Going to School in Knoxville
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Area: 104.2 square miles (U.S. Census Bureau)
Elevation: Knoxville is approximately 936 feet above sea level
Knoxville is situated in the Great Appalachian Valley (known locally as the Tennessee Valley), about halfway between the Great Smoky Mountains to the east and the Cumberland Plateau to the west. Both mountain ranges modify the type of weather that plains areas at the same latitude experience by slowing and weakening cold winter air from the north and tempering hot summer winds from the west and south.
The Great Valley is part of a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains known as the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, which is characterized by long, narrow ridges, flanked by broad valleys. Prominent Ridge-and-Valley structures in the Knoxville area include Sharp's Ridge and Beaver Ridge in the northern part of the city, Brown Mountain in South Knoxville, parts of Bays Mountain just south of the city, and parts of McAnnally Ridge in the northeastern part of the city.
The Tennessee River, which slices through the downtown area, is formed in southeastern Knoxville at the confluence of the Holston River, which flows southwest from Virginia, and the French Broad River, which flows west from North Carolina. The section of the Tennessee River that passes through Knoxville is part of Fort Loudoun Lake, an artificial reservoir created by TVA's Fort Loudoun Dam about 30 miles (48 km) downstream in Lenoir City. Notable tributaries of the Tennessee in Knoxville include First Creek and Second Creek, which flow through the downtown area, Third Creek, which flows west of U.T., and Sinking Creek, Ten Mile Creek, and Turkey Creek, which drain West Knoxville.
Precipitation is usually in the form of rain, and falls primarily during the winter and in late spring, though sudden thunderstorms are also quite common in summertime and provide relief on extremely warm days in the valley. Snowfall averages approximately 12 inches annually, most often in amounts of less than four inches at one time; it rarely stays on the ground for more than a week.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 98.1 square miles (254 km2), of which, 92.7 square miles (240 km2) of it is land and 5.4 square miles (14 km2) of it is water. The total area is 5.5% water.
Elevations range from just over 800 feet (240 m) along the riverfront to just over 1,000 feet (300 m) on various hilltops in West Knoxville, with the downtown area resting at just over 900 feet (270 m). High points include Sharp's Ridge in North Knoxville at 1,391 feet (424 m) and Brown Mountain in South Knoxville at 1,260 feet (380 m). House Mountain, the highest point in Knox County at 2,064 feet (629 m), is located east of the city near Mascot.