Lighthouses of the United States: Tennessee

The U.S. state of Tennessee is located east of the Mississippi River and south of Kentucky. The Coast Guard maintains hundreds of aids to navigation on Tennessee waterways, including the Mississippi, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers. However, only one of the official lights could be described comfortably as being a lighthouse.

Note: to be listed here, a lighthouse must actually serve as an aid to navigation. This means it must be located on a navigable lake or river and must be lit as a navigational aid at least during the local boating season.

USCG numbers are from Volume 5 of the U.S. Coast Guard List of Lights.

General Sources
U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center: Light Lists
The USCG Light List can be downloaded in pdf format.

East Tennessee: Douglas Lake Lighthouse
* Lighthouse Pointe Marina
Date unknown. Active (?); focal plane about 30 ft (9 m); continuous (?) white light. 30 ft (9 m) round tower with lantern centered on a square gazebo-like pier building. Light tower painted in a red and white spiral pattern; building painted white with red trim and a red roof. A photo is available, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. This appears to be an active lighthouse, but we haven't verified that. Douglas Lake is a large Tennessee Valley Authority lake formed by damming the French Broad River in East Tennessee above Knoxville. Located on TN 139 about 7 mi (11 km) southwest of Dandridge. Site open, tower closed. Operator/site manager: Lighthouse Pointe Marina.

Middle Tennessee: Cumberland River Lighthouse
Omohundro Waterworks Intake Crib
1889. Active; focal plane about 33 ft (10 m); two red flashes every 6 s. Approx. 12 m (39 ft) round brick tower with a wood pump room and a conical roof. The tower was originally painted white, but most of the paint has worn off; pump room painted red. The light is shown from a horizontal pole extended from one of the narrow windows of the pump room; it is visible on the left side of the tower in Don Vansant's photo above. Chris Cutler also has a photo (second large photo on the page), another photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. This historic tower stands in the Cumberland River just upstream from the Omohundro Waterworks of Nashville. The water intake remained in service until 1986, and in 1987 the tower was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Sadly, it is in very poor condition, with large holes in its roof. Located near the south bank of the river about 0.3 mi (500 m) east of the waterworks plant. Accessible only by boat; the best view is from Shelby Park on the north bank. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: Nashville Metro Water Services. USCG 5-3785.
Omohundro Waterworks Light
Omohundro Waterworks Light, Nashville, April 2007
Flickr photo copyright Don Vansant; used by permission

West Tennessee: Tennessee River Lighthouse
Browns Bluff
Date unknown. Active (?); focal plane 160 ft (49 m); continuous white light. 70 ft (21 m) round cylindrical 6-story wood residence with the lantern room atop a conical roof. Tower painted white; the conical roof is red and the lantern roof is black. Glen and Jill Moore have a photo (2/3 the way down the page), another photo and a third photo are available, and Google has a satellite view. This unusual dwelling was built by Jerry Milam. Although its navigational value would be slight, it is perched atop a steep limestone bluff and is a prominent landmark on the upper portion of Kentucky Lake. The Moores write that "it did actually function as an operating lighthouse for years," implying that it is no longer operational. Located at river mile 126.5 on Brown Bluff Lane about 15 mi (25 km) northeast of Parsons in Decatur County. Site and tower closed (private property).

Notable faux lighthouse:

  • Carthage (date unknown) has an approx. 36 ft (11 m) round masonry tower with gallery; a spiral stairway around the outside of the building provides access to the gallery. John Akers has a good photo, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. This tower has never been an aid to navigation. Located on the north side of the Cumberland River at the Carthage access ramp, about 1 mile (1.6 km) southeast of downtown Carthage. Site open, tower closed.

Adjoining pages: North: Kentucky | South: Alabama

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Posted July 5, 2012. Checked and revised July 27, 2016. Lighthouses: 3. Site copyright 2016 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.