Quantitative MRI measures of multiexponential T(2) relaxation and magnetization transfer were acquired from six samples of excised and fixed rat spinal cord and compared with quantitative histology. MRI and histology data were analyzed from six white matter tracts, each of which possessed unique microanatomic characteristics (axon diameter and myelin thickness, in particular) but a relatively constant volume fraction of myelin. The results indicated that multiexponential T(2) relaxation characteristics varied substantially with variation of microanatomy, while the magnetization transfer characteristics remained close to constant. The most-often-cited multiexponential T(2) relaxation metric, myelin water fraction, varied by almost a factor of 2 between two regions with myelin volume fractions that differed by only approximately 12%. Based on the quantitative histology, the proposed explanation for this variation was intercompartmental water exchange, which caused the underestimation of myelin water fraction and T(2) values and is, presumably, a greater factor in white matter regions where axons are small and myelin is thin. In contrast to the multiexponential T(2) relaxation observations, magnetization transfer metrics were relatively constant across white matter tracts and concluded to be relatively insensitive to intercompartmental water exchange.