom Waterway

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.”

Image result for reagan completion of the tenn tom waterway


    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:

Image result for tenn tom

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. 

Image result for tenn tom

Image result for tenn tom

James Whitten lock


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

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.

along the tenn tom    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.




About mnsailors

Our blog will highlight our travels along America's Great Loop. We sold our sailboat on Lake Superior for a Trawler to do America's Great Loop in 2016.
This entry was posted in America's Great Loop Adventure, Moon Shadow Log and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s