NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Did you know many of Tennessee’s lakes have secrets resting at the bottom?
While the Volunteer State’s lakes are popular recreational spots, many of them also hide fully sunken towns that once thrived in Tennessee.
According to the Tennessee State Museum, these sunken towns were flooded intentionally by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) throughout its history in order to construct dams to control rushing water from local rivers that proved to be problematic to farmers. These dams still provide electricity to a large portion of the Southern United States today.
One of the hidden underwater towns was Loyston, along the Clinch River in East Tennessee. The town was first settled around 1800 by the Stooksbury family, according to the museum. John Loy first moved to town in the early 19th century; by 1866 the area was called Loy’s Cross Road. Nearly 30 years later, the town was officially named Loyston.
Being a more rural community, the town only had about 70 residents by 1935. At that time, the community had built roads, homes, a school, churches and several businesses. But all of that work was washed away—literally—when the Norris Dam was constructed in 1936.
As part of the Tennessee Valley Authority Act signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the dam was constructed, and all the Loyston residents were asked to leave their homes forever so the town could be flooded. Many did not want to leave, according to the state museum, but they eventually settled in nearby Knox, Anderson, Blount and Loudon counties.
Today, the site where Loyston once stood is known as Loyston Sea, a small inlet on Lake Norris.
In Middle Tennessee, J. Percy Priest Lake is also hiding an underwater town. There once was a community named Couchville that was relocated in the 1960s as part of a larger TVA project for the lake. According to Jennifer Watts with the Tennessee State Museum, part of the main road in Couchville still rests at the bottom of Percy Priest Lake, and a recreational area on the lake is named for the flooded community.
Even more historical sites were also flooded by the TVA, including the former site of a Cherokee community known as Tanasi—the town from which the state got its name.
Tanasi was located in what is now Monroe County, also in East Tennessee. It was one of two former Cherokee Nation villages located along the Little Tennessee River. The other was Chota, according to the museum, where the famous Cherokee leader, Attakullakulla, once lived.
While the village had been long since abandoned, excavation work was done by the University of Tennessee from 1969 to 1974, discovering several townhouses and more than 60 other buildings in the area prior to the intentional flooding by the TVA.
Nowadays, a monument rests near the site in remembrance of the people who once called Tanasi and Chota home. According to the museum, the monument is designed like a Cherokee townhouse, with eight pillars representing each of the seven clans that resided there and one additional pillar for the whole Cherokee nation.
While lost under the lakes forever, their existence is not forgotten