Advanced 2: Divisions, Rivers and Cities


In the Basic Geometry section, we covered Tennessee’s Grand Divisions, river systems and cities.

This is a good time to review those things.

Tennessee flags

Grand Divisions

The three stars on the Tennessee flag represent the three Grand Divisions, those being West, Middle and East Tennessee.

Click here to read our elementary geography section about Grand Divisions.

The Perry County Courthouse, which used to be
in West Tennessee but is now in Middle Tennessee!

Remember that a county can only be in one Grand Division.

Also, it is not a matter of opinion as to which counties are in which Grand Division, because Tennessee state law spells it out.

(Click here to see the list of counties in East Tennessee, here to see the list the counties of Middle Tennessee, and here to see the list of counties in West Tennessee.)

Since this listing is a legal one, it is possible for a county to be switched from being part of one Grand Division to another.

In fact, here is an odd fact, dug up by our friend Eddie Weeks at the Tennessee General Assembly’s legal office: Perry County used to be considered part of West Tennessee, but was changed to Middle Tennessee by state law in 1965.

The Hiwassee River, which eventually flows into the Tennessee, which eventually flows into the Ohio, which eventually flows into the Mississippi


Tennessee contains 33 rivers, but only three are considered major river systems — the Mississippi, Tennessee and Cumberland. Click here to read about these.

As you learn about Tennessee’s river systems, keep in mind that the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers have been converted into a series of man-made lakes by dams along those waterways. Today those two rivers neither look nor act the way they used to.

The Rio Grande, in the heart of Texas

Also remember that not every state has a network of river systems such as Tennessee’s. Texas, for instance, does not have large rivers like we do in Tennessee. (The Rio Grande, a very famous river in Texas, is tiny by Tennessee standards.)

Mississippi borders the Mississippi River. But it does not have large rivers such as the Tennessee and Cumberland in its interior.

As for Georgia, it would love to have access to a large river such as the Tennessee, as you read earlier in this section.


Jimmy Ogle gives a walking tour of downtown Memphis

Tennessee’s four largest cities are Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga. You can find out a lot about the history of these cities on our COUNTY HISTORY PAGES.

Keep in mind that cities can grow and shrink; their size depends on thing that happen economically and politically. In recent years, for instance, Nashville has been adding population faster than Memphis, but this is something that could reverse at some point.

Also remember that Nashville’s “second tier” cities such as Murfreesboro, Jackson, Clarksville and Bristol are growing as well. One of them may, at some point, overtake Chattanooga in population.

Murfreesboro grew from 69,000 residents in 2000 to 109,000 in 2010. If you project that growth out over time, you can see how it might overtake Chattanooga, which had 156,000 people in 2000 and 168,000 in 2010.

For the next chapter, click here.