2020 Annual Report Insights _ Crawford

2020 Annual Report Insights

Tennessee RiverLine and the Impact of the River

Dr. Carolyn Crawford, Director, Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area

Carolyn Crawford at the river
Carrie Barske Crawford

The Tennessee River has shaped human experience in northwest Alabama for over twelve thousand years. The shallow waters of the Muscle Shoals created the perfect habitat for shellfish, which fed generations of indigenous people. The rapids and the river’s unpredictable levels, however, also created challenges. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the relationship between the river and people changed as humans altered the shape of the river—digging canals, building dams—to harness the tremendous power of the Muscle Shoals.

The new river that emerged continued to nurture communities, creating jobs, generating power, and providing an easier way to move goods.

In the twenty-first century, the Tennessee RiverLine will help shape the next phase of the relationship between people and the river, encouraging us to get out and appreciate the river, to hike its shores, to paddle its quiet spaces, and to sleep under the stars on its banks. This close relationship creates environmental advocates and caretakers for the river. The RiverLine also connects us here in The Shoals to communities along all 652 miles of the river’s length, strengthening regional networks, providing opportunities for collaboration, and building community capacity.

While the river of today looks very different than the river of twelve thousand years ago, it remains our greatest resource, one well worth enjoying and protecting.

Dr. Carolyn M. Crawford

Director of the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area

University of North Alabama

College of Arts & Sciences