Noted Cities in the Tennessee River Valley that Have Shaped America

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History flows through the waters of the Tennessee River where stories have been passed down over the years, forming the Tennessee Valley River region into a geotourism mecca. People from all walks of life travel near and far to visit and experience the diverse heritage of the region.

Alabama's first incorporated town, Mooresville is one of the state's most important and intact villages. The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Tennessee River Valley is a region steeped in history and at the centerpiece of it all is the Tennessee River. Flowing 652 miles through seven states, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee, the Tennessee River derives its name from the Cherokee town of Tanasi. Cities and towns along the waterway have played an important role in forming the region’s identity and heritage. Today, travelers can experience a bit of the diverse heritage and learn about each town’s role in shaping the region into a geotourism hotspot through historical structures, natural areas and other attractions.

Located about a mile from the I-65 and I-565 junction in north Alabama is the oldest incorporated town in the state. The entire town of Mooresville is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with 14 structures dating from the 1820 to the 1850s.

Visitors to the Shoals area in northwest Alabama can expect a day (or several days) of inspirational exploration. The area offers a compelling story from celebrated leaders such as Helen Keller and W.C. Handy, father of the Blues. FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound along with other recording studios made Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the Hit Recording Capital of the World in the 1960s and beyond.

In southeast Tennessee and north Georgia, copper mining was a major industry for many years. Copper was first discovered in the basin in 1843, and by the 1850s large mining operations were taking place, but careless industry practices over the years resulted in a massive environmental disaster. With the formation of TVA in 1933, one of their top priorities was to remedy the damage done to the area. Today, the area is still known as the Copper Basin and is a popular area for visitors due to the fact the geological region features two rivers, two bridges, two towns and two states.

Established 17 years before Tennessee was granted statehood, Jonesborough is a unique town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. Its well-preserved Main Street takes visitors on a beautiful journey through the past. Walk where Daniel Boone, Andrew Jackson, David Crockett, John Sevier and so many others have been.

Founded in 1827 by William Clark of Lewis & Clark fame, Paducah's origins and prosperity can be attributed to its strategic location at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers. Paducah thrived due to its port facilities along the waterways that were used by steamboats.

Located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia, Abingdon is one of Virginia’s most historically-significant towns. The site of present-day Abingdon is located on a well-traveled wilderness route called the Great Road, which many pioneers traveled through the Blue Ridge Mountains on the way to settle the new American frontier. Some of the architecture in the Historic District dates back to the late 1700s.

Nestled along the shores of beautiful Watts Bar Lake, Kingston was once a major steam boat hub on the Tennessee River, and the most southwestern point in the United States. Two years prior to the founding of Kingston, Fort Southwest Point was established in 1797 as a federal frontier outpost. It was chosen for its location for access to the Avery Trace, a popular wagon path of the time.

For more information on each of these historic cities, click here.

Due to social distancing rules and regulations, locations may be temporarily closed or have modified hours. Please call to confirm hours of operation before traveling.

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Julie Graham
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