Topography of East Tennessee

Topographically considered, Tennessee presents eight natural divisions. These divisions are described as follows:

First, the Unaka division, including the extreme eastern portion of the State, and embracing a belt of country from Virginia to the Georgia line. It includes the greater portion of the counties of Johnson, Carter, Greene, Sevier, Blount, Monroe and Polk. The face of the country is exceedingly rough. Many of the mountain peaks rise to the altitude of from live to six thousand feet, and are on top entirely destitute of timber. The chains of mountain ridges are cut in numerous places by deep, rocky channels, through which the limpid mountain streams rush to the valley below. Nestling among these giant Unakas are many beautiful coves and valleys which afford homes for a contented and happy people.

Our second division having distinct topographical features is the Valley of East Tennessee. This division extends across the State from north to south, being limited on the east by the Unakas and on the west by the Cumberland Mountains. It is called a valley with reference to these mountain ranges, and, with outlying coves and valleys, embraces in whole or in part the following counties: Hancock, Hawkins, Grainger, Union, Jefferson, Knox, Roane, Meigs, Bradley, Hamblen, Carter, Johnson, Washington, Greene, Sevier, Cocke, Blount, Monroe, Polk, Claiborne, Anderson, Rhea, James, Hamilton, Bledsoe, Sequatchie and Marion.

This so-called Valley of East Tennessee is, in point of fact, a succession of narrow ridges and valleys, of greater or less width, trending from northeast to southwest. The ridges sometimes rise to the altitude of mountains. The valleys are traversed by beautiful streams, some of which are navigable and all of which afford abundant water-power. This division affords much valuable arable land which has been converted into beautiful farms, and which constitutes one of the best developed and most populous agricultural districts of the State.

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Source:  Hawkins, A. W., and Colton, Henry E., eds. Hand-book of Tennessee. Knoxville: Whig and Chronicle Steam Book and Job Printing Office (1882), pp.8-10.

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