Quick Facts About the River
- The Tennessee River begins upstream of Knoxville, Tennessee. The river flows 652 miles south then west across northern Alabama and a small portion of northern Mississippi before turning north to Kentucky where the river discharges into the Ohio River only miles upstream from the Mississippi River.
- A small portion of the Tennessee River’s headwaters can be found in six north Georgia counties: Cole City Creek (Dade County); Lookout Creek (Catoosa); Chattanooga Creek (Catoosa); West and South Chickamauga Creeks (Catoosa); Fightingtown Creek (Fannin); Toccoa River (Fannin); Nottely River (Union); Hiawassee River (Towns); and Little Tennessee River (Rabun).
- The Upper Tennessee River Basin is noted nationally for its diversity of freshwater fishes and mussels, including 174 species of fish and 85 species of mussels.
- Twenty-five of these mussel species are no longer found in the basin, mostly because of habitat destruction associated with reservoir impoundment. Eleven such species are believed to now be extinct.
- Overall species diversity is slowly declining due to releases and spills in many parts of the basin.
- Municipal and Industrial Uses
NPDES Discharges: As of 2018, there are approximately 37 facilities, including industries and municipalities, authorized to discharge wastewater into the Tennessee River Basin pursuant to NPDES permits.
- Agricultural Uses
As of 2018, the EPD had issued 57 agricultural water withdrawal permits in the Tennessee River Basin.
There are three upper Tennessee River headwaters impoundments in Georgia. Blue Ridge Dam and Lake was built between 1925 and 1930 by a subsidiary of the defunct Tennessee Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and acquired by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1939. The TVA built dams to create Nottely Lake and Lake Chatuge between 1941 and 1942.
- In the Upper Tennessee River Basin, forests cover more than 67 percent of the Upper Tennessee River Basin, which encompasses the entire drainage area of the Tennessee River and its tributaries upstream from the USGS gaging station at Chattanooga, Tennessee, and five National Forests (Jefferson, Pisgah, Cherokee, Nantahala, and Chattahoochee National Forests), which wholly or partially lie within the basin.
- Agricultural land, predominantly pasture, is the second most common land use and accounts for more than 26 percent of the basin. Row crops account for only about 2.6 percent of the area. Less than 4.5 percent of the basin is developed.
- The Toccoa River Canoe Trail is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, beginning at the Deep Hole Recreation Area and flowing 13.8 miles to the take out at Sandy Bottoms. This 13.8-mile beginner-level trail along the Toccoa River is perfect for those looking to experience a few rapids and relax amid beautiful scenery. For more information, visit https://www.garivers.org/trct.html.
- Cloudland Canyon State Park is one of the most scenic parks in Georgia, at the western edge of Lookout Mountain in Trenton, GA. The park is located on either side of a large gorge and its elevation ranges from 800-1980 feet. Visitors can hike to the bottom of the gorge to see two waterfalls.
- Vogel State Park is one of the oldest and most popular state parks in Georgia, located at the base of Blood Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest in Blairsville, Georgia.
- Black Rock Mountain State Park is the highest state park in Georgia, and is located in Rabun County at an elevation of 3,540 feet. There are scenic overlooks, hiking trails, and many amazing natural sites to see.
- 305(b)/303(d) Listings
- In the Tennessee River Basin, there are approximately 80 rivers and streams listed on the 2012 integrated 305(b)/303(d) list as waters not supporting their designated uses. These impaired waters include roughly 387 miles of rivers and streams in the Tennessee River Basin. 2016 data can be viewed at https://epd.georgia.gov/georgia-305b303d-list-documents
- Fish Consumption Advisories: View EPD’s “Guidelines for Eating Fish from Georgia’s Waters” online: https://epd.georgia.gov/fish-consumption-guidelines
- Interbasin transfer (IBT): For years, a small group of stakeholders in the state of Georgia have maintained that a nineteenth century surveyor’s error miscalculated the location of the Tennessee-Georgia border. The consequence of this action placed the Tennessee River beyond Georgia’s riparian reach – making the river inaccessible and water withdrawals by the state of Georgia impossible. Since 2010, the members of the Georgia General Assembly attempted legislative fixes to provide access to the Tennessee River in order to pipe water south from Chattanooga to metro Atlanta. Only one legislative attempt stuck: in 2013, the General Assembly passed a resolution to settle the nearly 200-year-old boundary “dispute” between the two states with a simple request. Georgia would allow the boundary fight to pass if Tennessee provided Georgia access to Lake Nickajack (operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority) via a small corridor. If Tennessee declined to provide a pipeline right-of-way, Georgia would take the border issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. Furthermore, the resolution required the Georgia Attorney General to initiate litigation at the end of 2014 if no resolution with Tennessee could be reached. As of December 2014, no action on the part of Georgia or a response from Tennessee has been made public.