Tennessee watershed

The Tennessee Valley is the drainage basin of the Tennessee River and is largely within the U.S. state of Tennessee. It stretches from southwest Kentucky to northwest Georgia and from northeast Mississippi to the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. The border of the valley is known as the Tennessee Valley Divide.

Tennessee Valley is also a generally accepted term for North Alabama, anchored by the city of Huntsville.



The Upper Tennessee Valley, looking east from the edge of the Cumberland Plateau near Rockwood, Tennessee

The Tennessee Valley begins in the upper head water portions of the Holston River, Watauga River, and Doe River in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. It travels southwest into North Alabama. The roughly 150 mile (240 km) stretch within Tennessee is bound on the east by the Appalachian Mountains (including the Great Smoky Mountains) and on the west by the Cumberland Plateau and Cumberland Mountains. Near Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Tennessee River cuts though the Cumberland Plateau creating a canyon called the Tennessee River Gorge before it enters northern Alabama. The 100 mile (160 km) Alabama stretch of the valley runs mainly west before turning back north and re-entering Tennessee. In Alabama, the valley is bound on the north by the southern end of the Cumberland Plateau. On the south it is bound by the southern end of the Appalachians.

The valley continues back north into Tennessee, creating the dividing line between Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee, eventually reaching to the Ohio River in Western Kentucky, where it divides the region known as the Jackson Purchase from the rest of the state.

Geologically, the eastern Tennessee Valley consists of many small valleys and ridges within a great valley. The region is termed the Ridge and Valley Province and the great valley is termed the Great Appalachian Valley.

Important citiesEdit

  • Chattanooga, Tennessee, is nicknamed "The Scenic City" for its vistas of the Tennessee Valley from atop the many mountaintops that surround the city. Chattanooga and its suburbs form the second most populous metropolitan area in the valley. The Battle of Chattanooga was fought on nearby Lookout Mountain.
  • Decatur, Alabama, known as "The River City", dominated the economic landscape of north Alabama until the late 1950s, when the space race catapulted its neighbor Huntsville (see below) into that position. For most of the 20th century up to that point, Decatur held the top position in terms of economic impact and population. Its mixture of river transport and rail access has made it a busy hub of business, commerce, and manufacturing (chemicals and textiles especially) flowing down the river on the barges and boats of numerous companies and docking at the Port of Decatur.
    • The City of Decatur also claims the nickname "The Heart of the Valley" because of its location near the exact center of the length of the Tennessee River. Also because most north/south shipping traffic is funneled through the town utilizing three river crossings that are main routes for rail and road traffic between Birmingham, and Nashville. The city is also an important river port that uses intramodal facilities to switch shipping methods between trains, trucks, and barges.
  • Scottsboro, Alabama, "the Friendly City", is located on Highway 72, 40 miles east of Huntsville. It was founded in the mid 1850s and is most famous for the Scottsboro Boys and Unclaimed Baggage Center, as well as "First Monday," an open-air marketplace held in and around downtown on Mondays following the first weekend of a month.




River PortsEdit

See alsoEdit

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