The lowest point in Tennessee is the Mississippi River. The river is among the most massive river systems on the planet in terms of size and diversity of habitats. The Mississippi River is also known as North America’s third-longest river. This record is due to the river flowing 2,350 miles from the headwaters of Lake Itasca through the central United States to the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River also runs through Tennessee. So, let’s find out more about the lowest point in Tennessee along the great Mississippi River.
The Course of the Mississippi River in Tennessee
The Great River Road runs through the west side of Tennessee along the Mississippi River. This scenic region of the Lower Mississippi River offers various landscapes along the lowest point in Tennessee. With over 21 million people visiting the region annually, visitors have plenty to do.
Tourists can revel in the beauty of the Chickasaw Bluffs towering above the floodplain. Or, you can also explore the forests of Fort Pillow State Park, the site of an important Civil War battle. Other wonders include the beauty of the majestic cypress trees at Reelfoot Lakes State Park. This park attracts many visitors, is a natural treasure, and is an important stopping point for migratory birds.
In addition to natural scenery, Tennessee’s Great River Road offers a bustling cityscape. Locals and visitors frequent Memphis as it is the musical and cultural capital of the South. Graceland, Beale Street, and Sun Studios in Memphis are must-see destinations for music lovers traveling to the region.
Memphis’ Mud Island River Park has an accurate model of the lower Mississippi River, allowing travelers to see the river’s power. You can start your vacation anywhere on the lowest point in Tennessee for a wonderful vacation, including a drive down the Tennessee Great River Road.
Mississippi River Attractions in Memphis, Tennessee
The Memphis skyline has undergone numerous shifts over the decades, but the Mississippi River primarily remains the same. One of the best ways to explore the Mississippi River is by a paddle wheel. Relax as your captain entertains you with stories of life on the river, or grab a partner and dance the night away on a romantic dinner cruise. You can also book multi-day trips.
The entrance to Mud Island River Park is a short walk from the historic cobblestones along the riverbank. Here, you can see a detailed recreation of the Lower Mississippi River. Mudd Island visitors can also travel 1,000 miles from Cairo, Illinois, to New Orleans, Louisiana, in just five blocks. The journey ends in the 1.3 million gallon Gulf of Mexico. Once there, you can enjoy a paddle boat ride while watching the sunset over the authentic Ol’ Man River.
Another favorite spot at the lowest point in Tennessee is Tom Lee Park. This park is a massive 33-acre riverfront space that spans about 1.5 miles along the banks of the Mississippi River. It offers visitors plenty of room to run, bike, throw a frisbee, and fly a kite. So grab your camera, lay down a picnic blanket, or lie on a park bench and enjoy the spectacular views of the rolling river. And stay close in May when the park hosts two of this city’s most important festivals, the Memphis World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest and the Beale Street Music Festival.
See the Mississippi From Its Lowest Points in Tennessee
There are multiple places to visit and things to see from the lowest point in Tennessee along the Mississippi River. Here are a few popular locations visitors frequent when enjoying life in the region.
Tom Lee Park
Tom Lee Park is a 33-acre open space between Riverside Drive and the river south of Beale Street. The park has winding walkways connected by stairs leading to the River Bluff Walkway above. Here you can get in shape while enjoying a view of the park from many angles. Or, you can check out the River Fit Trail in the park on the banks of the Olmann River. Whatever you decide, there are six fitness and exercise stations, stretchers, two sand volleyball courts, and a fitness soccer field looking over the Mississippi River. Choose one or more to improve your physical and mental health.
Take a quiet and scenic walk along the river bluff. The best route is between Beale Street and the South Bluffs area. Along the way, enjoy views of the river below as you meander past some of the city’s most beautiful homes, all within sight of the Mississippi River.
Mud Island River Park
Mud Island is between Wolf River Harbor and the Mississippi River. Expansive river views are rarely seen in the park. Still, the vistas of the Memphis skyline across the harbor are spectacular, especially when watching a concert in the amphitheater.
Mississippi Greenbelt Park
Mississippi Greenbelt Park is on Mud Island. This 105-acre tree-lined park stretches along the riverbank and has 1.5 miles of trails.
