I’m currently reading a book of short stories called Something Rich and Strange by Ron Rash. Some of the stories take place along the Tuckaseegee River. “Oh, no,” I thought. “Here’s another American river I have never heard of featured in a book.” After learning something about the Tuckaseegee, I’m not so surprised that I’ve never heard of it. The entire river flows only in North Carolina and is 60 miles long. The main town on it, Sylva, is also unknown to me. Sylva has about 2,500 residents.
The Tuckaseegee is, despite its shortness, an important river. Considered a Gateway to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the Tuckaseegee is an important fishing river that starred in an award winning 1993 Harrison Ford movie called The Fugitive. It’s name derives from the Native American Cherokee word for turtle place.
I wonder if Mr. Rash is familiar with the Meramec River. I grew up on this river that begins near Salem, MO and flows eastward to the Mississippi River. It’s 218 miles long and troublesome. It floods a lot and some of its floaters drown. Yes, it’s a popular river for sport. One time Ruth and I paddled around in circles on the Meramec and kept falling out of the canoe.
When we moved to Washington, we had to get used to a whole new set of unknown rivers like The Skookumchuck. Washington’s rainy climate feeds hundreds of streams. The Skookumchuck is only 45 miles long and flows into the larger Chehalis River. Its name reminds me, for unknown reasons, of the Kuskokwim River in Alaska. 702 miles long, the Kuskokwim is the 19th longest river in North America and flows into the Bering Sea. There are 10 major rivers in Alaska, and I bet few people know their names. Ever heard of the 510 mile long Innoko River, for example? Neither had I.
But I am familiar with the 906-mile-long Canadian River. A major tributary of the Arkansas River that my hydrologist friend Don insisted, probably correctly, on pronouncing Are can sus, the Canadian starts in Colorado and flows for many miles to join the Arkansas River.
Now I can name the 3rd oldest river in the world. The familiar Susquehanna is 300 million years old. Considered a major river, the Susquehanna flows for 444 miles through 3 states, has more than one branch, and generally empties into Chesapeake Bay. The 4th oldest river in the world is the French Broad River. Ever heard of it? It’s not too far from the Tuckaseegee.