About 70% of the Wetlands on the Guntersville Lake Section are located on Wildlife Management Areas and Refuge acres that are under long-term easement with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (TVA-Guntersville)
Before the massive transformation of the Tennessee by Locks and Dams, the river was navigable from Knoxville, southwest to Decatur. It then was unnavigable for 37 miles over the Muscle Shoals and then navigable again from Florence northwestward to Paducah, KY. This condition for river-transport was wholly unacceptable to the enterprising settlers of the region. The first attempt to overcome the mighty Muscle Shoals began in 1836 when the state of Alabama built a canal around the shoals. The canal was very limited in its success.
River commerce began in earnest with the advent of the steamboat and then by diesel driven barges. River commerce is now possible the length of the Tennessee due to the construction of Locks and Dams.
Today an estimated 34,000 barges carry about 50 million tons of goods up and down the Tennessee River annually. In 1993, more than 48.2 million tons of raw materials were transported over the Tennessee River Waterway.
The barges are moved by towboats that can push as many as eighteen barges.