Five Tennessee routes have been designated as either a National Scenic Byway or All-American Road by the U.S. Department of Transportation. These Tennessee routes are added to the collection of 144 American roads that have earned a designation based upon their archeological, cultural, historical, natural, recreational, and scenic intrinsic qualities. In earning the new scenic designations, these routes will have greater access to federal grant funding through the National Scenic Byway Program and national marketing from the America’s Byways program.
“This national recognition is reflective of the distinctiveness and authenticity of so many parts of our state,” said Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Clay Bright. “It is an honor well deserved by so many local leaders and the public who care for their communities.”
To be designated as a National Scenic Byway, a road must possess at least one of the six intrinsic qualities and be regionally significant. The Cumberland National Scenic Byway, Sequatchie Valley Scenic Byway and Norris Freeway were all designated as National Scenic Byways.
Similarly, a road must possess multiple, nationally significant, intrinsic qualities to receive an All-American Road designation. All-American Roads have one-of-a-kind features that do not exist elsewhere and provide for an exceptional traveling experience. Newfound Gap Road and the Great River Road were designated as All-American Roads.
The five Tennessee routes designated as new National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads include:
· Great River Road: This West Tennessee route is rich in history and culture and follows the Mississippi River from Tiptonville to Memphis. The byway is part of the 10-state Great River Road that travels from the headwaters in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.
· Sequatchie Valley National Scenic Byway: Known as Tennessee’s “Great Valley”, this scenic route features the serene Sequatchie River and is framed on either side by the Cumberland Plateau and Walden’s Ridge.
· Cumberland National Scenic Byway: This route demonstrates the history and significance of the Upper Cumberland and connects landmarks in eight counties between the Cumberland Gap and Cumberland River.
· Norris Freeway: This Knoxville area route frames the Town of Norris, TN and Norris Dam State Park. The area is famed for its hiking, trout fishing and boating.
· Newfound Gap Road: This East Tennessee picturesque and historic route connects Gatlinburg, TN with Cherokee, NC. At 5,046’, the route is the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
Members of each route seeking designation applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation in June 2020. Previous rounds of scenic designations occurred in 1996 and 2009. In total, Tennessee’s collection of nationally designated scenic routes stands at 10, the fourth most in the country. These routes include:
· Ocoee Scenic Byway (1988) – National Forest Scenic Byway
· Cherohala Skyway (1996) – National Scenic Byway
· Natchez Trace (1996) – All-American Road
· East Tennessee Crossing (2009) – National Scenic Byway
· Great River Road (2009; 2021) – National Scenic Byway in 2009; All-American Road in 2021
· Woodlands Trace (2009) – National Scenic Byway
· Newfound Gap (2021) – All-American Road
· Norris Freeway (2021) – National Scenic Byway
· Cumberland National Scenic Byway (2021) – National Scenic Byway
· Sequatchie Valley National Scenic Byway (2021) – National Scenic Byway
The National Scenic Byways Program, established by Congress in 1991 and administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), was created to preserve and protect the nation’s scenic byways and, at the same time, promote tourism and economic development. More information about the National Scenic Byway Program can be found at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/.