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In the mid 1770s Sieur de Bienville, the founder of Mobile, recommended to Louis XIV, a waterway connecting the Tennessee River with the Tombigbee River. Later, American settlers also recognized the advantages of such a shortcut. Residents of Knox County, Tennessee first approached Congress in 1810 with a proposal to connect the two rivers. The first survey was made by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1827. Serious consideration was delayed for more than 100 years because of the expansion of railroads. Construction of the Tenn-Tom Waterway was started in 1972 and completed in 1985. The waterway provides shallow draft boats and barges operating in some 16,000 miles of other navigable inland waterways with access to the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile, Alabama 412 river miles to the south of the Bay Springs Lock and Dam. The junction of the waterway at the Tennessee River is 47 miles north of lock and dam. The lock on the waterway is standard dimension, 110 feet wide and 600 feet long.

The Tennessee-Tombigee Waterway has three main parts - the largest section from Demopolis, Alabama north to Amory, Mississippi utilized the Tombigbee River but changes and shortens the existing channel with dams, locks and shortcuts. From Amory a canal section using a chain of lakes construction extends to the Bay Springs Lock and Dam. The final section cuts deeply through high ground to the Tennessee River. Its total length is 234 miles with the river section being 149 miles, canal section 46 miles and divide cut section being 39 miles. The standard width is 300 feet.


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