Covington-Tipton County Chamber of Commerce
106 W. Liberty Ave Covington, TN
This restored 1930s Art Deco-style theater is marked by a great old sign, and continues to entertain the area as host to events, community theater, productions and concerts. The King of Rock 'n' Roll, Elvis Presley, performed on the Ruffin stage in 1955. Open for performances.
113 W. Pleasant Ave. Covington, TN
More About: Rhythm & Blues Legends
Like the sound of the blues, many great musicians have roots in the sharecropping towns along the Great River Road. Isaac Hayes: This soul performer and DJ was born in 1942 into a sharecropping family in Tipton County. At the age of seven, he moved to Memphis and took up odd jobs to help with the family income, like shining shoes on Beale Street. Hayes became a sensation at high school talent shows and with the school band. He skipped college to become a house musician at Stax Records and joined sessions where he met his writing partner, David Porter, forming one of the most successful songwriting collaborations in the 1960s. They developed the “Stax Sound” with hits for Sam & Dave, Otis Redding and others. Hayes went on to record several of his own albums, create a film score for the movie Shaft and win several Grammy Awards. Hayes was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. He died in 2008 in Memphis. John Henry Barbee: This Henning native learned his unique mix of storytelling and slide blues from playing in homes of the local townspeople. An early pioneer of the Mississippi Delta blues style, Barbee caught the ear of legendary harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson and toured with him in the 1930s. Later in Chicago, Barbee appeared on records with Memphis Slim, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf before quitting the music business. Barbee died in 1964, as his work was drawing new attention thanks to the American Folk Blues Festival European tour. Peetie Wheatstraw: This Ripley native was an easygoing vocalist and piano player who mesmerized crowds with his laid-back intros and hardscrabble narratives about tough times. In the late 1920s, Wheatstraw toured the South and later moved to St. Louis, itching for a bigger city. Once arriving in town, he created a new persona, touting himself as “The Devil’s Son-In-Law” and the “High Sheriff of Hell,” a publicity tactic used by Robert Johnson and other bluesmen. Wheatstraw died at the age of 39, when his car was hit by a train at a railroad crossing. Lauded as a hero by much of the African-American community, his namesake appears as a minor character in the Ralph Ellison classic, Invisible Man. Sleepy John Estes: Also from Ripley, he lost sight in his right eye after a friend threw a rock at him during a baseball game. In the beginning of the Great Depression, Estes was playing on a corner in Memphis when a record label scout heard the sound and quickly recorded Estes at the Peabody Hotel. Estes also made his way to Chicago and recorded more songs with Charlie Pickett, Son Bonds and Lee Brown. He became known for not only his country-blues, but for his unusual vocal sob that’s been described as “crying the blues.” In the 1950s, Estes retired to Brownsville. Like Barbee, Estes returned in the ’60s and toured with other blues musicians as part of the American Folk Blues Festival. He died in Brownsville in 1977.
St. Matthews Episcopal Church
This 1858 Gothic structure was one of the first churches in Covington, built by slaves. Three of the stained glass windows were discarded from Canterbury Cathedral in England during renovations, shipped to New Orleans, up the Mississippi and overland to Covington. Services are still held here every Sunday, as they have been for over 160 years.
303 S. Munford St. Covington, TN
More About: The "Blow Pop Capital of the World"
Thanks to the Charms Co. factory in Covington, Tipton County is known as the "Blow Pop Capital of the World," producing one billion Blow Pops, Sugar Daddy pops and Charms pops each year.
Canaan Baptist Church
This 1917 church was originally organized in 1868, just after the end of the Civil War. It is the oldest African-American Missionary Baptist Church in Covington, and is still considered a cornerstone of the African-American community here. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in shaping Tipton County's African-American heritage.
211 N. Main St. Covington, TN
More About: The Hatchie River
You're crossing the Hatchie River, a designated scenic river, listed by the Nature Conservancy as one of the 75 last great remaining places on earth. It's also the only river in West Tennessee that is not channelized, a process of re-engineering its path in places to control flow and flooding.
