The Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association (TSRA) is a volunteer organization dedicated to the preservation, protection and restoration of the scenic, free-flowing rivers of our state. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, the organization has approximately 1,000 members across the state and the south.
In June 1966, two friends, Robert Miller and Tony Statler, were floating the Collins River, fishing for trout. They had heard about the Corps of Engineers' plans to channelize the river and said to each other, "We can't let this happen." In September, a group, including Miller, Statler, Don Bodley, Bill Griswold, Bill Mitchum and Bill and Lee Russell (of Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning [TCWP]) gathered at Blakemore Methodist Church in Nashville and formed the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association.
The group's initial objective was to protect rivers. Together with TCWP, TSRA campaigned hard for state and national scenic rivers legislation. In fact Tennessee's Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 was the first such comprehensive act in the nation. National scenic rivers legislation followed a year later, and rivers like the Obed and the Big South Fork received national scenic status.
The group began floating rivers like the Collins and Buffalo. Other group trips followed, and eventually paddlers got the urge for whitewater. Dick Wooten remembers an early trip on Spring Creek. Describing it as "a debacle," Wooten declined to name names or provide any further details.
This led to club members seeking out training in canoeing. In 1970 the club offered its first school, one of the first such training events in the United States. This desire to nurture paddling skills eventually grew into the instruction program TSRA offers today.
TSRA remains active in conservation issues, joining with other groups to combat threats to rivers like Dry Fork near Spencer and threats to entire watershed areas posed by practices like mountain top removal coal mining. Our members "adopt" streams to monitor health, and we conduct cleanups on rivers and streams. We enjoy club-sponsored trips year-round and offer instruction in sea kayak, whitewater canoe, C-1 and kayak, as well as self rescue, swiftwater rescue, CPR, trip leader seminar and Wilderness First Aid.
But most of all, we enjoy the friendships we form around the issues that unite us, the rivers we enjoy and the sport that keeps us young. Come paddle with us.
TSRA has an on-going video/audio history project featuring interviews and conversations with some of the founding members. Here is a short Quicktime movie, (2MB) "The Genesis of TSRA with Bob Miller"