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Ross’s Landing: A Haunted Riverwalk

A massive staircase to the river makes Ross’s Landing stand out among the bridges and arches along the Chattanooga Riverwalk, marking the place where the city first began as a white settlement within a landscape of Cherokee tribes. While the settlement first benefited both the settlers and the surrounding tribes, by 1837, the story had changed. All Cherokee residents were forced from their homes over the span of about two years and were collected at Ross Landing before embarking on the dangerous and deadly Trail of Tears to government land in Oklahoma. 


Many died along the trail, and the ghosts of those who succumbed to terrible conditions and harsh walking returned to haunt Ross Landing, where the trauma began. Years later, a devastating flood took the lives of several Chattanooga residents along the riverwalk. Residents were killed so quickly that their ghosts remained at Ross Landing, confused and looking for their way home. 


Standing on the steps of Ross Landing in the sunshine might give you a comfortable and nostalgic feeling, but set foot on the riverwalk at night, and you’ll feel a chill in the air that speaks of bloodshed, death, and fear.


Establishment Of Ross’s Landing Leads To Conflict


Ross’s Landing was established in 1816 with a trading post, a ferry landing, and a warehouse at a strategic point along the Tennessee River by a pair of brothers named John and Lewis Ross. Now located on Broad Street, the landing became the area’s epicenter for trade and commerce. 

The peace established with the settlement ran its course in 1837 when the U.S. Government initiated the eviction of Native Americans to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. This triggered the collection of all the Cherokee in the area, who were taken to Ross’s Landing and sent from there on the Trail of Tears to their new, government-appointed land. 


Cherokee legends state that a mythical, massive hawk god named Tia-Namu lived in the area on the famous Chattanooga bluff that overlooks the Tennessee River. When the Cherokee were removed, Tia-Namu fled the bluff with them, leaving a curse on the land. 


Not every Native American lived through the grueling journey that was the Trail of Tears. Many succumbed to dehydration, exhaustion, hunger, and harsh conditions on the trail. And some say the spirits of those who were roughly evicted from their homes returned to Ross’s Landing, looking for revenge and seeking to reclaim their homes. 


Death and Tragedy At The Ford


The forced eviction of the Cherokee from Ross’s Landing on the Trail of Tears left a permanent scar on the land, drenching it in the dredges of deep betrayal, loss, and devastation. And the tragic event isn’t the only mayhem to befall Ross’s Landing.


The Historic Flood of 1867


For four days straight, heavy clouds dumped inches upon inches of rain over Chattanooga in 1867, swelling the river to historic depths and creating a deadly situation for residents and business owners. Property was destroyed, and reports from the event point out witnesses seeing whole cabins floating down the river as darkness fell, creating an even more treacherous situation. 


At its height, the storm dumped enough rain to raise the river six inches every single hour. After the rain stopped, people were left homeless, property was destroyed, and many were missing, assumed dead. 


You won’t find a record of how many people died in the historic flood because it doesn’t exist. However, witnesses claimed to have seen as many as 15 bodies floating in the river throughout the storm, and many more are said to have gone unreported, swept away from Chattanooga with the storm’s fury. 


Still Searching For Home 


During the 1867 flood, the waters of the Tennessee River rose so quickly that many were caught unprepared and unaware of the real dangers they faced. Some were undoubtedly taken downstream with their homes as cabins were swept away. Others ended their lives in the unsuccessful pursuit of protecting their livestock and resources. Some took a chance and tried to cross the raging waters, only to be lost underneath the muddy surface of the Tennessee River. Still, others were surprised as they went about their daily business, taken suddenly from life and pushed into death. 


Surviving settlers, homeowners, business owners, and residents mourned those lost in the historic flood as much as they mourned their losses of property and peace of mind. However, those taken suddenly from their daily lives might not have moved on. 


Some say they see apparitions wandering the river walk, especially near Ross’s Landing – people who don’t react to anyone else on the boardwalk and seem not to know they are dead.


Ross Landing Ghost Sightings

  • Members of the Cherokee tribes who refuse to leave their homes
  • Ghosts of flood victims 
  • Cold Spots and unexplained voices


Ghosts On The Riverwalk


In the shadows of beautiful Ross’s Landing in Chattanooga lurk the remnants of a dark and tragic past, ghosts of those who have been evicted and disenfranchised, swept away by surprise currents, and murdered in cold blood. Discover more of the true and dark history behind Ross’s Landing and other haunted Chattanooga sites by visiting our other blogs, and when you’re in town, take a haunted tour of the riverwalk to experience the paranormal up close. 




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