History of Hatchie and Forked Deer River

Interesting facts — working on the Madison Co Bicentennial committee I was surprised how many had no clue about the history or routes the rivers took in Madison Co

The South Fork of the Forked Deer River is formed at the confluence of Huggins Creek and Tar Creek in the southern part of Chester County, Tennessee, United States.[1] It flows in a generally northern direction and passes just to the east of Henderson. It then runs in a northwesterly direction and enters Madison County and passes near Pinson. Flowing still generally north it passes through Jackson. It continues across Madison County and enters Crockett County, It flows in a northwest direction through the following counties sometimes passing in and out of a county several times. Haywood County, Lauderdale County and Dyer County where it joins with the North Fork.[2] The Forked Deer then empties into the Obion River which in turn flows into the Mississippi River.

The Hatchie River is a 238-mile-long (383 km)[1] river in northern Mississippi and southwestern Tennessee. It is of considerable geographic, cultural, and historic significance. In large measure this is because it is the only major river of West Tennessee that has never been impounded, channelized, or otherwise modified by human activity to any major degree, although several of its tributaries have. Its environs are indicative of what much of West Tennessee must have resembled prior to the time of European settlement in early 19th century.

The Hatchie rises in the northern part of Union County, Mississippi and travels through Tippah and Alcorn counties before crossing into Hardeman County, Tennessee, near the community of Pocahontas. After a short jog into adjoining McNairy County, Tennessee, the Hatchie flows north, in a serpentine fashion, then turns northwest toward Bolivar. While there is usually a discernible main channel, the Hatchie at this point is largely a zone of wetlands approximately one mile (1.6 km) wide. Supposedly Bolivar was the head of navigation for small, shallow-draught steamboats in the 19th century.

From Bolivar, the Hatchie continues generally northwest, crossing into Haywood County and the southwestern corner of Madison County. it then enters Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge. The rest of the stream course generally trends west. There is a “bow” to the north in the final part of the stream course, which forms the line between Tipton County and Lauderdale County. The Hatchie enters the Mississippi River just north of the Hatchie Towhead and just south of the Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge. The Hatchie is designated as a “scenic river” under the Tennessee Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

The name “Hatchie River” is tautological, as the element “hatchie” means “river” in the Choctaw language.[2]  Muskogean language used by several tribes including the Chickasaw.

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