June 16, 2022 Study: Economic Impact Potential of Tennessee RiverLine Estimated at $104M Plus Jobs, Health, Other Impacts

The Tennessee RiverLine today released an economic impact report, in partnership with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and The University of Alabama, that states the regional initiative may attract more than 800,000 new paddlers, generate $104 million in annual spending in river communities and offer many other economic and health impacts.

The Tennessee RiverLine, North America’s next great regional trail system that was founded in the College of Architecture and Design and Herbert College of Agriculture, has published an official report detailing the estimated economic impacts and associated health benefits of the Tennessee RiverLine water trail for communities along the Tennessee River in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.

According to the full economic impact report, the anticipated increase of an additional 808,000 paddlers to the Tennessee RiverLine each year and their associated expenditures is estimated to generate up to $104 million in annual impact to GDP, create almost 2,000 new jobs, increase personal income by $65.5 million and increase local and state sales tax revenue by $2.6 million in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.

In turn, the health-related cost savings due to flatwater paddling on the Tennessee River are estimated to be nearly $24 million per year, to be accompanied by a reduction in both workers’ compensation costs and lost productivity costs. Ultimately, these anticipated outcomes and additional economic impacts identified but not quantified in this study will enhance the overall quality of life for residents of river communities and across the Tennessee River Valley, positioning river communities to attract and retain skilled workers and businesses.

To read the full economic impact report and review the study’s key findings, click the links below:

view of the river at sunrise

The report also identifies 10 key components of water trail success. Together, these components will help guide the activities and investments of the Tennessee RiverLine and Tennessee River communities as they work toward realizing the full economic potential of the Tennessee RiverLine in the years to come.

“There are so many ways that the Tennessee RiverLine catalyzes economic development, inspires entrepreneurship and enhances overall quality of life in Tennessee River communities and across our region,” said Brad Collett, Tennessee RiverLine director and associate professor in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s, Herbert College of Agriculture and College of Architecture and Design. “This study begins to quantify these potential benefits and helps us communicate the Tennessee RiverLine’s potential economic impact to community partners and other stakeholders. It also provides a roadmap for collaborative, purpose-driven effort and investment that positions all partners to grow river utilization and maximize economic impacts while upholding our shared commitment to safe river use and stewarding the health of our region’s most valuable natural and cultural resource: the Tennessee River.”

Conducted in partnership with the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at UT Knoxville and The University of Alabama (UA) Center for Economic Development, the study’s analysis relied on 15 existing analyses of comparable water trails in the United States to estimate the number of annual visitors to the Tennessee RiverLine trail and associated visitor spending.

The study also examined case studies of seven existing long-distance water trails in the U.S. to establish the 10 key components of river trail success that will be used to help guide communities toward realizing these potential impacts.
This study and the potential economic impacts estimated therein are made possible through the generous support of the Tennessee RiverLine’s principal partners, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Tennessee Valley Authority.

“The Tennessee RiverLine is a testament to what can be achieved when we bring together communities and partners that share both their resources and their leadership with a shared mission of making life and lives better for the people of the Tennessee River Valley,” said Donde Plowman, Chancellor of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “We are proud to put our land-grant mission to work and collaborate with partners across the Valley, like TVA, to help make this transformational vision and the benefits it promises our region a reality.”

“Much of our work at TVA revolves around economic development and the environment. This impressive, estimated economic impact study from the Tennessee RiverLine is what TVA had envisioned when we became a supporter in 2017,” said Allen Clare, Vice President of River and Resources Stewardship at Tennessee Valley Authority. “Additionally, this project will positively affect the health of Valley residents, as well as the environmental health of the river itself, making life better for the people of the Tennessee Valley.”

About the Tennessee RiverLine
The Tennessee RiverLine is North America’s next great regional trail system, a historic multi-generational initiative that offers economic development, public health, resource stewardship and equitable access benefits to 2.4 million people in diverse Tennessee River communities in four states. The Tennessee RiverLine is led by the UT School of Landscape Architecture, which is a partnership of the UT College of Architecture and Design and the Herbert College of Agriculture, and principal partners, UT Knoxville and TVA, in collaboration with the Tennessee RiverLine Partnership, a diverse consortium of organizations committed to realizing the vision for the Tennessee RiverLine. For more information, visit