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Country United States of America
State Tennessee
 - coordinates 36°18′13″N 87°9′10″W / 36.30361°N 87.15278°W / 36.30361; -87.15278 [1]

The Harpeth River, 115 miles (185 km) long,[2] is one of the major streams of north-central Middle Tennessee and one of the major tributaries of the Cumberland River. Via the Cumberland and the Ohio rivers, it is part of the Mississippi River watershed.


The Harpeth rises in the westernmost part of Rutherford County, Tennessee, just to the east of the community of College Grove in eastern Williamson County. The upper portion of the river has been contaminated to some extent by the operation of a lead smelting plant located near the Kirkland community that recycled use automobile batteries from the 1950s until the 1990s.[citation needed]

The stream flows generally westerly into the county seat of Williamson County, Franklin, which has become a suburb of Nashville since the 1960s. The Harpeth is both the source of the area's drinking water supply[3] and the main site of its sewage disposal.[4]

At Franklin, the course of the river turns more northwesterly; a few miles northwest of Franklin is the mouth of one of the Harpeth's main tributaries, the West Harpeth, which drains much of the southern portion of Williamson County. Near this site is an antebellum plantation home called "Meeting of the Waters".[5] The river in this area flows quite near the Natchez Trace (the original road of that name, not the modern Parkway named for it, which is several miles distant). The river shortly crosses into Davidson County and receives the flow of the Little Harpeth River, another important tributary. The stream flows near the unincorporated Nashville suburb of Bellevue and shortly after this flows into Cheatham County.

The course of the river in Cheatham County is very meandering. A few miles into Cheatham County it is joined by another major tributary, the South Harpeth, which drains some of the southwestern portion of Davidson County, southeastern Cheatham County, and a small portion of northwesternmost Williamson County.

In Cheatham County is a remarkable civil engineering feat of the early 19th century. At a place known as the "Narrows of the Harpeth", near a prehistoric site known as Mound Bottom—an area dotted with Native American ceremonial and burial mounds of the Mississippian culture—ironmaster Montgomery Bell built an iron mill, largely through the use of slave labor. At a 7-mile (11 km) horseshoe bend, Bell's slaves under his direction cut a tunnel through approximately 200 yards (180 m) of solid rock, assisted only by black-powder blasting techniques, to build a diversion tunnel to power the mill, which Bell called "Pattison Forge" (often spelled, incorrectly, "Patterson") after his mother's maiden name. Bell was so pleased with this feat that he curtailed some of his other area operations and even built a home near the site. Today, the tunnel and some "slag" are about all that remains of the operation. The Montgomery Bell Tunnel is a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. The tunnel and the sheer bluffs along the Narrows are now part of the Narrows of the Harpeth section of Harpeth River State Park, a linear park connecting several natural, historic, and archaeological sites along the lower Harpeth.[6]

From this historic site, the flow becomes generally more northerly, but still greatly meandering. The Harpeth soon forms the line between Dickson County and Cheatham County for the last part of its course. A few miles above the mouth are what are known as the Three Islands; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed siting a dam near this location on several occasions and even did some preliminary study toward one, but a favorable cost-benefit ratio could never be satisfactorily shown, and the project was never built.[citation needed] Partially because of this fact, the lower portion of the Harpeth is very popular with canoeists and canoe outfitting businesses exist to rent canoes to them, which is a popular summertime activity with youth groups especially.

The mouth of the Harpeth into the Cumberland is near Ashland City, the Cheatham County seat. Near the mouth is a bridge on State Route 49 named in Montgomery Bell's honor. The mouth is just below the Cumberland's Harpeth Island, and is somewhat submerged by the backwaters of the Corps' Cheatham Dam.

With the planned removal of a lowhead dam in the city of Franklin, the Harpeth will be Middle Tennessee's second longest unimpounded stream[7] (the longest being the Buffalo). The lower portion of the Harpeth is designated as a "scenic river" under the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Act.[8]


The origin of the name "Harpeth" is controversial. It is often cited in the area that it is named for the legendary outlaw brothers of the early 19th century in the area, the Harp Brothers, "Big Harp" and "Little Harp"; this is erroneous, as the name exists on maps and documents predating their fame. A late 18th century map, published in London, purportedly shows the steam as the "Fairpath"; there is some dissension about whether the name is of Native American origin or perhaps a corruption of the rather common English name "Harper". There is no dispute that the title of the song "Harper Valley PTA" by Tom T. Hall is derived from this stream, indirectly. Hall, long an area resident, says that the song's name derives from Harpeth Valley Elementary School in Davidson County near Bellevue, but he also states that the song was definitely not based on any occurrence there; rather, he simply liked the sound of it.[citation needed]

River access[edit]

Common put-ins/take-outs:

Kingston Springs, TN - An area for canoe access in Cheatham County, west of Nashville.

  • Turkey Creek - approx. 438 E. Kingston Springs Rd.
  • Kingston Springs City Park - 548 Old Pinnacle Hill Rd.
  • Gossett Tract - approx 1240 Cedar Hill Rd.
  • The Narrows of the Harpeth - plenty of signs/info
  • Cedar Hill Rd - approx. 1692 Cedar Hill Rd.

