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NATIVE HISTORY ASSOCIATION - Clee's Ferry

Clee's Ferry

Culture Periods Represented: Paleo, Archaic, Woodland, Mississippian

View of Clee's Ferry From Across Cumberland River

This site is named for the last ferry boat that crossed the Cumberland in Nashville, Clee's Ferry, which operated daily until just a few years ago. Of all the sites in this guide, this area will probably give you the best idea of what Nashville was like when Native Americans were the only people living here. The modern city does intrude on the atmosphere, but if you narrow your eyes you can imagine you're in another time, especially in the early morning or at sundown.

If you follow the directions to the site, you'll end up in the parking lot overlooking the bluff on the south east side of the river. Look across the river. If the water is not up too high, along the shoreline on the other side, at the bottom of the bluff, you'll see what looks like a deposit of white sand or rocks. This is actually a shell mound of the type mentioned in the Archaic Period section of the guide overview. The white sand-like material is actually river mussell shells which were piled on the river bank for thousands of years by the Indian people who lived there. This shell mound and the area on top of the bluffs are known as the Clee's Ferry site. (You’ll notice that maps of the area spell the name Cleece’s Ferry, but the name of the family which the ferry was named after was actually spelled Clee, so this guide refers to the site as Clee’s Ferry. Also note that Cleece’s Ferry refers to both boat landings on each side of the river, while the Clee’s Ferry archaeological site is located on the northwest side.)

Clee's Ferry

Clee's Ferry

The Clee's Ferry shell mound stretches for about 100 yards along the river, and extends from 100 to 200 yards away from the river bank in the direction you are facing. It also extends out into the river, below the surface of the water. The Cumberland was once much narrower than it is today. The construction of dams in the twentieth century raised the average river level quite a bit.

The white sand-like material is actually river mussell shells piled on the river bank thousands of years ago by Indians who lived here. Below is a closeup view of the shells.

Clee's Ferry

Closeup of Shells At Clee's Ferry

All four prehistoric periods are represented at the Clee's Ferry site. Paleo-Indians hunted mastodon here during the last Ice Age. Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian period villages and towns were located here - the site was occupied more or less continuously for the last 9,000 years. This pattern of long periods of occupation is typical of many Native American historical sites in Tennessee.

Clee's Ferry, Page 2

Clee's Ferry Photo Gallery Coming Soon