Tennessee River Gorge
Tennessee River The Tennessee River winds through Chattanooga. © Paul Kingsbury/The Nature Conservancy

Stories in Tennessee

Tennessee River and Cumberland River Program


Biologically Diverse Rivers

The Tennessee and Cumberland River Basins are two of the most biologically diverse river systems in North America. Home to more than 300 species of fish and 125 species of freshwater mussels, these river systems are an irreplaceable part of Tennessee’s natural heritage. These same waters are major drivers of Tennessee’s economy and quality of life. They generate hydroelectric power, support thirsty cities and crops, and fuel a booming outdoor tourism economy.
The Nature Conservancy has a long history of success in both the Tennessee and Cumberland River basins. For decades, we have worked with partners to protect and restore Tennessee's freshwater treasures—in particular the Duck, Elk, and Clinch rivers. But balancing the needs of people and nature in the 21st century will require translating our local successes with these rivers to entire river basins.

Ambitious New Program

To address this challenge, TNC has launched an ambitious new program dedicated to conserving the great Tennessee and Cumberland River basins. Our vision is one of healthy river basins that provide abundant, resilient stream and river habitats for wildlife while meeting the critical needs of people.

The Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers Program is pursuing strategies that restore or maintain ecosystem processes at a basin-scale and sustain nature’s benefits for future generations. Our strategies include:

•    Working with partners to strategically prioritize and remove or modify aquatic barriers like low-head dams (see one of our recent dam removals).
•    Helping to improve agricultural practices to keep these rivers running cleaner.
•    Bringing science, planning, and project management expertise to watershed planning, ecosystem restoration and river management efforts.

Please contact Rob Bullard, Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers Program Director, at ebullard@tnc.org with questions about removing dams, improving farming practices for local streams, or to learn more about TNC’s work in Tennessee.