Is Tennessee a Good Survival Retreat Location for Preppers?
By Joel M. Skousen,
Many people new to the preparedness field often get exposed early on to the writings of survival blogger and author James Wesley Rawles (Patriots and Survivors). I have a great deal of respect for Rawles and the work he has done to get America motivated to prepared for very difficult times.
His books and tactics, however, often revolve around a civilian military-style response to both government tyranny and social unrest which is beyond the capabilities of most people. In addition, Rawles now promotes a related concept for retreating called “The American Redoubt” which consists of 3 states and parts of 2 others in the West which he feels are the only areas ultimately defensible, where Americans can and should make a final stand for liberty and survival when things really get bad.
His American Redoubt includes all of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the eastern parts of Oregon, and Washington. He envisions this area as a focal point of collecting fellow patriots who want to survive and forging them into a “Biblically-sound and Constitutionally-sound silver local currency [community] that will give it unity.” These five states he selects happen to be also highly rated in my book on Strategic Relocation, though I expand the selection to include Utah and Western Colorado as well.
But ultimate retreating to the safest areas is not within the reach of all but a few and is not without serious compromise in other important factors. I’ve consulted with people for 40 years and most just can’t just pick up and leave where they live and relocate to one of these 7 states in the far West? Does this mean no one else survives the major wars and social unrest that are looming on the horizon? Not at all.
As a relocation specialist and designer, I found safe retreat locations and helped clients develop high-security homes in every state of the union and you can too. The concept that anyone caught East of the Mississippi River is doomed is only partially valid and highly exaggerated. It is based on the fact that the largest concentrations of people are East of the Mississippi, and that high population densities are your greatest threat in a severe crisis where food and public infrastructure fails—when even good people will be forced to pillage for survival.
To be truthful, the US coastal plains east of the Appalachian chain of mountains is the most dangerous area in America since that is where the overall concentrations of people are the highest and where the level of individual preparedness is the lowest.
The areas west of this first chain of mountains will become the general destination of choice for people fleeing the East Coast. Because refugee flows will flow exclusively westward, Rawles condemns it as unsuitable (at least as to a military-style standoff) clear up to the Mississippi River and beyond.
But for the vast majority who intend to survive without directly military confrontation, there are a much wider set of alternatives. When you understand the principles of retreat location and learn to avoid the flows of refugees (who will take fairly predictable paths out of the major cities), you can find relative safety in many rural forested and elevated areas in the East. It won’t provide the same kind of long-term safety as places farther west, but you can survive. The closer to population centers in meltdown, the greater the risk of having to deal with the more criminal type of looters. And that will happen near any major metro.
But the reality of all this is that few will find the perfect solution. Each person has to prepare as best they can given each person’s limited resources and abilities to relocate. That’s why I concentrate so much on contingency planning in Strategic Relocation knowing that few people can just “up and move” to the safest locations.
Many who have done so have underestimated the costs. I know from long experience that self-sufficiency if very expensive and people underestimate the skills needed and overestimate the savings from self-sufficiency. In short, quickly exhaust their savings and end up moving back to civilization. That happened a lot of people leaving jobs and buying rural during Y2K.
Let me give you an example of the general choices for people on the East Coast. The first line of retreat is that chain of mountains to the West—we’ll call it the Appalachians generally, even though you might know it locally as the Catskills, Berkshires, Great Smokeys or Blue Ridge mountains, etc. These are the most convenient retreat sites for most people because they are closest to the suburban areas in which they live.
Having a retreat within an hour or two has its advantages in terms of access and service of the construction process, but it also has the disadvantage of being closer to the actual threats of social unrest that will flow out of the major cities. These refugee flows will concentrate on low valley roads going through the mountains as people head for other known cities first.
When they find no refuge in those other cities, the concentrations of flows further west will diminish as people drop off due to fatigue, hunger and discouragement and start foraging locally. That’s where the danger of a site close to danger comes in: eventually, desperate people will make it to rural homes and cabins even in the mountains.
Only those, who are located out of these flows, and not visible from main roads will have a chance of evading major confrontations. And, even then, I recommend a strategy of providing concealment underground so as to avoid armed confrontation whenever possible. While I don’t have the space in this article to cover all that I’ve written about as far as retreat areas in the East, I will give a review of the highest rated areas relatively within a day’s drive.
The first range of mountains can give you significant safety, but you can achieve a significantly higher level of safety going beyond the Appalachians to the high plateau regions of Tennessee and Kentucky. This massive and relatively unpopulated area is called the Cumberland Plateau—most of which falls within the state of Tennessee. A narrow section goes north into Kentucky but much of that is part of the Daniel Boone National Forest, where you can only buy land near the edge of the plateau.
Tennessee is where the most land is available on the plateau. This state is a famous battleground state with deep conservative sentiment and lots to offer in terms of lifestyle: great music, horse country, good growing climate and fine people. TN gets my best rating for a retreat state in the East. Land is relatively cheap and there is no income tax. Garden potential is good, there is lots of forest land within a tankful of gas from many large eastern cities.
I consider the Tennessee Cumberland Plateau the “redoubt of the East,” and it is my highest rated area for retreats near the East Coast. In a meltdown of the social order, by the time refugees get through the first mountain range and the numerous mountain rifts that confront them—before seeing the 1000 foot high Cumberland Plateau, they will be highly motivated to stay on the valley floor with its promise of food and civilization (the lure that keeps people on the march).
There isn’t much agriculture on the plateau (though it is fine for growing garden crops) nor large communities so there is little draw for refugees to make the trek up those slopes. What highways do lead up to the plateau cut through steep valleys and gorges and are fairly easy to block off to restrict access.
The two major cities that are closest to the plateau are Knoxville and Chattanooga. Both are very nice cities with fairly good economies that can support those who can relocate but still need to stay in the job market. The southern plateau areas are about an hour from Chattanooga and the northern areas are about the same distance and time from Knoxville. Interstate 40 cuts across the plateau and links Knoxville to Nashville. You should give it a wide berth.
The best area for those coming from Virginia and states to the northeast is the plateau area north of I-40 ranging from the Catoosa Wildlife Area on up to the Kentucky border where the Big South Fork Recreation Area is found. You have to avoid the Oak Ridge nuclear research site on the Tennessee river valley floor (a prime nuclear target during war), but the northern part of the Plateau along highway 27 from Wartburg to Winfield gets you far enough west and east of the threat area to be safe. The northern plateau area has two or three pockets of federal land which makes a nice backdrop for a retreat, especially if you find running water on your land.
The southern plateau south of I-40 has an even larger land area and is only sparsely populated. There is a small town in the middle named Spencer, but I prefer the broad forested lands further south near McMinnville, which the closest full-service valley town to the plateau. Highway 111 and 8 get you down off the plateau to the East or West sides of the plateau for shopping and jobs. Check out this area and you’ll find there is considerable safety in the East. There is hope.
Joel Skousen, is the publisher of the World Affairs Brief, a weekly news analysis and commentary service online at www.worldaffairsbrief.com Mr. Skousen’s books (The Secure Home, and Strategic Relocation—North American Guide to Safe Places) are showcased on his website www.joelskousen.com