Walt's Look Around: Man made wonders of MS - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Walt's Look Around: Man made wonders of MS

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To get to the head end of our man-made wonder that you'll find in this part of the state, you'll have to travel past some natural beauty, like Cooper Falls in J.P. Coleman State Park on the west bank of Pickwick Lake.

Then a little farther, where Yellow Creek enters the lake, you'll notice the natural rocks lining the bank all of a sudden looks as if they had been worked by tools. And they have. This is the head end of our man-made "wonder of the world." The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. And urban legend says it is viewable from low orbiting manned space capsules, like the International Space Station.

I know the project's final price tag was almost viewable from space, two billion dollars.

The idea behind the monumental waterway was to connect the Tennessee River to the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile via the Tombigbee River by deepening and widening the channel. And there-by connecting the gulf to the Ohio River through this part of the country. With the obvious economic boom such projects would bring to some of the poorest counties in the nation in that part of Mississippi.

Titanic feats had to be accomplished. More earth was moved in digging the Tenn-Tom than was removed in digging the Panama Canal. And fully half of that amount was dug from the divide in the North East part of Mississippi that separated the two rivers. The entire town of Holcut, Mississippi which once sat atop the divide had to be moved and became extinct making room for the waterway.

Critics have maintained the waterway never lived up to its promised potential. But the waterway has helped keep the timber industry busy with ports like the ones at Fulton loading wood chips for domestic use or lumber headed for Asia. And there's recreation in places that would have never had the recreation industry any other way.

So from the time the idea for the project was first conceived of and then seriously considered through the passage of the bits and pieces of legislation over the decades that studied it, and then started it, and then kept it afloat, until the waterway was completed and the first barge traveled up it in 1985, the Tenn-Tom had probably been on peoples minds and drawing boards and finally in the ground as a reality longer than any other single government project.

And looking at it, it is a monument to 20th Century ingenuity. Making the most of it will be a monument to 21st century imagination and industry.

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