You will get some of the best sights of the river from this park. Martyrs Park is near the old bridge that crosses the river from Interstate 55 on Channel 3 Drive. The Riverwalk pedestrian walkway connects the park to Tom Lee Park.
The Metal Museum is small and focused on blacksmithing and other metalworking. Its backyard opens onto breathtaking views of the Mississippi River.
Where is the Mississippi River in Memphis Located on a Map?
The Mississippi River is a major waterway in North America that stretches from the north of Minnesota all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. It meanders through several states, including Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana. The river is approximately 2,350 miles long and covers an area of over 1.2 million square miles.
On a map of North America or even just the United States alone, you can easily spot where the mighty Mississippi flows as it passes through multiple cities like Minneapolis/St. Paul; St. Louis; Memphis; Baton Rouge, and New Orleans, among many others along its course.
Wildlife Along the Mississippi River in Tennessee
Tennessee is home to more than 75 mammals, many of which are native species, including black bears, moose, cougars, and bobcats. You can also see strange creatures such as American beavers, minks, and large brown bats.
Official Animals of Tennessee
The raccoon is the official animal of Tennessee. The two official fish of Tennessee are the smallmouth bass and the channel catfish. The state insects are the ladybug, lightning bug, and honey bee, and the state amphibian is the cave salamander.
Endangered Animals in Tennessee
There are roughly 70 species of endangered animals in Tennessee. Some of these are the following:
- Piping plover – This bird occasionally passes through the states on its way from the Great Lakes region to the Gulf Coast.
- Freshwater mussels – There are roughly six species of freshwater mussels living in the Tennessee River that are endangered.
- Pygmy madtorm – This fish is the smallest and rarest fish in the catfish family.
- Gray bats are about five inches long. With an 11-inch wingspan, these cave-dwelling mammals are endemic to Tennessee and the United States.
- Carolina Northern flying squirrel – These squirrels grow to roughly 12 inches in length. These rodents inhabit the peaks of the Appalachian Mountains and feed on lichen, fruits, and nuts.
- Obey crayfish – This marine animal is extremely rare and is found only in Tennessee. Tennessee boasts as many as 78 species of crayfish, which could soon become extinct due to contaminated water spills.
Fish in the Mississippi River
The mighty Mississippi has more than 200 species of fish, but in Memphis, catfish are king. You can fish for walleye, crappie, largemouth, and smallmouth bass, however, the main attraction in Mississippi along Memphis is catfish. The Mississippi River in Memphis is the habitat for five species of catfish: species of blue, yellow, flathead, channel, bullhead, and spoonbill.
Moreover, the Memphis section of the Mississippi River has some of America’s best catfish fishing. Before the 18th century, it was not uncommon to bring in a six-foot blue catfish weighing as much as 150 pounds. However, don’t get your hopes up, as you may not be able to catch a 150-pound fish anymore. Still, the introduction of the invasive Asian carp has made catfish populations very large, both in fish size and population density. Now you can catch 60, 70, and even 80-pound catfish, which is pretty standard.
The Mississippi River’s Water Levels Are Dropping
Drought has hit much of the central United States. This occurrence means the Mississippi River has dropped to record low levels. These lower water volumes raise concerns about supply chain issues due to slower transportation and increasing damage to newly exposed land. For example, the river at the lowest point in Tennessee plunged to a record of -10.81 feet in Memphis in October 2022. At this time, the gauges also reported historically lower levels across much of the South and Midwest. According to the U.S. National Weather Service, drought has lingered over large swathes of central United States. River levels are projected to remain at or near record lows through at least early November 2022, suggesting that mitigation efforts will continue.
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- USGS, Available here: https://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/Elevations-Distances/elvadist.html
- Visit Mississippi, Available here: https://visitmississippi.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/21-0075-Economic-Contribution-Report-2020-Tourism-FINAL.pdf
- Mississippi River Parkway Commission, Available here: https://experiencemississippiriver.com/states/tennessee/
- Vance Manufacturing, Available here: https://www.vancemfg.com/industry-advice/hunting-fishing-blogs/5-best-fishing-spots-near-downtown-memphis/
- Forbes, Available here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicholasreimann/2022/10/22/mississippi-river-or-a-desert-photos-show-stunning-impact-of-record-low-water-levels/?sh=747f5a6f1388