Holston River

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For other uses of "Holston", see Holston (disambiguation).
Holston River
North Fork Holston River.jpg
The North Fork of the Holston River near Weber City, Virginia.
Origin Bland County, Virginia
Mouth Tennessee River at Knoxville
Basin countries US
Length 274 miles (441 km) to farthest source - the North Fork[1]
Source elevation 816 feet (249 m)
Avg. discharge 4,848 cubic feet per second (137.3 m3/s)
Basin area 3,747 square miles (9,700 km2)
The Holston drainage basin, located within the upper Tennessee drainage basin

The Holston River is a major river system of southwestern Virginia and east Tennessee. The three major forks of the Holston (its North, Middle and South Forks) rise in southwestern Virginia and have their confluence near Kingsport, Tennessee. The North Fork flows 138 miles (222 km) southwest from Sharon Springs in Bland County, Virginia. The Middle Fork flows 56.5 miles (90.9 km) from near the western border of Wythe County, Virginia, joining the South Fork in Washington County southeast of Abingdon. The South Fork rises near Sugar Grove in Smyth County and flows 112 miles (180 km) southwest to join the North Fork at Kingsport.[2] From there the main stem of the Holston River flows 136 miles (219 km) roughly southwestward, just north of Bays Mountain, until it reaches its confluence with the French Broad River just east of downtown Knoxville, Tennessee.[1] This confluence is considered to be the start of the Tennessee River.

Power generation[edit]

The Holston River valley has been greatly developed for electrical power generation, both with hydroelectric dams and coal-fired steam plants. In the upper reaches, some of these plants are controlled by private interests; in the downstream portion, they are owned by the United States Government's Tennessee Valley Authority.


Among the dams and associated reservoirs on the South Fork Holston River are Boone Dam and Boone Reservoir, named for the explorer Daniel Boone; Fort Patrick Henry Dam and Fort Patrick Henry Reservoir, named for the Revolutionary War hero; and South Holston Dam and South Holston Reservoir. Cherokee Dam on the Holston River forms Cherokee Reservoir, named for the historic Native Americans who occupied the areas along the Holston River at the time of European-American settlement. The United States settlers and army fought with the Cherokee over land and eventually removed most of them to territory west of the Mississippi River, under the 1830 Indian Removal Act.


The river was named after Stephen Holstein, a European-American settler who built a cabin in 1746 on the upper reaches of the river.[3] Holston Mountain was named after the Holston River.

Geographic definition[edit]

The Holston River is now defined as ending at the French Broad River, where the confluence forms the Tennessee River at its mile post 652 in Knoxville. Before 1933, the terminus of the Holston River was defined as the location 51 miles (82 km) downstream of Knoxville at Lenoir City, where the Little Tennessee River enters the river. That point, the confluence of the Holston and Little Tennessee rivers, was considered to be the beginning of the Tennessee River, 601 miles (967 km) upstream from the Ohio River at Paducah, Kentucky.


According to Tennessee Valley Authority historians, when the TVA was created in 1933, Congress mandated that the TVA headquarters be located on the banks of the Tennessee River. Since the TVA headquarters were already designated to be located in downtown Knoxville, as part of area development on what was then the Holston River, to fulfill the Congressional mandate, the official start of the Tennessee River was moved upstream from Lenoir City to the confluence of the Holston and French Broad rivers.

All three forks in Virginia, South Holston Lake, and the Holston River in Tennessee below the South Holston Dam offer relatively easy-to-reach recreation opportunities. The North Fork in Virginia is known as an excellent smallmouth bass river (due to mercury contamination, fish caught in the North Fork of the Holston below Saltville, Virginia must not be consumed).[4] Both the South Fork in Virginia and the first 20 miles (32 km) of the Holston in Tennessee below South Holston Dam are quality brown trout and rainbow trout fisheries. The Holston River is wide and open enough to allow extensive fly fishing. South Holston Lake offers a variety of fishing opportunity as well, as it contains smallmouth bass, common carp, walleye, pike, sunfish, crappie and a few trout.

List of crossings[edit]

Holston River[edit]

The following is a list of major Road crossings on the Holston River:

Bridge Name Crossing/Road Location Notes
Boyds Bridge Boyds Bridge Pike/Strawberry Plains Pike Knoxville, Tennessee First Road crossing on the Holston
Holston River Bridge Interstate 40 Knoxville
J.W. Will Taylor Memorial Bridge US 11E / US 25W / US 70 / SR 9 / Secondary Tennessee 168.svg SR-168 (Asheville Highway) Knoxville
Mascot Bridge Mascot Road Mascot/Strawberry Plains, Tennessee Concrete Arch Bridge
John K. Shields Bridge Tennessee 92.svg SR-92 Near Jefferson City, Tennessee
Olen R. Marshall Bridge US 25E / SR 32 (Davy Crockett Parkway) Morristown/Bean Station, Tennessee The Olen R. Marshall Bridge is the only two bridges that cross the Cherokee Lake
Melinda Ferry Bridge SR 344 (Melinda Ferry Road) near Rogersville, Tennessee
Hugh B. Day Bridge SR 66 / SR 70 near Rogersville and Persia, Tennessee
William L. Jenkins Bridge SR 347 (Burem Pike) location near Rogersville
Longs Bend Bridge (Current Bridge) Longs Bend Pike Surgoinsville, Tennessee Historic Longs Bend Bridge is being replace and is set to demolished
Goshen Valley Road Church Hill, Tennessee Bridge does not have a name; Final crossing on the main Hoston River

South Fork Holston River[edit]

North Fork Holston River[edit]

Middle Fork Holston River[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The National Map". U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved Feb 16, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Holston River - South Fork". Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. 
  3. ^ Stewart, George R. (1967) [1945]. Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States (Sentry edition (3rd) ed.). Houghton Mifflin. 
  4. ^ "Holston River - North Fork". Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°57′33″N 83°51′1″W / 35.95917°N 83.85028°W / 35.95917; -83.85028