Does The Mississippi River Go Through Tennessee

avoid cliches

The Mississippi River looms large in the American imagination, having been the subject of poetry, literature, history, and countless popular songs over the centuries. But just how far does this iconic waterway go? Does the Mississippi River go through Tennessee?

The short answer is yes. The state of Tennessee is partially situated on the Mississippi River, with a total of 441 miles of the river boundary running along its border. In fact, the mighty Mississippi is the western boundary of the State, creating a stunning landscape of rolling hills, verdant forests, and waterways that shape the culture, history, and way of life of the people of Tennessee.

The Mississippi is renowned for its strength, but it’s turbulent past has left a lasting impact on the state. It has been witness to hundreds of years of change, both environmental and political, as it works its way down from the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico. It was once a dividing line between the American North and South, a battleground for the War of 1812 and the Civil War, a highway for both Native Americans and settlers, and a source of endless stories and mystery.

The Mississippi River has a rich array of flora and fauna, making it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Its waters are home to over 200 species of fish, over 50 species of aquatic birds, and a wide variety of amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. Fishing, boating, swimming, and wildlife viewing are just some of the activities available to visitors.

The river is also a key source of power and transportation, with dozens of hydroelectric dams and locks providing energy and allowing barges to push their way through the waters. This is especially important in Tennessee, with many industries reliant on the river’s resources.

The health and longevity of the Mississippi River is a major concern for everyone in Tennessee. The state has dedicated significant resources to clean up the river and restore it to a healthy condition. Tennessee also has a vibrant environmental movement, with many groups actively campaigning for the protection of the river and its resources.

For those looking to experience the Mississippi firsthand, the State of Tennessee has a wide range of options. There are plenty of river cruises, boat tours, and riverfront parks and campgrounds, as well as a wealth of museums and historical sites along the way.


The Mississippi River is home to a diverse array of wildlife and aquatic species. Commonly seen animals along the river include beavers, mink, muskrats, river otters, white-tailed deer, and several species of waterfowl. Although much of the wildlife has been affected by habitat loss and water pollution, there have been efforts in recent years to restore and maintain animal populations through restocking and habitat preservation.

Tennessee is home to a number of diverse fish species, ranging from the small bluegill to the larger paddlefish. The state also hosts several endangered species, including the pallid sturgeon and the fanshell mussel, both of which are unique to the Mississippi River.

Tennessee’s Department of Wildlife Resources is actively involved in efforts to protect and conserve wildlife along the Mississippi, enacting regulations and issuing fishing and boating permits to ensure that the river’s ecosystem remains healthy. In addition, there are several fishing tournaments and educational events held each year to raise awareness about the need to conserve the river’s wildlife and habitats.

Preservation and Restoration

The Mississippi River in Tennessee is a vital resource for the state’s economy, but it is also an ecological and cultural treasure. For decades, the residents of the state have been passionate about preserving the river and its resources, from the many species of fish and wildlife to the cultural heritage that is integral to the state’s history.

Tennessee is one of several states that have enacted laws to protect the river from human activity, as well as from the effects of climate change. These efforts include enhancing water quality through the adoption of state and federal standards, preventing soil erosion, and restricting certain types of development. The state also recently adopted a 10-year plan to study the effects of agricultural runoff and provide recommendations for reducing contamination.

In addition to these efforts, the state of Tennessee has worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and other agencies to facilitate the restoration of critical habitat areas along the river. This includes efforts to reintroduce native plants, restore wetland habitat, and improve water quality. These initiatives have proven to be successful, as Tennessee is now home to some of the most biodiverse bird and fish populations in the nation.

Tourism and Recreation

The Mississippi River is a popular destination for tourists and water enthusiasts alike. There are numerous parks, trails, and recreational areas along the river, offering visitors an array of activities from fishing and boating to camping and wildlife viewing. Popular destinations include Reelfoot Lake and Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, which are located on the Tennessee side of the river.

For visitors looking for a more relaxed experience, there are also numerous bed and breakfast inns and resorts located along the river. These establishments provide a peaceful and scenic setting for a weekend getaway or a longer vacation. In addition, many local restaurants and shops offer a taste of Tennessee hospitality.

Finally, the Mississippi River has been immortalized in music, film, and literature. Not only is it the inspiration for classic songs such as “Ode to the Mississippi”, but it has also been the backdrop to numerous Hollywood production. Elvis Presley famously sang about the river in “Blue Hawaii” and “The Long Black Train,” and Peter Fonda famously drove along its banks in “Ulee’s Gold.”

Environmental Impacts

The Mississippi River has been affected by numerous environmental issues over the years, including agricultural runoff and toxic industrial waste. As a result of these issues, the water quality of the river has declined in recent years, leading to dangerous algal blooms, fish population die-offs, and human health risks.

The state of Tennessee has been actively working to address these issues, enacting regulations and establishing clean up efforts. In addition, the state has invested in programs that promote sustainable agricultural practices and restrict the use of fertilizers and pesticides near the river. Such efforts have resulted in improved water quality and a healthier river ecosystem.

Furthermore, the state of Tennessee has taken steps to protect and restore critical habitat areas along the river. This includes the restoration of wetlands, the reintroduction of native plants, and the implementation of stricter regulations on commercial activities. These efforts have helped to preserve the Mississippi River, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy its beauty and abundance.

Economic Benefits

The Mississippi River is not only an important source of natural resources and recreation, but it is also a major economic asset for the state of Tennessee. The river is home to numerous industries, such as shipping, tourism, and manufacturing, that are important to the state’s economy.

In addition, the river provides numerous, less obvious economic benefits. For example, the Mississippi River is the source of 86 percent of the water used by Nashville, providing drinking water to millions of people annually. The river is also essential to the regional agricultural industry, providing valuable resources such as water and transportation.

Finally, the Mississippi River has become a major destination for outdoor recreation. From fishing and boating to camping and wildlife viewing, outdoor enthusiasts from across the country flock to the river each year to experience its beauty and abundance. As a result, the tourism industry in Tennessee has seen a significant boost in recent years, helping to create jobs and stimulate economic growth in the state.


For centuries, the Mississippi River has served as a source of strength and inspiration to the people of Tennessee. From its role in the Civil War to its modern-day economic importance, the river has left its mark on the state’s history, culture and way of life. And while the river has experienced its fair share of troubles, Tennessee continues to take steps to preserve, protect, and restore this remarkable natural resource.

Raymond Strasser is a passion-driven writer and researcher, dedicated to educating readers on the topic of world rivers. With a background in Geography and Environmental Studies, Raymond provides insightful pieces which explore the impact and importance that rivers have around the world.

Leave a Comment