Through the mid-1800s, the area now known as Land Between The Lakes experienced a relatively short-lived iron production industry. At one time, eight furnaces operated in present-day Land Between The Lakes. Two of those eight have survived, notably the Great Western Iron Furnace.
The Great Western Iron Furnace is located right on the Trace in southern Land Between The Lakes. It only operated for two years beginning in 1854. The preservation of the furnace is strong likely due to its limited use.
The furnace didn't last long due to it's location. What roads existed were terrible back then with transportation only available by rivers - the Tennessee and the Cumberland - which were a bit too far to make profitability practical. According to history, the furnace also experienced a labor shortage and slave insurrection.
Center Furnace is located between Hematite Lake and the Woodlands Nature Station. It is falling apart and in pretty bad shape, but there is a great self-guided tour around the ruins that explains the historical significance of the furnace and community surrounding it. You'll also learn how iron was produced with these furnaces.
Center operated during the Civil War and was one of the longest-operating furnaces during that time. Read an in-depth analysis on Center Furnace on Four Rivers Explorer.
The other six furnaces in Land Between The Lakes that aren't around any longer:
- Mammoth Furnace
- Fulton Furnace
- Empire Furnace
- Laura Furnace
- Iron Mountain Furnace
- Peytona Furnace