Commodities Shipped on the River
Over 50 million tons of goods move up and down the Tennessee River every year. Anything thats transported in bulk quantities the raw ingredients that go into many consumer products makes a good candidate for shipping by barge.
The Tennessee River provides the least expensive form of transportation for dozens of Valley industries that either produce or use raw materials. For example, commercial navigation makes it possible for east Tennessee to be a major distribution center for fertilizer, road salt, and asphalt that moves upriver by barge. Zinc mines in Jefferson County, Tennessee, depend heavily on barge transportation to deliver zinc concentrate to customers downriver.
Major commodities shipped on the north Alabama segment of the river include inbound coal, grains, scrap iron, and petroleum products; commodities shipped from this area include chemicals and rolls of flattened steel. North Alabama’s poultry industry owes its existence in large part to the availability of feed grains that can be transported cheaply by barge from the upper Midwest.
The west Tennessee and west Kentucky segment of the Tennessee River (the 215-mile stretch between the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and the Ohio River) is the busiest section of the river. Here Tennessee River traffic is joined by traffic that is passing through from the Cumberland, Ohio, or upper Mississippi rivers destined for Alabama waterways or the Gulf of Mexico, or vice versa. All types of waterborne commodities move on this section, often in large tows up to 15 barges and over a half-mile long. Commodities originating or terminating on the lower reach of the Tennessee River include sand and gravel, coal, chemicals, petroleum, and ores and minerals.
Commodities shipped on the Tennessee River