The Tenn-Tom Waterway is a marvel of modern engineering. When it was opened for commercial traffic in January of 1985, it was the completion of a dream that had begun more than 100 years before.
The Tenn-Tom Waterway forms a 234 mile long, 300 feet wide by 9 feet deep transportation artery connecting west-central Alabama and northeastern Mississippi. Made up of a series of ten locks, each measuring 110 feet by 600 feet, it provides a lift of 341 feet. It connects this part of the nation with the existing 16,000 mile inland waterway system and shortens shipping distances for many inland ports by over 800 miles.
Since the completion of the waterway, commercial tonnage has increased continuously. An average 8 barge tow can move as much freight as 120 rail cars or 480 tractor trailer trucks. A barge can move a ton of freight twice as far as a train and 6 times as far as a tractor trailer truck on the same amount of fuel. The most popular commodities shipped by barge are forest products(timber and wood chips), petroleum by-products, crushed rock and grains.
The locking through of waterway traffic is handled through the operation of a control panel in the lock master's building. To fill the 110 x 600 foot chamber, the gates at both ends must be closed and aligned. The chamber fills by force of gravity and takes about 10 minutes to fill. It takes about 14 million gallons of water to fill the chamber.
If you are interested in learning more about any of the topics on this page please call for more information at 662-327-2142.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
3606 West Plymouth Road
Columbus, Mississippi 39701-9504