The 253-mile waterway leaves the Tennessee River at Pickwick Lake, at the state lines of Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, and proceeds south on Yellow Creek. There, it crosses the Tennessee River divide with a deep cut to Mackey’s Creek and follows the east fork of the Tombigbee, which flows to Demopolis, Ala.
At this point, it joins with the Black Warrior River, forming the Warrior-Tombigbee system. The distance from the Tennessee River to Mobile is 470 miles. The project provides a 9-foot navigation channel with widths of 280 feet in the divide cut and 300 feet on the remainder of the route. To overcome a 341-foot difference in water levels, 10 locks and dams were constructed.
Each dam raises the waterway an average of 30 feet, except at the Jamie Whitten Lock & Dam at Bay Springs, Ala., where an 84-foot lift is required to carry the waterway over the divide and into the Tennessee River Valley. All locks are standard 600 feet long by 110 feet wide.
The waterway is broken down into three sections: a 168-mile section with four locks from Demopolis north to Amory, Miss.; a 45-mile lateral canal section with five locks from Amory to Bay Springs, Ala.; and a 39.3-mile divide cut to the Tennessee. The river section was shortened by about 20 cutoffs, reducing the previous river length by almost 30 miles. The longest cutoff is at Rattlesnake Bend, near Demopolis.
The lateral canal, using hillsides for one bank and levees for the other, parallels the east side of existing streams because they were too narrow and winding for conventional dredging methods. The maximum centerline cut through the divide was 174 feet, with 5 miles having an average cut of 75 feet.
Since its completion, public recreational facilities have blossomed and tourism has become a major industry along the waterway. Boaters who transit the waterway can look forward to excellent marinas, relaxing anchorages, quaint towns with good places to eat, nice warm weather and, best of all, laid-back southern hospitality.
Tenn-Tom Lock Mile Markers
Jamie Whitten Lock & Dam: 411.9
G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Lock: 406.7
John Rankin Lock: 398.4
Fulton Lock: 391.0
Glover Wilkins Lock: 376.3
Amory Lock: 371.1
Aberdeen Lock & Dam: 357.5
John C. Stennis Lock & Dam: 334.7
Tom Bevill Lock & Dam: 306.8
Howell Heflin Lock & Dam: 266.1
Demopolis Lock & Dam: 213.2
Coffeeville Lock & Dam: 116.6