Tag Archives: Tennessee River

Many Rivers to Cross

30 Nov

Last week, my friends and I drove to Missouri for a football game. To get there, we had to drive through Kentucky; across southern Illinois; into St. Louis; and over to the middle of the state. It is a route that I have driven many times to begin a road trip into the West, but this was the first time that I noticed the rivers. We crossed a bunch of them.

Oh yeah, the title of this post is also the title of a great song by Jimmy Cliff.Cliff

I have always been fascinated by rivers. Their power. Their constant movement. It is interesting to watch a loaded barge being pushed along the way. However, I am mostly fascinated by their history. The rivers of North America have shaped the lives of everyone who have encountered them.

That is what interesting about the drive to Columbia, Missouri. It was like we were driving through a nautical version of American history. We crossed rivers that are not just any rivers. We crossed rivers that have had a huge impact on my state and our nation.

Cumberland River

Tennessee River

Ohio River

Mississippi River

Missouri River

The Cumberland River has had a huge impact on Tennessee. The first settlers made their way to its banks when they came to Middle Tennessee. Nashville, the state’s capital, was the result of their journey. It is the same river that flooded downtown Nashville a few years ago.

At one time, the Tennessee River was a wide and uncontrollable waterway. Then, the Tennessee Valley Authority, known better as the TVA, dammed the river. This made it more navigable and provided electricity for people throughout Tennessee and Alabama.

The Ohio River was the original way into the West. I am not writing about the Trans-Mississippi West. I am writing about the original West, which is now known as the Midwest. It also served as the western extension of the Mason Dixon Line. Yes, it was the border between slavery and freedom.

The Mississippi River is one of the longest rivers in the world, and it has a history that is just as long. At one time, it was the nation’s western boundary. It has been a vital target in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. It has inspired literature and music. In other words, I cannot write enough about it.

The Missouri River is the longest river in North America, and I have been lucky enough to see different parts of it. As we crossed the bridge in Missouri, I thought Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the Corps of Discovery. In 1804, they started their journey somewhere near our crossing, and they had little idea of where they were going. Two years later, they returned with tales of the West and started our nation on a history of expansion.

Each day, thousands of people take the route that we drove. I wonder if they realize the stories of the rivers that they cross. Without those rivers, history would have turned out quite differently.