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The Ohio River is a long
river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of wate ...

river
in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
. It is located at the boundary of the
Midwestern The midwestern United States, often referred to simply as the Midwest, is one of four census regions of the United States Census Bureau The United States Census Bureau (USCB), officially the Bureau of the Census, is a principal agency of ...
and
Southern United States The Southern United States, also referred to as the Southern States, the American South, Dixie, the Southland, or simply the South, is a geographic and cultural region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally ...
, flowing southwesterly from far-western
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania ( , elsewhere ; pdc, Pennsilfaani), officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean or whose coastlines lie on endorheic basi ...

Pennsylvania
south of
Lake Erie Lake Erie (; french: Lac Érié) is the fourth largest lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, surrounded by land, apart from any river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowin ...

Lake Erie
to its
mouth In animal anatomy Anatomy (Greek ''anatomē'', 'dissection') is the branch of biology concerned with the study of the structure of organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is ...

mouth
on the
Mississippi River The Mississippi River is the List of longest rivers of the United States (by main stem), second-longest river and chief river of the second-largest Drainage system (geomorphology), drainage system on the North American continent, second only to ...

Mississippi River
at the southern tip of
Illinois Illinois ( ) is a in the region of the . Of the fifty U.S. states, it has the , population, and the . is the state's largest city and the fifth with the capital in , located in the center of the state; other major metropolitan areas in ...

Illinois
. It is the third largest river by discharge volume in the United States and the largest
tributary A tributary, or affluent, is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or main stem (or parent) river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean. Tributaries and the main stem river drain the surrounding drainage ba ...
by volume of the north-south flowing Mississippi River that divides the eastern from western United States. The river flows through or along the
border Borders are boundaries of or legal s, such as s, , , and other . Borders are established through agreements between political or social entities that control those areas; the creation of these agreements is called . Some borders—such as mos ...

border
of six
states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
, and its
drainage basin A drainage basin is any area of land where precipitation In meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences Atmospheric science is the study of the Earth's atmosphere File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Compos ...

drainage basin
includes parts of 14 states. Through its largest tributary, the
Tennessee River in Decatur, Alabama. , crossing the Tennessee River in Cherokee, Alabama The Tennessee River is the largest tributary A tributary, or affluent, is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or main stem (or parent) river or a lake ...

Tennessee River
, the basin includes several states of the southeastern U.S. It is the source of
drinking water Drinking water, also known as potable water, is that is safe to or use for . The amount of drinking water required to maintain good health varies, and depends on physical activity level, age, health-related issues, and environmental conditions ...

drinking water
for three million people. The lower Ohio River just below Louisville is obstructed by rapids known as the
Falls of the Ohio The Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Conservation Area is a national, bi-state area on the Ohio River The Ohio River is a long river in the United States. It is located in the Midwestern United States, Midwestern and Southern United States, ...
where the water level falls in and is impassable for navigation. Completion of the
McAlpine Locks and Dam The McAlpine Locks and Dam are a set of canal locks, locks and a hydroelectric dam at the Falls of the Ohio River at Louisville, Kentucky. They are located at mile point 606.8, and control a long navigation pool. The locks and their associated can ...

McAlpine Locks and Dam
, a shipping
canal Canals are waterways channels Channel, channels, channeling, etc., may refer to: Geography * Channel (geography), in physical geography, a landform consisting of the outline (banks) of the path of a narrow body of water. Australia * ...

canal
bypassing the rapids, allows commercial navigation from the
Forks of the Ohio Point State Park (locally known as The Point) is a Pennsylvania state park on in Downtown Pittsburgh Downtown Pittsburgh, colloquially referred to as the Golden Triangle, and officially the Central Business District, is the urban downtown cente ...

Forks of the Ohio
at
Pittsburgh Pittsburgh ( ) is a city in the Commonwealth (U.S. state), Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the United States and the county seat of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Allegheny County. A population of 302,971 residents lives within the city limit ...

Pittsburgh
to the
Port of New Orleans The Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) is an embarkation port for cruise passengers. It is also Louisiana’s only international container port. Port NOLA generates $100 million in revenue annually through its four lines of business – cargo (46%) ...

