Skip to Main Content

National & State Scenic Rivers

During the 1960s the country began to recognize the damage being inflicting on wildlife, the landscape, our drinking water and our heritage caused by decades of damming, development and diversion on our nation's rivers. Recognition of this fact finally led to action by Congress to preserve the beauty and free-flowing nature of some of our most precious waterways. In 1968 the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by Congress (Public Law 90-542; 16 U.S.C. 1271 et seq.) to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations. States were asked to create their own similar legislation. The Tennessee General Assembly recognized that few unspoiled rivers were “left in the eastern United States” and felt “a strong obligation to the American people to protect the remarkably beautiful ones in Tennessee”; hence, Tennessee was one of the first states in the nation to adopt state legislation.

The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System protects 12,598 miles of 203 rivers in 39 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; this is a little more than one-quarter of one percent of the nation's rivers. Tennessee has approximately 60,417 miles of rivers, streams, and creeks and currently, our Tennessee Scenic Rivers System protects more than 400 miles of 13 rivers in 18 counties. This is less than 1% of our state’s rivers. From the remote rivers gushing through gorges in East Tennessee to the swamp waters meandering through West Tennessee and everything in between, we need your help to continue preserving these and other rivers within our state for the enjoyment of present and future generations and to preserve a part of the American story and our heritage.