The Tombigbee Waterway cost $1.99 billion to develop a 234-mile-long waterway for barge transport.
Congressmen who promoted the Tenn-Tom endured such accusations for years. Their names ended up on six of the waterway’s 10 locks. They include U.S. Sen. Howell Heflin and Rep. Tom Bevill of Alabama and Sen. John Stennis and Reps. Jamie Whitten, G. V. Sonny Montgomery and John Rankin of Mississippi. (Tombigbee Country)
THE DIVIDE CUT
Ten years of work and a cost of nearly $500 million were needed to excavate a canal through the divide that separates the watersheds of the Tennessee and Tombigbee Rivers. The deepest cut is 175 feet and the average depth of excavation along the entire 29-mile reach is 50 feet. While the breadth of the cut at the top of the natural terrain is nearly one-half mile wide, the canal itself is 280 feet wide and 12 feet deep. The 150-million cubic yards of earth removed (nearly one and one-half times that excavated in building the Suez Canal) were carefully deposited and landscaped in the valleys along the canal. This successful disposal of so much excavated soil solved one of the most potentially serious environmental problems confronting the construction of the waterway.
JAMIE WHITTEN LOCK AND DAM
Whitten Lock and Dam, located in Tishomingo County near Belmont, Mississippi, is the northernmost lock on the Tenn-Tom. The Lock raises and lowers barges and pleasure boats 84 feet, the difference in the elevation levels of the water above and below the dam. This is the fourth highest single lift lock in the nation. The dam forms a 6600 – acre lake that joins the so – called Divide Cut canal, and ultimately connects the Tenn-Tom with the Tennessee River. The structure, named in honor of Jamie Whitten, a former Congressman from Mississippi who served over 50 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, cost $75 million.
G.V. SONNY MONTGOMERY LOCK AND DAM
Montgomery Lock is located in northern Itawamba County, Mississippi and named after a former U.S. Representative from Mississippi. The lock has a lift of 30 feet and cost $47 million.
JOHN RANKIN LOCK AND DAM
This lock is one of five such structures that makeup the so – called Chain of Lakes or Canal segment of the waterway. These locks form relatively small lakes (most less than 1000 acres in size) to help minimize environmental impacts. A levee along the western side of these impoundments preserved the upper reach of the Tombigbee River by preventing its inundation and destruction. Rankin Lock has a lift of 30 feet and is located in Itawamba County, Mississippi. It is named in honor of former Congressman John Rankin of Mississippi, one of the waterway’s earliest champions in the Congress.
FULTON LOCK AND DAM
Named for the nearby Town of Fulton, Mississippi, the lock has a lift of 25 feet. Its lake is the largest in the Chain of Lakes section at 1643 acres and is the setting for the Whitten Historical Center, a major attraction of the waterway.
GLOVER WILKINS LOCK AND DAM
Wilkins Lock has a lift of 25 feet and cost $34 million. It is located in northern Monroe County near Smithville, Mississippi The Lock is named after the long time administrator of the Tenn – Tom Waterway Development Authority, who was instrumental in making the waterway a reality.
AMORY LOCK AND DAM
Named after the nearby Town of Amory, the lock is the southern most facility in the Chain of Lakes section of Tenn-Tom. It has a lift of 30 feet. The 914 – acre lake caused by the lock was the site in December 1984 where the last remaining section of the navigation channel was removed. After 12 years of construction, this allowed the “mixing” of waters from the two river systems and permitted unimpeded flow of commerce through the waterway.
ABERDEEN LOCK AND DAM which forms LAKE ABERDEEN
The 27-foot lift lock is located in Aberdeen, MS, and its namesake. The dam forms a 13.5-mile long lake covering over 4,000 acres. The project cost $43 million. This and the following three locks and dams make up the so-called River Section where the waterway generally follows the course of the Tombigbee River.
JOHN C. STENNIS LOCK AND DAM
This structure was relocated about four miles from its original site to prevent the flooding and loss of Plymouth Bluff, the site of an early settlement and a unique geological formation. One of the waterway’s two environmental centers is located here. The center, operated by the Mississippi University of Women, offers unique educational opportunities in the earth sciences and is available to the general public. The 27-foot lift lock and dam is located in Lowndes County, Mississippi near Columbus and is named in honor of one of Mississippi’s greatest leaders of this century, former U.S. Senator John C. Stennis. Columbus Lake is the largest of the ten impoundments making up the Tenn-Tom, some 23 miles long and over 8900 acres in size.
TOM BEVILL LOCK AND DAM
Bevill Lock and Dam is located in Pickens County, Al near the Town of Pickensville. The lock has a lift of 27 feet and the dam impounds the 8300 – acre Aliceville Lake. The project cost $45 million. It is named in honor of former Alabama Congressman Tom Bevill. Mr. Bevill chaired the congressional committee in the U.S. House of Representatives that approved the funding for the Tenn-Tom during its construction. Here is located one of the waterway’s most impressive and recognizable sights, the Tom Bevill Visitors Center. This majestic replica of a southern antebellum plantation home sits on the waterway near the MV. Montgomery, a retired paddle wheel river work boat. Both are open to the public
HOWELL HEFLIN LOCK AND DAM
The Heflin Lock and Dam is the southernmost structure on the Tenn-Tom. From here, commercial and recreation vessels reach the connecting Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway some 53 miles away on an improved Tombigbee River and the impoundment created by the Demopolis Lock and Dam. From Demopolis, it is 215 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. The lock has a lift of 36 feet, the second highest on the Tenn – Tom. It is located in Greene County near the Town of Gainesville, Al. Its impoundment, Gainesville Lake, is 40 miles long and covers 6,400 acres. The lock and dam is named in honor of former U.S. Senator, Howell Heflin, of Alabama.