This was the first railroad town in Lauderdale County, with a depot first appearing in the early 1870s. The town has a strong history of industrial innovation and a rich African-American heritage, from slavery to freedmen business owners to author Alex Haley.
On W side of sq., take W. Liberty St. to US-51. Turn R onto US-51N. Bear R onto TN-209 just past rest area to pt. 24.
More About: The Alex Haley Home
The Alex Haley home is the first state-owned historic site devoted to African-Americans in Tennessee.
Alex Haley Museum & Interpretive Center
Visit the spot where Alex Haley spent much of his childhood: the home of his grandparents, Will and Cynthia Palmer. It was here on this porch that Haley likely heard the stories that inspired the now world-famous Roots: The Saga of An American Family, which earned him the 1976 Pulitzer Prize. The author is buried on the front lawn of the home, which has been restored and furnished with some of the original 1919 furniture, memorabilia and family artifacts. A state-of-the-art museum and genealogy center sits behind the home.
200 S. Church St. Henning, TN
Stay on TN-209, turn L onto Haley St. in middle of town. Haley St. dead-ends at pt. 25.
More About: Alex Haley
The region around the Great River Road has produced many famous Americans, including world-famous author Alex Haley. Drawing on the stories of his extended family, Haley created Roots: The Saga of An American Family, the story of African-American slaves in the South. The 1976 book won a Pulitzer Prize and its television adaptation won over 145 awards, including nine Emmys. Haley is buried on the grounds of his grandparents’ home in Henning and a statue honoring him stands on the White Lightning: Thunder Road to Rebels Trail in Knoxville, the largest monument to an African-American in the United States.
Visit the Haley family burial plot, final resting place of the real Chicken George, one of Alex Haley's slave ancestors portrayed by actor Ben Vereen in the television adaptation of Roots.
Hwy 51N & Hwy 87E Henning, TN
Leave pt. 25 on Haley St. Retrace route back to TN-209/Main St. Turn L onto TN-209/Main St. Turn R onto Henning-Bethlehem Rd. at TN-87W. Turn L onto Tate Rd. Pt. 26 is straight ahead.
This small town, founded in 1836, is the seat of Lauderdale County and an anchor for this agricultural community. It's known far and wide for its tomatoes, and holds a popular tomato festival every summer.
Leave pt. 26 on Tate Rd. Turn R onto Henning- Bethlehem Rd. It becomes TN-87W after crossing TN-209/ Main St. Turn R onto US-51N to pt. 27.
More About: Legendary Bluesman William Bunch
Ripley is the birthplace of legendary bluesman William Bunch, better known as Peetie Wheatstraw, "the Devil's Son-in-Law," perhaps the first blues musician to suggest he had a relationship with the devil in order to inspire curiosity and draw listeners. This publicity tactic was most famously used by blues musician Robert Johnson.
Visit this newly renovated town square and downtown district with new storefronts and sidewalks that make strolling this quaint spot a true pleasure. The 1930s Art Deco Lauderdale County Courthouse is a unique find for West Tennessee. It has recently undergone extensive eco-friendly renovations as a part of the town's $8 million revitalization project, including gorgeous lighting, a treat for after-dark visitors.
Lauderdale Co. Courthouse Court Sq. Ripley, TN
Stay on US-51N, turn R onto TN-208S/ Cleveland St. At deadend, turn L onto Lake Dr. Turn R onto Monroe St. Turn L onto Jackson St. Pt. 28 is straight ahead. Park and walk to visit pts. 28 & 30.
More About: Lauderdale County
Lauderdale County is the only one of the six Tennessee counties of the Mississippi River Corridor that floods regularly. Natural bluffs and man-made levees keep the river from overflowing into the fields and forests of the other counties.
Lauderdale County Chamber of Commerce
Pts. 29 & 30 are at same location.
123 S. Jefferson St. Ripley, TN
Pts. 29 & 30 are at same location.
