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Head of the Tennessee River Initiative

The Tennessee River begins in East Knoxville, where the Holston and French Broad Rivers converge just four miles from downtown. Our Head of the Tennessee Initiative works alongside TVA, TWRA, Tennessee State Parks, and local communities to increase public access to the French Broad and Holston Rivers from their dams to the head of the Tennessee River. The goal of the initiative is to enhance the health and accessibility to our waterways by obtaining land and easements to establish­­­ new launch areas, preserve shorelines and conserve farmland and open space along these rivers.

These rivers have tremendous natural assets with significant recreational potential for Knoxville and surrounding counties. However, due to lack of public access points, some up to 20 miles apart, usability is limited. Ideally access points should be located every seven miles to optimize the recreational value of the waterways.

The economic impact of waterways is substantial, with TVA estimating a value of $1 million per shoreline mile. In East Tennessee, the Clinch River has a nearly $2 million economic impact on Oak Ridge. Therefore, providing public access to these rivers will not only boost recreation opportunities but also generate economic growth in the region.

In collaboration with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee State Parks, Knox County and TVA, significant strides have been made in improving public access to the waterways, starting in 2012 with the expansion of Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge (now Seven Islands State Birding Park). Legacy Parks purchased 30 acres in south Knox County directly across the river from the main body of the park, significantly improving the overall access to the park and the river.

It was evident that additional access to the river system was integral to utilizing the river as a recreational asset.

The following year, Legacy Parks enhanced Mutton Hollow Landing with a new and improved public boat launch, new parking lot and improved road access. This launch is located on the south side of the French Broad River across from Seven Islands.

In 2021, Legacy Parks acquired Cruze Landing boat ramp on the French Broad River from a private landowner. Cruze Landing is a heavily used and integral public access point on the river. Plans include upgrading the the boat ramp and installing a fully adaptive dock to ensure accessibility for all.

Just past Suttree Landing is Volunteer Landing. In 2014, Legacy Parks negotiated a lease for the small, waterfront Bicentennial Park and built a dock for non-motorized access which is now leased and operated by an outdoor recreational company offering paddling experiences.

The final stop on the Tennessee River is underway at The UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm, another 3.5 miles downriver.

These new accesses combined with two existing adaptive launches to create the vision of a 25-mile paddling experience accessible to all.

Head-of-the-Tennessee-River-Poster

Project Partners 

Knox County, TWRA and TVA, City of Knoxville, UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm, BoardSafe Docks

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