Port of New Orleans
at the mouth of the Mississippi on the Gulf of Mexico. The name "Ohio" comes from the
Seneca Seneca may refer to: People and language *Seneca (name), a list of people with either the given name or surname *Seneca the Elder, a Roman rhetorician, writer and father of the stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger *Seneca the Younger, a Roman Stoi ...
, , lit. "Good River". European discovery of the Ohio River may be attributed to
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...
explorers from
Virginia Virginia (), officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a in the and regions of the , between the and the . The geography and climate of the are shaped by the and the , which provide habitat for much of its flora and fauna. The capit ...
in the latter half of the 17th century. In his ''
Notes on the State of Virginia ''Notes on the State of Virginia'' (1785) is a book written by the American statesman, philosopher, and planter Thomas Jefferson. He completed the first version in 1781 and updated and enlarged the book in 1782 and 1783. It originated in Jefferso ...
'' published in 1781–82,
Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and who served as the third from 1801 to 1809. He had previously served as the second under and as the first under ...

Thomas Jefferson
stated: "The Ohio is the most beautiful river on earth. Its current gentle, waters clear, and bosom smooth and unbroken by rocks and rapids, a single instance only excepted." In the late 18th century, the river was the southern boundary of the
Northwest Territory The Northwest Territory, also known as the Old Northwest and formally known as the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio, was formed from unorganized western territory of the United States after the . Established in 1787 by the through the , ...

Northwest Territory
. It became a primary transportation route for pioneers during the westward expansion of the early U.S. Today, the Ohio River is one of the most polluted rivers in the United States. The river is sometimes considered as the western extension of the
Mason–Dixon Line The Mason-Dixon line, also called the Mason and Dixon line or Mason's and Dixon's line, is a demarcation line{{Refimprove, date=January 2008 A political demarcation line is a geopolitical border, often agreed upon as part of an armistice o ...
that divided
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania ( , elsewhere ; pdc, Pennsilfaani), officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean or whose coastlines lie on endorheic basi ...

Pennsylvania
from
Maryland Maryland ( ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper ...

Maryland
, and thus part of the border between free and
slave Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as their property Property is a system of rights that gives ...
territory, and between the Northern and
Southern United States The Southern United States, also referred to as the Southern States, the American South, Dixie, the Southland, or simply the South, is a geographic and cultural region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally ...
or
Upper South The Upland South or Upper South is a cultural and geographic subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the ...
. Where the river was narrow, it was crossed by thousands of slaves escaping to the North for freedom; many were helped by free blacks and whites of the
Underground Railroad#REDIRECT Underground Railroad The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is ...
resistance movement. The Ohio River is a climatic transition area, as its water runs along the periphery of the
humid subtropical A humid subtropical climate is a zone of climate characterized by hot and humid summers, and cold to mild winters. These climates normally lie on the southeast side of all continents, generally between latitudes 25° and 40° (sometimes 45°) a ...
and
humid continental A humid continental climate is a climate, climatic region defined by Russo-German climatologist Wladimir Köppen in 1900, typified by four distinct seasons and large seasonal temperature differences, with warm to hot (and often humid) summers and ...
climate areas. It is inhabited by fauna and flora of both climates. In winter, it regularly freezes over at
Pittsburgh Pittsburgh ( ) is a city in the Commonwealth (U.S. state), Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the United States and the county seat of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Allegheny County. A population of 302,971 residents lives within the city limit ...

Pittsburgh
but rarely farther south toward
Cincinnati Cincinnati ( ) is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Hamilton County, Ohio, Hamilton County. Settled in 1788, the city is located at the northern side of the confluence of the Licking River (Kentucky), Licking and Ohio Riv ...

Cincinnati
and
Louisville Louisville (, , ) is the largest city A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The complexity of a settlement can ra ...
. In places like
Paducah, Kentucky Paducah ( ) is a List of cities in Kentucky, home rule-class city in and the county seat of McCracken County, Kentucky, United States. The largest city in the Jackson Purchase region, it is located at the confluence of the Tennessee River, Tenness ...

Paducah, Kentucky
and Owensboro, Kentucky in the South near the Ohio's confluence with the Mississippi, it is ice-free year-round.


Etymology

The name "Ohio" comes from the
Seneca language Seneca (; in Seneca, or ) is the language of the Seneca people, one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois League; it is an Iroquoian language, spoken at the time of contact in the western portion of New York. While the name ''Seneca'', attested as ea ...
(an
Iroquoian language The Iroquoian languages are a language family of indigenous peoples of the Americas, indigenous peoples of North America. They are known for their general lack of labial consonants. The Iroquoian languages are polysynthetic language, polysynthet ...

Iroquoian language
), (roughly pronounced oh-hee-yoh, with the vowel in "hee" held longer), a proper name derived from ("good river"), therefore literally translating to "Good River". "Great river" and "large creek" have also been given as translations. Native Americans, including the
Lenni Lenape The Lenape ( or ), also called the Leni Lenape, Lenni Lenape and Delaware people, are an indigenous people of the Northeastern Woodlands, who live in the United States and Canada. Their historical territory included present-day New Jersey ...
and
Iroquois The Iroquois ( or ) or Haudenosaunee (; "People of the Longhouse") are an indigenous Indigenous may refer to: *Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous pe ...