More About: Flooding Along the Mississippi River
Flooding along the Mississippi River can cause devastation for the people living there, but the natural flooding of the river also creates important habitats for migrating birds and other wildlife. In 1912, overflowing tributaries swamped Hathaway, Reelfoot, Bessie and 250 miles of Lauderdale County. Memphis suffered approximately $1.4 million in damage (pictured). The next year, floods struck again and the levee in Memphis collapsed when the water reached 46 feet. More than 1,000 families were ousted from their homes and over 2,000 square miles were flooded. A flood in 1927 almost destroyed Ridgely and the American Red Cross was quick on the scene with a relief camp, one of 154 that year along the Mississippi River. It brought needed attention to the area that was already affected with immense social and medical needs beyond that year’s floods. But flooded areas along the Mississippi River provide important habitats for migrating birds that move south for the winter, especially in Lauderdale County. Forty percent of the nation’s migratory birds follow the river southward. In the spring a lower depth is managed for shorebirds, while waterfowl prefer deeper water in the fall and winter. The Chickasaw National Wildlife Refuge outside Ripley and the Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge near Henning implement “moist-soil management” flood systems to establish ecosystems for the birds to thrive.
Lauderdale County Museum
Learn about the area's history and see special exhibits in the 1842 Sugar Hill Mansion.
123 Jefferson St. Ripley, TN
More About: The Bell on Jefferson Street
The bell of the 1892 First Presbyterian Church on Jefferson Street in Ripley was cast partially from silver dollars, giving it a beautiful tone.
Just across the street from Rat's is an old-fashioned, mom-and-pop general store and deli. This is a great place to pick up groceries and get a feel for the local atmosphere.
7240 Edith-Nankipoo Rd. Ripley, TN
Across the Street from Rat's
More About: Tennessee Civil War Trails
Between 1861-1865, Tennessee was a hotbed of Civil War activity. Forming the northern border of the Confederate States of America, Tennessee was the last state to secede from the Union and the first to rejoin after the war’s end. Many of the war’s important sites are preserved and marked as a part of the Tennessee Civil War Trails program, part of a five-state trails system that helps visitors explore the Civil War through the places that tell its story. The Mississippi River was vital to both sides of the conflict; look for markers throughout the Great River Road National Scenic Byway & Trail, and pick up trail brochures at any of the information centers and many of the museums on the route. Learn more at tnvacation.com. Tennessee’s Civil war Sesquicentennial commemorates the 150th anniversary of the state’s participation in the American Civil War. Tennessee ranks second in the country in number of battle- fields, and presents a unique and powerful history to Civil War enthusiasts and curious visitors.
Charlene’s Colony of Shoppes
This unique shopping experience includes an antique store, located in a former World War II U.S. Army base hospital building, and a tearoom, housed in a 1950s church structure. Both buildings have been moved to this location from their original sites in the county. Stop in for shopping, afternoon tea, or more Just Divine Tea Room also serves lunch and dinner.
2257 Hwy 88W Halls, TN
Continue same direction on Edith-Nankipoo Rd. for approx. 9.5 miles. Enjoy the beautiful inland bluff-top drive. Turn L onto TN-88W to pt. 33 on L.
More About: Land Surveyor Henry Rutherford
Land surveyor Henry Rutherford of North Carolina explored this area in 1785. He carved his initials into a leaning sycamore tree near Halls; it marked the point from which West Tennessee surveys would begin. He later returned in the early 1800s to establish a nearby settlement by the same name.
Immerse yourself in military history and the legacy of the World War II Army Air Corp. at this museum, located in a former B-17 Flying Fortress bomber training facility. The site, now home to Arnold Field, was one of several training bases in Tennessee, chosen for its similarity to the European countryside.
100 Veteran’s Dr. Halls, TN
More About: The Memphis Belle
The Memphis Belle, a World War II B-17 Bomber now on display in Ohio, was named as a tribute to the pilot's sweetheart, who lived in Memphis. The actual name was inspired by the riverboat in the 1942 film "Lady for a Night."
