“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Rogersville in Lauderdale County, Alabama — The American South (East South Central)

Elk River Shoals

Elk River Shoals Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Sandra Hughes, January 7, 2019
1. Elk River Shoals Marker
Inscription.  (side 1)
At this location is the Elk River that flows into the Tennessee River approximately four miles south of here. That location is the easternmost point of a massive underwater formation which was exposed until the early 1900s. The formation consisted of three major sections: Elk River Shoals, Big Muscle Shoals, and little Muscle Shoals, known collectively as "The Muscle Shoals." These shoals were created by waterfalls, rapids, sinks, sandbars, and islands. In a distance of 37 miles from Browns Ferry, a short distance east of the mouth of Elk River, to Florence, the vertical fall in the river was 137 feet. This made navigation from one end of the river to the other almost impossible. To circumvent the barrier, a lateral canal with 17 locks was built on the north side of the river by the state of Alabama. Later known as the Muscle Shoals Canal, it was opened in 1836 and abandoned in 1838. A major reason for the failure of this canal was the absence of a means to circumvent the Elk River Shoals, south of the mouth of Elk River. On October 9, 1863, General Joseph Wheeler crossed the Tennessee River at the Elk River Shoals with approximately
Elk River Shoals Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Sandra Hughes, January 7, 2019
2. Elk River Shoals Marker
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4000 Confederate soldiers and headed south via an old Indian ford. The trail led diagonally across the Elk River Shoals via two small islands and the larger Gilchrist Island. While camping on the Richard Jones Plantation near Courtland, General Wheeler met Mr. Jone's daughter, Daniella, and they were married in 1866. Through marriage, Wheeler became one of the largest post-war plantation owners in the Tennessee Valley.
(Continued on other side)
(side 2)
(Continued from other side)
The U.S. Corps of Engineers began construction on a second canal in 1875. The original canal was widened and the 17 locks were reduced to nine. Lock One was on the west side of First Creek, west of Rogersville, and Lock Nine was a short distance from modern-day Wilson Dam. To navigate around the Elk River Shoals, a canal was built on the south side of the Tennessee River, across from the mouth of Elk River. It had two locks, Lock A and Lock B, with a total lift of 23 feet. The second Muscle Shoals Canal was opened on November 10, 1890, and continued in operation until construction began on the Wilson Dam at Florence on November 8, 1918. Upon completion of Wilson Dam in 1925 and Wheeler Dam 15 miles east of Wilson Dam, in 1936, water covered the shoals in the river and the locks of the Muscle Shoals Canal. Thereafter, river traffic easily traveled over the
Elk River Shoals Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Sandra Hughes, January 7, 2019
3. Elk River Shoals Marker
section of the Tennessee River that was once a major barrier. In later years, seven other dams were constructed on the Tennessee River, opening a navigable waterway from Paducah, KY to Knoxville, TN, a distance of 652 miles. After Wheeler Dam was completed, the water was backed up into Elk River, forming a lake between Lauderdale and Limestone Counties and requiring the replacement of the one-lane Elk River Bridge at this location, which dated to around 1913. In 1935, a two-lane bridge was built a short distance upstream and after the water was backed up in 1936, the original, shorter one-lane bridge was removed. In June 1994, a westbound, two-lane bridge was opened on the north side of the existing two-lane bridge. This addition opened the modern-day four-lane Highway 72, allowing for a faster and safer crossing of Elk River.
Erected 2018 by East Lauderdale Historical Society.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: EnvironmentWar, US CivilWaterways & Vessels. A significant historical date for this entry is October 9, 1863.
Location. 34° 48.562′ N, 87° 14.39′ W. Marker is near Rogersville, Alabama, in Lauderdale County. Marker is at the intersection of Lee Highway (U.S. 72) and County Route 635, on the right when traveling east on Lee Highway. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Rogersville AL 35652, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other
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markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Lucy's Branch / Legacy of The Little Elk Community (approx. 2.4 miles away); Fort Hampton (approx. 2.4 miles away); Copena Mound (approx. 2.4 miles away); Lauderdale County High School 1912 (approx. 3.1 miles away); Lamb’s Ferry Road (approx. 3.3 miles away); Heritage Park (approx. 3.4 miles away); East End High School (approx. 3.4 miles away); Rogersville Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (approx. 3.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Rogersville.
Credits. This page was last revised on August 11, 2020. It was originally submitted on April 30, 2019, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA. This page has been viewed 523 times since then and 75 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on April 30, 2019, by Sandra Hughes Tidwell of Killen, Alabama, USA. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.

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Mar. 25, 2023