Franklin, TN

  • Fieldstone Park - approx. 2194 Fieldstone Pkwy.
  • Meeting of the Waters - approx. 3176 Del Rio Pike
  • The Rope Swing - Old Natchez Trace
  • Moran Rd - Moran Rd
  • Hwy 100 - approx. 7610 Hwy 100


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Harpeth River
  2. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed June 8, 2011
  3. ^ "2006 Water Quality Report". Water Management Department; City of Franklin, Tennessee. Retrieved June 13, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Wastewater Division". City of Franklin, Tennessee. Retrieved June 13, 2011. 
  5. ^ Kevin Walters. "Gift Keeps Historic Home, Land Safe From Development". Land Trust for Tennessee. Retrieved June 13, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Harpeth River State Park". Tennessee State Park. Retrieved June 13, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Lowhead Dam Removal Project on Harpeth River in Franklin". Harpeth River Watershed Association. Retrieved June 13, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Scenic Rivers Program". Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation. Retrieved June 13, 2011. 

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harpeth_River — Please support Wikipedia.
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13143 videos foundNext > 

Kayaking - Harpeth River

Kayaking down Harpeth River and jumping off a waterfall Songs is Sail - Awolnation and Green Onions - Booker T and the M.G.'s.

South Harpeth River Underwater

Camped out on the river, then got up to fish a while. It started to rain, and the fish were not biting so I took this video of the river.

Canoeing the Harpeth River - The Nashville Experience

Thanks to Foggy Bottom Canoe and Kayak Rentals for helping us to have an amazing day. What a fun adventure we had going down the Harpeth River.

Kayak Fishing the Harpeth River

Kayak Fishing the Harpeth River.

Snake on the Harpeth River 8_21_13

While fishing and boating on the Harpeth River in TN, we seen a snake on the bank we thought was dead. Would've made a nice hat band!

Fishing and Canoeing the Harpeth River in Tennessee

Me and my buddy spent a full day on the river. Good times.

The Watson Twins - Harpeth River

album: Talking to you, talking to me (2010)


Hill climbing fun on the east side of Pulltight Hill, at mile 24 of 65.

Fishing The Harpeth River Tn From Kayak

GoProTabers Filmed with a GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition 1080p Pro, Gopro hero3 review, Review, Wifi, Protune, Accessories, Mount, Mounts, Gopro hero 3 silver, S...

19th Annual Harpeth River Ride on Saturday, June 21, 2014

13143 videos foundNext > 

33 news items

The Tennessean
Mon, 30 Jun 2014 22:26:15 -0700

Eight years ago, Franklin City Hall decided that doubling the size of the Harpeth River water treatment plant was a good idea. City Hall is still pushing the plan, now calling it a backup for the 75 percent of drinking water supplied by Harpeth Valley ...
The Tennessean
Wed, 23 Jul 2014 21:07:30 -0700

In 2009, the city began work to develop an Integrated Water Resources Plan — the first of its kind in Tennessee — to improve the way we manage water resources, using the health of the Harpeth River as the measuring stick to determine success. Through ...

Clarksville Online

Clarksville Online
Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:52:30 -0700

Harpeth River Canoe Trip: August 16th from 8:00am to 6:00pm. For ages 10 and up. The cost is $25.00 and includes equipment and transportation. Bring sunblock, food and water and fishing license, trout stamp and pole if you choose to fish. Registration ...
The Tennessean
Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:18:45 -0700

... has complained to planning commissioners that Hillsboro Cove would create dangerous traffic conditions, potentially cause septic system failures that could flow onto her property, and contribute to flooding of the Harpeth River, which abuts the ...
The Tennessean
Wed, 09 Jul 2014 19:06:15 -0700

However, longtime critics at the Harpeth River Watershed Association are using the plan as a chance to sharpen criticisms of the city's use of the river. Dorie Bolze, HRWA executive director, said Franklin should no longer use water taken from a river ...

The Tennessean

The Tennessean
Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:52:30 -0700

Harpeth River Longbeards Banquet, Pegram Church of Christ. Contact Bill Morgan at 615-708-7055 or bmorgan0606@hotmail.com. Aug. 21. National Wild Turkey Federation Elk River Chapter Fundraiser, Lincoln County Fairgrounds Exhibition Building, ...
WSMV Nashville
Wed, 23 Jul 2014 20:33:45 -0700

Crews will build a new bridge over the Harpeth River and Anderson Farm Road. The state hired Bell & Associates to do the work. The project supervisor didn't want to go on camera but did admit that the sign pointed in the wrong direction. All other ...

Columbia Daily Herald

Columbia Daily Herald
Wed, 09 Jul 2014 20:22:30 -0700

Citizens groups protesting the rules include the Tennessee Clean Water Network, Harpeth River Watershed Association, Tennessee Nature Conservancy, Obed Watershed Community Association, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Save the ...

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