Iroquois
, considered the Ohio and Allegheny rivers as the same, as is suggested by a New York State road sign on Interstate 86 that refers to the Allegheny River also as . Similarly, the
Geographic Names Information System The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) is a database of name and locative information about more than two million physical and cultural features throughout the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as t ...
lists ''O-hee-yo'' and ''O-hi-o'' as variant names for the Allegheny. An earlier Miami-Illinois language name was also applied to the Ohio River, ("river of the
Mosopelea The Mosopelea, or Ofo, were a Siouan-speaking Native American people who historically inhabited the upper Ohio River The Ohio River is a long river in the United States. It is located in the Midwestern United States, Midwestern and Southern U ...
" tribe). Shortened in the
Shawnee language The Shawnee language is a Central Algonquian languages, Algonquian language spoken in parts of central and northeastern Oklahoma by the Shawnee people. It was originally spoken by these people in a broad territory throughout the Eastern United St ...
to , or , the name evolved through variant forms such as "Polesipi", "Peleson", "Pele Sipi" and "Pere Sipi", and eventually stabilized to the variant spellings "Pelisipi", "Pelisippi" and "Pellissippi". Originally applied just to the Ohio River, the "Pelisipi" name later was variously applied back and forth between the Ohio River and the
Clinch River The Clinch River rises near Tazewell, Virginia, and flows southwest for more than through the Great Appalachian Valley, gathering various tributary, tributaries, including the Powell River (Virginia), Powell River, before joining the Tennessee Ri ...

Clinch River
in
Virginia Virginia (), officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), '' ...

Virginia
and
Tennessee Tennessee (, ), officially the State of Tennessee, is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The S ...

Tennessee
. In his original draft of the
Land Ordinance of 1784 The Ordinance of 1784 (enacted April 23, 1784) called for the land in the recently created United States of America west of the Appalachian Mountains The Appalachian Mountains, often called the Appalachians, are a system of mountains in east ...
,
Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and who served as the third from 1801 to 1809. He had previously served as the second under and as the first under ...

Thomas Jefferson
proposed a new state called "Pelisipia", to the south of the Ohio River, which would have included parts of present-day Eastern
Kentucky Kentucky ( , ), officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ...
, Virginia and
West Virginia West Virginia () is a U.S. state, state in the Appalachian region, Appalachian, Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States, Southeastern regions of the United States.The United States Census Bureau, Census Burea ...
.


History


Precolumbian

The river had great significance in the history of the
Native Americans Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Columbian peoples of North and South America and their descendants * Native Americans in the United States * Indigenous peoples in Canada, the indigenous p ...
, as numerous prehistoric and historic civilizations formed along its valley. For thousands of years, Native Americans used the river as a major transportation and trading route. Its waters connected communities. In the five centuries before European conquest, the
Mississippian culture The Mississippian culture was a Native American Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Columbian peoples of North and South America and their descendants * Native Americans in the United Stat ...
built numerous regional
chiefdom A chiefdom is a form of hierarchical political organization in non-industrial societies usually based on kinship In anthropology, kinship is the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of all humans in all soci ...
s and major earthwork mounds in the Ohio Valley like the
Angel Mounds Angel Mounds State Historic Site ( 12 VG 1), an expression of the Mississippian culture, is an archaeological site managed by the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites that includes more than of land about southeast of present-day Evansville ...
near
Evansville, Indiana Evansville is a city in and the county seat A county seat is an administrative centerAn administrative centre is a seat of regional administration or local government Local government is a generic term for the lowest tiers of public adminis ...
as well as in the
Mississippi Valley The Mississippi River is the second-longest river and chief river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases a river flows into the ground and becomes ...

Mississippi Valley
and the Southeast. The historic Osage,
Omaha Omaha ( ) is the largest city in the U.S. state In the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in Nort ...
,
Ponca The Ponca ( Páⁿka iyé: Páⁿka or Ppáⁿkka pronounced ) are a Midwestern United States, Midwestern Native Americans in the United States, Native American tribe of the Dhegihan branch of the Siouan languages, Siouan language group. There ar ...
, and Kaw peoples lived in the Ohio Valley. Under pressure over the fur trade from the
Iroquois The Iroquois ( or ) or Haudenosaunee (; "People of the Longhouse") are an indigenous Indigenous may refer to: *Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous pe ...

