The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway is the flyway used almost exclusively by “snowbirds” migrating from the northern climates in autumn and going back north in the spring. By using this route, mariners do not have to fight the Mississippi’s current on the up-bound trip, nor will they have to go “outside” in the Gulf of Mexico between New Orleans and Mobile.
Construction on the Tenn-Tom project began in 1972, and it would go on to become the largest civil works project ever undertaken by the Corps of Engineers, which spent $2 billion to make it happen. By connecting the Tennessee River in Mississippi and the Black Warrior River in Alabama, it provided a direct water route from the Tennessee River to the Intracoastal Waterway and the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile Bay, reducing travel distances from some points in the eastern U.S. by as much as 800 miles.
The Tenn-Tom Waterway was officially opened in January 1985, when the towboat Eddie Waxler of Waxler Towing Company pushed a string of barges over the new route. The waterway was formally dedicated in June 1985, at Columbus, Miss., and Mobile, Ala., as well as at other sites along the route.