Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway serves as an alternate route to the Gulf
of Mexico. Before it was completed the only river from the Ohio
Valley to the Gulf was the Lower Mississippi River. The "Tenn-Tom"
shortened the distance and provided friendlier waters and services
for commercial vessels and pleasure craft. The waterway has
stimulated economic development, provided outdoor recreational
opportunities, aides to navigation, and enhanced wildlife habitat.
Many people call the entire waterway from the Tennessee River to
Mobile, AL the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway but it is only part of
482 miles of the river system connecting
the Tennessee River with the Tombigbee River and, via the Mobile
River, with the Gulf of Mexico. This waterway flows south from the
Tennessee via a canal in Northeastern Mississippi, crosses into
Alabama at Aliceville Lake, then runs South Southeast to Demopolis,
Ala. There are ten locks and dams on the waterway.
Tennessee-Tombigee Waterway has three main parts - the largest
section from Demopolis, Alabama north to Amory, Mississippi utilizes
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 (shown at left) section
being 39 miles. The standard width is 300 feet.
waterway also connects with the Intracoastal Waterway at Mobile Bay.
Many boaters utilize this waterway system to pilot their boats
between Lake Michigan and Florida. The Intracoastal Waterway is a
system of rivers, lakes, canals and barrier islands that provide a
channel along the gulf coast that is protected from the high winds
and waves from the ocean.
breakwaters are seen along the waterway. They were built to prevent
tributaries and other water sources from eroding the bed of the
channel by spreading out the force during high input. One of the breakwaters is shown at left.
Coffeeville Lock & Dam is shown at right. This is one of ten
locks that maintain a "pool" stage above the dam that
provides a sufficient depth for vessels. Much of the waterway is
nearly slack water, due to the dams.
waterway is not as busy with tow traffic as some rivers but some will be encountered so boaters are advised to give them plenty
of room, particularly on tight bends. The wakes from passing tows is
a gentle roll and not as choppy as large cruisers. In narrow sections
the wake will bounce back and forth for some time.
are many remote and beautiful areas, particularly in the lower
sections. The photo at left is looking toward the mouth of the Black
Warrior River, just above Demopolis. The Black Warrior is a navigable
river to Birmingham.
Bay is a busy commercial port and along with the wind, can be quite
choppy. The blue and white vessel in the photo at below is the Delta
Mariner. This is the ship that hit a bridge on the Tennessee River in
January of 2012, taking out two spans of the bridge.
Click Here to read river journals that include the Tenn-Tom Waterway
Click on the books to get information about how they can help safely navigate the Tenn-Tom Waterway and beyond
The River Charts CD by Inland Waterways has all the digital charts for the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and many other rivers. Click the box for more information