Wheeler Reservoir is one of nine reservoirs that create a stairway of navigable water on the Tennessee River from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Paducah, Kentucky. Along with Wilson and Pickwick reservoirs downstream, Wheeler helps cover the Muscle Shoals, the rock formations that had blocked navigation on the Tennessee River.
Today, Wheeler Reservoir is a major recreation and tourist center. Along with camping, boating, and fishing, visitors enjoy the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge several miles upstream from the dam. The refuge features Alabamas only significant concentration of wintering Canada geese.
Barge traffic on Wheeler has made it one of the major centers along the Tennessee waterway for shoreline industrial development. Private industry has invested about $1.3 billion in the waterfront plants and terminals at Decatur, Alabama, the largest city on the reservoir.
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