October is Keep the Tennessee River Watershed Beautiful month and communities along the waterway encourages everyone to be good stewards and to get involved and help clean up this vital inland waterway.

Governors in four states, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee, have signed a proclamation declaring October as Keep the Tennessee River Watershed Beautiful Month.

Flowing 652 miles through seven states, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee, the Tennessee River is a major waterway of the southeastern United States. It served as an important river highway for early settlers, played a pivotal role in the Civil War and is now an important inland waterway used for navigation, water supply, drainage and recreation.

The development of the river as an important inland waterway began in 1933 with the establishment of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). As part of FDR’s New Deal, TVA began damming the river to improve navigation and to control flooding. Today, TVA resources the Tennessee River to help provide electricity to an estimated nine million people via 154 power companies. It is estimated that 17,000 recreational craft each year pass along the river, generating an economic impact of almost $12 billion annually. In addition, shipments by barge rather than by rail or truck saves businesses about $1 billion each year in transportation of goods with 50 million tons of goods shipped each year.

The Tennessee River is one of the most ecologically important river systems in the country. Birding is a popular activity due to migration and nesting of many species of birds that are found here including eagles, cranes, and herons. The river is home to more than 200 species of fish, including several endangered or threatened species. There are 100 plus species of freshwater mussels living in the watershed, along with endangered plants, birds, bats and salamanders. The Conservation Fund considers the Tennessee Basin to be the single most biologically diverse river system for aquatic organisms in the United States.

Along with high traffic comes pollution, trash and garbage.

Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful is the first Keep America Beautiful affiliate in the nation to focus solely on a river, striving to rally and unify communities along the river to keep the Tennessee River healthy for generations to come. Over 4,800 volunteers representing 41 grass root organizations picked up over 173 tons (346,000 pounds) of trash from the waterways throughout the Tennessee River Valley in 2018.

The need to remove trash in and around the Tennessee River garnered attention from governors of Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky, who each signed a proclamation declaring October as Keep the Tennessee River Watershed Beautiful Month. Six cleanups have been organized across the main stem of the Tennessee River. These kicked off on Public Lands Day, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, and will finish at Pickwick Lake on Oct. 21.

In the kickoff weekend celebrating October as Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful Month, seventy-three volunteers removed a total of 9,400 pounds of trash from the Tennessee River’s Fort Loudoun Lake in Lenoir City and Knoxville during river cleanups. Volunteers ventured out to various shorelines, collecting 270 bags of trash (mostly filled with plastic bottles), 30 tires, 855 pounds of scrap metal that will be recycled, a 30.5-foot-long concrete dock and much more.