Two Views of "The Suck"
Getting there was not half the fun...

     
SOURCES: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, George Barnard photo.
The source images are in the public domain. All metadata may be used with attribution under the CC-BY License  DEEPZOOMCHATTANOOGA.COM Creative Commons License

Funny Names - Real Threats

In current times, the name 'Suck Creek' or 'The Pot House' might draw curious looks or snickers. But these names represent a very real part of the area's history.

Prior to dams, the Tennessee River just southwest of Chattanooga was full of navigation hazards of strong currents and whirlpools. Tumbling Shoals, the Pot, the Suck, the Skillet, and the Pan each meant trouble for the rivermen: they made downstream journeys hazardous and severely restricted upstream travel.

A rare view from above - circa 1900 (colorized)

'The Suck' at low river level.

'The Suck' at high river level.

The steamer Missionary as seen in the first image.

Johnny Cash - "The Whirl And The Suck"

It took a mighty good man with salty hands
And a mighty long raft to keep the fore before the aft
You take ten good men and guts and luck
And you might navigate the whirl and the suck.
...

Well, the Tennessee River changed its mind
At Chattanooga she oughta unwind
She could a run right on the Georgia Sea
But she cut right back through Tennessee

Well, the settlers come by raft
And boat bringin' everything that could stay a float
But like a loco horse that'll twist and buck
They hardly ever made it through the
whirl and the suck

It took a mighty good man with salty hands
And a mighty long raft to keep the
fore before the aft You take ten good men and guts and luck
And you might navigate the
whirl and the suck

When General Washington was in his knicker bocks
The Cherokee Indians through the
Chattanooga Rocks And the Chickamagua tribe and the Nickajack
They kept the watch where the river cut back
And if a raft or a boat ever rode the bend
The Indians got 'em cause
they had 'em hemmed in

It took a mighty good man with salty hands
And a mighty long raft to keep
the fore before the aft You take ten good men and guts and luck
And you might navigate the whirl and the suck

From Harper's Weekly - 1864

"The river at the "Suck" is about 300 yards wide and very deep, but the current is so rapid that steamers cannot head against it, and are obliged to be pulled up by a windlass. The water runs comparatively smoothly until within a short distance from the "Suck," when it breaks into waves and dashes against a rock on the left, flinging the foam high in the air. Waldron's Ridge, on the left bank, resembles the Palisades on the Hudson; the trees, however, run nearly to the top. On the right is Raccoon Ridge."

 


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