The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway connects the Tennessee River at Iuka, Mississippi to Mobile Bay. It is actually four rivers -- Tennessee, Tombigbee, Black Warrior, and Alabama -- that have been connected and deepened by use of dams and earth removal to provide a commercial waterway connection. It is heavily used by commercial traffic with a high number of tows transporting various cargo.
First proposed in 1760, by a French explorer, and by many others over the years, the Tenn-Tom was not authorized by Congress until 1946. Many delays, including lengthy suits by the railroad industry, postponed the start of construction until 1972. It was not completed until 1985.
The Tombigbee River portion of the Tenn-Tom has some long straight sections created by digging a channel, closely following the original river bed, but much straighter. The process digging to create the channels moved more earth than digging the Panama Canal. The Black Warrior River portion of the waterway follows the natural river, which is deep enough for commercial traffic, but is very windy. Oxbows, where the river curves, sometimes are back to back, requiring a boat to travel 5 miles on the river to make one mile "as the crow flies."
Click Here to view a map of Black Warrior Oxbows
For recreational boaters, the Tenn-Tom is a much more scenic and safer route than traveling down the lower Mississippi and is the link that made the Great Loop practical for many. Natural surroundings line the riverbanks. Small creeks feeding into the rivers create tight but protected anchorages. Anchoring along the rivers themselves is not a wise or safe option as the tows travel 24 hours a day. Below is a view of the White Cliffs of Epes along the western shore of the Tombigbee River.
Wildlife along the waterway, including the majestic Blue Heron, is another aspect of the beauty enjoyed.
Homes along the waterway are few, adding to the interesting views as one travels on the water. Some are interesting in their massive size, while others have creative architecture or features.
The choice of some is a big boat to go with the big house, others have boats uniquely designed. The colorful items hanging inside the side of this boat are fishing lures.
Shanty boats were first encountered by Loopers along the TennTom, though they were not the only interestingly different boats.
This boat is constructed from bamboo with plastic water bottles for flotation. Blue plastic tarps help keep water out of the boat and provide propulsion as sails.
Quite odd looking when seen from the stern, this boat proved to be just a trimaran with the mast down to be able to clear low bridges.
Designed and built in Washington State, for travel along the Pacific coast, this boat has been cruising the river system for a few years.
There is all sorts of "stuff" sighted along the rivers, including a phone booth in someone's backyard. It was an area with no cell phone reception, so it could have been useful.
This person thought it appropriate to locate his barn along the water with the house on the other side. Wanting to keep things that someday might be useful again, his collection included a totem pole.
Procrastination on starting the restoration of the antique truck left it to the pulls of nature and into the river.
For some reason, the locals refer to this bridge crossing the waterway as the Dolly Parton Bridge.
Having a deadhead run under the boat and into the props had many a boat in the slings at a boat yard for repairs.
To understand the narrowness of Bashi Creek in comparison to the waterway, click the link below.
Click Here for Map
Zoom out on the above map to see another winding part of the river.
Small creeks create cozy anchoring arrangements. The farthest boat is Happy Hours V, with an Australian couple cruising the Loop.
This creek had more depth and more room for boats, but Last Dance had the anchorage to herself the night visited.
Being just a few hundred feet from the river, this anchorage provided views of the heavy barge traffic that travels the river.
And, the tows do travel by at night. The locks operate 24 hours a day to accommodate the commercial traffic.
The area that could be used for anchoring was quite shallow, but there were two old barges tied to the shore in deep water. These barges provided a secure mooring for Last Dance.
Again, a private anchorage was enjoyed by the crew, with the exception of a family of Raccoons that live along the shore. Jill was thrilled when the family visited Last Dance at night, the baby peering in the port over the bed. Critters always add an exciting element of the nature surroundings.
Alabama River Cut Off
. . . so named because it is a short cut from the Black Warrior River to the Alabama River, provided another secluded, private anchorage for Last Dance. The last anchorage enjoyed before reaching Mobile, Alabama.
The wildlife here demonstrated that the South had finally been reached as an alligator swam by the boat.
The Blue Heron who claimed this creek as his own put on a display of his fishing skills.
As Mobile was approached, the AIS (Automatic Identification System) alarms began sounding constantly.
When a commercial vessel is within close range, an image is displayed on the chart plotter and an alarm screams. The red triangles on the screen indicate a commercial vessel less than a mile away. The many, many green triangles indicate commercial vessels close, but more than a mile away. The alarm had to be disarmed to keep the crew's sanity.
Mobile, Alabama, is the end of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and the end of river travel on America's Great Loop.