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American waterway linking the Tennessee River in northeastern Mississippi with the Tombigbee River in western Alabama. The 234-mile (376-kilometre) system of locks and canals along the upper Tombigbee River south to Demopolis, Ala., gives access via the lower Tombigbee to the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile, Ala. The waterway was built (1971-84) to provide an alternate and shorter route to the Gulf than the Mississippi River for Appalachian coal and agricultural products from neighbouring Southern states, as well as to draw more businesses to the region. Barge traffic began moving along the system in January 1985.