Natural Resources

The Byway links a series of views to rural historic landscapes that are evocative of the pioneer era and frontier culture.

Rivers, Reservoirs, Lakes

Tennessee River
Blackburn Fork State Scenic River

Jackson County

Blackburn Fork State Scenic River, located in Jackson County, is also a NPS designated “Outstandingly Remarkable” Stream Segment. As a State Scenic River, Blackburn Fork has both Class I Natural River Area, and Class II Pastoral Area, segments. The segment of the stream from the county road at Cummings Mill downstream 1.5 miles is categorized as Class I, Natural River Area. The segment downstream from a point 1.5 miles from the county road at Cummings Mill to its confluence with Roaring River is categorized as Class II, Pastoral Area. As an “Outstandingly Remarkable” Stream Segment, the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River is among 3,400 free-flowing river segments in the U.S. Nationwide Rivers Inventory (NRI) that are “believed to possess one or more ‘outstandingly remarkable’ natural or cultural values judged to be of more than local or regional significance.”

Cumberland River
Cumberland River

Named after The Duke of Cumberland, the Cumberland River bisects Carthage into north and south regions. Its headwaters, the Poor, Martin’s, and Clover Forks, converge in Harlan, Kentucky. It travels southeast into Nashville, east through Carthage, and eventually empties into the Ohio River at Smithland, Kentucky. This 696 mile river drains almost 18,000 square miles, and is the sixteenth longest river in the United States. The Caney Fork splits from the Cumberland just east of the TN-25 Bridge in Carthage.

Spring Creek State Scenic River

One of thirteen State Scenic Rivers, Spring Creek is characterized by Natural River Area and Pastoral River Area segments. From Waterloo Mill downstream to the Overton-Jackson county line, it is designated as a Class I, Natural River Area. From State Highway 136 and Waterloo Mill; and the segment downstream from the Overton-Jackson county

Tennessee River
Tennessee River

The Tennessee River, entering the Byway corridor at Watts Bar Lake in Kingston and traveling south from Rockwood, has a drainage basin covering about 40,910 square miles, and is considered to be “one of the world’s greatest irrigation and hydropower systems and a major waterway of the southeastern United States.” It is formed at the confluence of the Holston and French Broad rivers and flows south-southwest to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Its westward branch passes through the Cumberland Plateau and into northeast Alabama, continues north into Tennessee and Kentucky, and finally joins the Ohio River.

Center Hill Lake
Center Hill Lake

DeKalb, Putnam, Smith, Warren and White Counties

Center Hill Lake covers 18,220 acres and extends 64 miles through five counties. Visitors to Center Hill Lake will find that nearly all the shoreline is undeveloped, offering undisturbed natural scenery including clear water, rock bluffs, and three scenic waterfalls.

Cordell Hull Lake
Cordell Hull Lake

Clay, Jackson and Smith Counties

Cordell Hull Lake, managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, is located on the Cumberland River and contains a dam supporting a hydroelectric plant about five miles upstream from Carthage. The lake was named after Nobel Peace Prize winner and statesman, Cordell Hull.

Caney Fork River
Caney Fork River

Cumberland, Smith, Van Buren and White Counties

Branching off of the Cumberland just east of the TN-25 Bridge in Carthage, the Caney Fork can be viewed from the Byway at the Benton McMillan Industrial Bridge. As with the Cumberland River, scenic views of the Caney Fork can be intimately enjoyed by canoe and kayak.

Obed River
Obed National Wild and Scenic River

Cumberland and Morgan Counties

Name after Obediah Terrell, a longhunter who passed through the Cumberland Plateau in the late 18th century, the Obed became a Wild and Scenic River in 1976 and part of the National Park Service. Visitors to the 45-mile river can partake in a number of activities including primitive camping at Rock Creek Campground; picnicking at Nemo Picnic Area; hiking on trails of varying lengths; hunting; fishing for bass, bluegill, catfish, and muskie; rock climbing the sandstone bluffs; canoeing; kayaking; rafting; and whitewater paddling. It is advised that only experienced rock climbers and whitewater paddlers should partake in these activities. Whitewater opportunities range from Class II to Class IV. Rock climbing routes can reach heights of 200 feet. 

Watts Bar Lake
Watts Bar Lake

Rhea and Roane Counties

One of the south’s largest lakes, Watts Bar covers 39,000 acres at its fullest and boasts 771 miles of shoreline; 738 miles are contained within Roane County. Tributaries to Watts Bar Lake include the Tennessee River, Clinch River, and Emory River. The lake is located between the Watts Bar Dam and Ft. Loudon Dam, with a maximum depth of 70 ft near the dams.