Location: Hiwassee Island can be viewed from the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park Overlook.
Early Native American cultures occupied Hiwassee Island (aka Jolly’s Island) for thousands of years. Located at the confluence of the Tennessee River and Hiwassee River, the island was once the site of a large Mississippian Period town dating from the 11th century A.D. The Cherokees later occupied the island until it was ceded to Tennessee in the early 1800s. In 1809, a teenage Sam Houston ran away from home to live with the Cherokee people on Hiwassee Island. He lived there about three years with Oolootek (John Jolly), leader of the 300 Cherokees living on the island. He later returned to white society and grew up to become governor of Tennessee and then governor of Texas. In the 1940s, TVA sponsored archeological investigations of the island before flooding half of the landform with the development of Chickamauga Reservoir. Many of those artifacts are now housed at the McClung Museum at UT Knoxville. Today, Hiwassee Island is a Wildlife Refuge used each winter by migrating Sandhill Cranes.