Tennessee Valley Divide

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The Tennessee Valley Divide is the boundary of the drainage basin of the Tennessee River and its tributaries.

The Tennessee River drainage basin begins with its tributaries in southwestern Virginia and flows generally west to the confluence of the Tennessee with the Ohio River at Paducah, Kentucky. The Tennessee Valley Divide forms a loop surrounding the drainage basin, beginning and ending at the river's mouth in Paducah. Following the Divide in a clockwise direction, it leads east and southeast through western Kentucky through the Land Between the Lakes, a narrow area between the Tennessee and Kentucky rivers, then passes into Tennessee, where it continues southeast, passing south of the Nashville Basin on top of Duck River Ridge. Turning more to the east, the Divide climbs onto the low plateau of The Barrens, and then onto the higher Cumberland Plateau. The Divide turns northeast along the crest of the Cumberland Plateau, then follows the ridgecrest of Cumberland Mountain northeast to Cumberland Gap, at the junction of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. The Divide continues northeast along the Kentucky-Virginia border, first following Cumberland Mountain, then Little Black and Black Mountain, after which it turns east into Virginia. The Divide follows the crest of Sandy Ridge northeast until it briefly touches the West Virginia border, then turn southeast near Tazewell, Virginia. From there, the divide follows an irregular line towards the south. In this area of southwestern Virginia, the divide forms the boundary between the drainage of the Tennessee River and the New River, which also flows to the Ohio River.

Near Blowing Rock, North Carolina, the divide meets the Eastern Continental Divide in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This point forms a triple point between the streams draining west to the Tennessee, north to the New River, and east to the coastal rivers of North Carolina.

From Blowing Rock, the Tennessee Valley Divide coincides with the Eastern Continental Divide, to another triple point in northern Georgia, from which point streams flow northwards towards the Tennessee River, eastwards to the Atlantic coast of Georgia, and southwards towards the Gulf of Mexico.

From there, the Tennessee Valley Divide trends generally westward, dividing the Tennessee Valley in Alabama from the generally southward-flowing rivers of Alabama and Mississippi. Some of those rivers, such as the Tombigbee River, have their headwaters remarkably close to the Tennessee River. The divide then turns north and ends at the foot of Broadway in downtown Paducah, Kentucky, which also marks Mile 0 of the Tennessee River at its confluence with the Ohio.

The divide passes through or touches the states of West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky.


There are 8 GNIS entries for the Tennessee Valley Divide, with coordinate lists by state: