You can’t hope to understand the state of Tennessee without experiencing the Tennessee River. As the largest tributary of the mighty Ohio River - and with a length of 652 miles - it’s hard to miss this impressive waterway. By exploring the towns and regions surrounding it, you can get a feel for the history, culture and people of the Volunteer State. From quaint railroad towns like Waverly to impressive museums like the Tennessee River Museum, there’s an endless array of things to see and do in the general vicinity of the Tennessee River.

The Geography of a Mighty River

Before delving into the specifics of its nearby attractions, it helps to familiarize yourself with the basic geography of the Tennessee River. Although many arguments about its precise course have occurred through the years, it’s generally agreed that the Tennessee River begins in the eastern section of Knoxville. From there, it meanders southwest through eastern Tennessee, towards Chattanooga. At that point, it crosses into northern Alabama for a spell. Eventually, it makes its way back into Tennessee before coming to an end in Kentucky.

Photo Credit: Brent Moore

Waverly: A Picturesque Railroad Town

During the early 1800s, an important stagecoach line ran through eastern Tennessee. The town of Waverly was founded as a midway point between Nashville and Memphis. During the Civil War, the region was staunchly pro-Confederate; in fact, a famous battle - the Battle of Johnsonville - happened nearby. By paying a visit to this charming town, you can catch a glimpse of some of Tennessee’s Civil War-era history while enjoying the quaint layout of Waverly. You can also learn more about the basic history of the region - and of the Tennessee River - by stopping in at the Humphreys County Museum.

Photo Credit: Charlene Simmons

Enjoy the Charms of Several Small Towns

Waverly isn’t the only charming town that you’ll pass through along the Tennessee River Trail. Indeed, the eastern portion of the state is chock full of delightful towns in which you can while away many an afternoon or evening. In addition to small towns like Clifton, Parsons and Linden, you’ll also be able to experience large cities like Knoxville and Chattanooga. One great option is to enjoy a combination of the two - intersperse trips to the larger cities with visits to the small towns where so much important history occurred.

Photo Credit: Timm Meunier

Experience the Region’s Proud Fishing Traditions

As large and impressive as the Tennessee River is, it’s only fitting that fishing is an important part of the economy and culture of this part of the state. You can engage in some of the best fishing that the state has to offer by heading over to Paris Landing State Park. If you’d like to experience something a little different, pay a visit to the Tennessee Freshwater Pearl Farm in Camden. By enjoying both places and activities, you’ll be able to get a better understanding for the important role that the river has played in the state.

Get a Broad View of the River’s History

There’s no better way to get a sweeping view of the history of the Tennessee River than by paying a visit to the Tennessee River Museum in Savannah. As you make your way through this venerable institution, you’ll be able to learn more about several different periods in the river’s history. From the time of the dinosaurs, all the way through to the present day, this museum is sure to give you a more comprehensive understanding of the long-running importance of this unique waterway.

Photo Credit: David Brossard

Work in Some Extra Fun

You don’t have to be the biggest country music fan in the world to know that many of today’s hottest country music stars call the Tennessee River region home. If celebrity sightings are your thing - or if you’d just like to catch a glimpse of some incredible homes - you can do so with ease in this region. The fact that so many prominent folks make this lushly scenic part of the state their home is definitely telling. Once you’ve made your way around the trail, you’re sure to come away with a lot of respect and admiration for this part of the state.