Murray Hudson Antiquarian Shop
For over 30 years, proprietor Murray Hudson has collected and curated an incredible inventory of over 25,000 antique maps, globes, and historical books and prints, like the first U.S. atlas, dating back to 1795.
109 S. Church St. Halls, TN
Leave pt. 34, retrace route back to TN-88E. Turn L onto TN-88E to Halls. Turn R onto N. Church St. Pt. 35 is just past W. Main St.
More About: Barr's Sandy Soil
The nearby river town of Barr once had a reputation with traveling youth baseball teams; its soil is so sandy that dropped catches wouldn't bounce on the ground.
Unlike its railroad town neighbors, Dyersburg predates the Civil War, established by some of West Tennessee's first white settlers. Dating back to the 1820s, this was a steamboat town with economic growth coming down the North Forked Deer River from the Mississippi River. Today, the town's history is well preserved in homes, historic buildings along Troy Avenue and commercial structures lining the square.
Leave pt. 35, go L to TN-88W. Turn R onto US-51N to pt. 36.
More About: Forked Deer River
Originally called Okeena, the Forked Deer River was renamed in the 1780s when surveyors noticed that the branches flowing into the Mississippi River favored a deer's antlers. Sighting of a deer with deformed antlers convinced the surveyors to keep the name.
Dyersburg Court Square
Stroll this town square and admire its well-preserved late Victorian and early 20th-century buildings. Stop in the local shops and restaurants; admire the historic 1911 Dyer County Courthouse.
Dyer Co. Courthouse Dyersburg, TN
Follow US-51/TN-104 as it bears R and becomes S. Main Ave. Take S. Main to pt. 37.
More About: The World’s Most Famous Clown
Dyersburg is the birthplace of Emmett Kelly, Jr. often called “The World’s Most Famous Clown.” Kelly was born in the early 1930s while his father was in Dyersburg as part of the traveling John Robinson Circus. Kelly, Sr. was a clown and mime and went by the name “Weary Willie.” After a stint in the Navy, Kelly, Jr. himself picked up the persona in 1960 at the Circus Festival in Peru, Indiana at the urging and tutelage of his father. Photography company Eastman Kodak reached out to Kelly to appear as an attraction for them at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. After becoming a top attraction at the fair for his mime act, Kodak enlisted him as an Ambassador of Goodwill, touring the country and becoming the most photographed clown. The “Weary Willie” likeness can be found on figurines, sculptures, puzzles, checkbooks and many more items of memorabilia.
Dyer County Museum
Learn about local history through the artifacts of the area at this museum, featuring an audio history of life in the bottomland of the Mississippi River Delta. For a special treat, check out the unique Timmerman dollhouse collection.
Dyersburg State Community College Dyersburg, TN
Go L on S. Main St. It dead-ends at McGaughey St. Turn R onto McGaughey St. to pt. 38 on L.
Dr. Walter E. David Wildlife Museum
A museum focused on the wildlife of Dyer County, this museum features an impressive trophy collection of birds, one of each species of duck found on the Mississippi Flyway, as well as many types of wild animals.
1510 Lake Rd. Dyersburg, TN
From pt. 38, take McGaughey St. back through town. Turn R onto TN-78N/Lake Rd. Turn R onto Parkview. Pt. 39 is located inside Dale F. Glover Education Center on L.
More About: The Lower Mississippi River's Sand
Sand is one of the Lower Mississippi River's chief commodities, and the ever-changing sand flow alters the character of the river almost on a daily basis. During high water, the sand bars are hidden and create constant problems for navigators. During low water periods, the bars are exposed and lure humans and wildlife alike.
Newbern Depot & Railroad Museum
This restored 1920s train depot is still a stop for Amtrak's passenger line; drop in and visit the museum housed inside.
108 Jefferson St. Newbern, TN
Leave pt. 39, go R onto Parkview. Turn R onto TN-78N/Lake Rd. Turn R onto junction I-155 & US-412E. Exit TN-77 (Newbern). Turn R onto TN-77. Turn R onto TN-211S. Enter W. Main St. to pt. 40 on L.