The Tennessee River is a popular recreation spot wherever it flows through the state. A major source of hydroelectricity, there are nine Tennessee Valley Authority dams placed along the river's length, four in Tennessee. The 650-mile river has an eastern and a western section in Tennessee but also flows in Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky.
Formed at the confluence of the Holston and French Broad Rivers, the eastern section of the Tennessee River flows along the downtown Knoxville area known as Volunteer Landing. You can catch a riverboat for an excursion here or enjoy dinner at one of the restaurants along the shore. Some Knoxville residents enjoy the river year-round from their houseboat homes. After Knoxville, the river flows west through east Tennessee to Fort Loudoun Dam and then on to Watts Bar Dam.
Flowing southwest, the Tennessee crosses the Cumberland Plateau and flows down to Chattanooga. The river passes two dams: the Chickamauga and then the Nickajack, located in the Tennessee River Gorge. The gorge is the only large river canyon bordering a mid-size city (Chattanooga). The 27,000 acres of land carved by the river through the Cumberland Mountains provide habitats for thousands of species of plants, wildlife and birds including endangered species like the Osprey and Bald Eagle.
Two state parks are located on the river near Chattanooga. Booker T. Washington State Park offers boating and hiking; Harrison Bay State Park has 40 miles of shore line plus camping and a marina.
The river flows into Alabama and Mississippi next before returning to Tennessee, where it divides the state's Middle and West regions. Pickwick Landing State Resort Park, located at Pickwick Dam south of Savannah, has an inn, marina and golf. Mousetail Landing State Rustic Park at Linden, southeast of Nashville, has a wildlife refuge, forest and overlooks.
Along the river's route northward toward Kentucky, visit the Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Museum and Farm near Camden to see a working pearl farm. At nearby Eva, Tennessee River Folklife Center features a museum of river folkways and a park for outdoor fun. Inns and cabins are available at Paris Landing State Resort Park at Buchanan, which lies on the western shore of Kentucky Lake. The final stretch of the Tennessee River runs into Kentucky where it flows into the Ohio River.