Discover some of America’s natural beauty on a Tennessee River cruise. Winding for 886 miles in a U-shape across four states, (Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi), the river’s name is believed to be a derivation of the 18th-century Cherokee village, Tanasi, which was formed upon its banks. Like its sister rivers the Ohio and the Mississippi, the Tennessee River carries a rich and varied history.
The Tennessee was originally navigated only by flatboats, thanks to a shallow upper course filled with short rapids. During the Civil War, the north-flowing lower section of the river was vital to Union troops who used it to invade the western Confederate region. Cruises often visit important Civil War sites such as Shiloh National Military Park.
These days, the broad, blue river is a key component of one of the world’s greatest irrigation and hydropower systems. It is home to an important series of locks, dams and reservoirs, whose waters typically widen to small, calm lakes just before each of the nine locks.
Boats pass beneath eye-catching bridges like the bright blue John Ross Bridge in Chattanooga, TN, or the "Steamboat Bill" in Decatur, AL, where you’ll also find Wheeler Wildlife Refuge and the North Alabama Birding Trail. You might also cruise through the Tennessee River Gorge, a 27-mile-long river canyon downstream from Chattanooga, flanked by richly colored woods and home to ospreys and bald eagles.
Cruises on the Tennessee River are often part of longer itineraries that also sail the Mississippi or Ohio Rivers. These cruises provide terrific value for your vacation dollar, as accommodations, onboard meals and some excursions are covered in one affordable upfront price.