Iroquois
nations to the northeast, they migrated west of the Mississippi River in the 17th century to the territory now defined as
Missouri Missouri is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in ...

Missouri
,
Arkansas Arkansas () is a U.S. state, state in the South Central United States, South Central region of the United States, home to more than three million people as of 2018. Its name is from the Osage language, a Dhegihan languages, Dhegiha Siouan la ...

Arkansas
, and
Oklahoma Oklahoma () is a U.S. state, state in the South Central United States, South Central region of the United States, bordered by the state of Texas on the south and west, Kansas on the north, Missouri on the northeast, Arkansas on the east, New ...
.


European discovery

Several accounts exist of the discovery and traversal of the Ohio River by Europeans in the latter half of the 17th century: Virginian colonist
Abraham Wood Abraham Wood (1610–1682), sometimes referred to as "General" or "Colonel" Wood, was an English fur trade The fur trade is a worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of animal fur. Since the establishment of a world fur market ...
's trans-Appalachian expeditions between 1654 and 1664; Frenchman
Robert de La Salle The name Robert is an ancient Germanic given name, from Proto-Germanic "fame" and "bright" (Hrōþiberhtaz). Compare Old Dutch ''Robrecht'' and Old High German ''Hrodebert'' (a compound of ''Hrōþ, Hruod'' (Old Norse: Hróðr) "fame, glory ...
's putative Ohio expedition of 1669; and two expeditions of Virginians sponsored by Colonel Wood: the Batts and Fallam expedition of 1671, and the Needham and Arthur expedition of 1673-74. The first known European to traverse the length of the river, from the headwaters of the Allegheny to its mouth on the Mississippi, was a Dutchman from New York, Arnout Viele, in 1692.


Exploration and settlement

In 1749, the
Ohio Company The Ohio Company, formally known as the Ohio Company of Virginia, was a land speculation company organized for the settlement by Virginians of the Ohio Country (approximately the present state of Ohio) and to trade with the Native Americans. The ...
was established in the
Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of Kingdom of Great Britain, British colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America. Founded in the 17th and 18th centuries, th ...
to settle and trade in the Ohio River region. Exploration of the territory and trade with the Indians in the region near the Forks brought white colonists from both
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania ( , elsewhere ; pdc, Pennsilfaani), officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean or whose coastlines lie on endorheic basi ...
and Virginia across the mountains, and both colonies claimed the territory. The movement across the Allegheny Mountains of Anglo-American settlers and the claims of the area near modern-day Pittsburgh led to conflict with the French, who had forts in the
Ohio River Valley The Ohio River is a long river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course with ...
. This conflict was called the
French and Indian War The French and Indian War (1754–1763) was a theater of the Seven Years' War The Seven Years' War (1756–1763) is widely considered to be the first global conflict in history, and was a struggle for world supremacy between Great Britain ...

French and Indian War
, and would merge into the global Anglo-French struggle, the
Seven Years' War The Seven Years' War (1756–1763) is widely considered to be the first global conflict in history, and was a struggle for world supremacy between Kingdom of Great Britain, Great Britain and Kingdom of France, France. In Europe, the conflict ar ...
. In 1763, following its defeat in the war, France ceded its area east of the Mississippi River to
Britain Britain usually refers to: * United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United ...

Britain
in the 1763 Treaty of Paris. The 1768
Treaty of Fort Stanwix The Treaty of Fort Stanwix was a treaty signed between representatives from the Iroquois The Iroquois ( or ) or Haudenosaunee (; "People of the Longhouse") are an indigenous confederacy in northeast North America. They were known during t ...
with several tribes opened Kentucky to colonial settlement and established the Ohio River as a southern boundary for American Indian territory. In 1774 the
Quebec Act The Quebec Act 1774 (french: Acte de Québec), formally known as the British North America (Quebec) Act 1774, was an Act of Parliament, act of the Parliament of Great Britain (citation 14 Geo. III c. 83) setting procedures of governance in the ...
restored the land east of the Mississippi River and north of the Ohio River to
Quebec ) , image_shield=Armoiries du Québec.svg , image_flag=Flag of Quebec.svg , coordinates= , AdmittanceDate=July 1, 1867 , AdmittanceOrder=1st, with New Brunswick ("Hope restored") , image_map = New Brunswick in Canada 2.svg , ...
, in effect making the Ohio the southern boundary of
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, Pacific and northward into the Arctic Oce ...

Canada
. This appeased
French Canadians French Canadians (referred to as Canadiens mainly before the twentieth century ; french: Canadiens français, ; feminine form: , ) are an ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identity (social science), identif ...
in Quebec but angered the colonists of the
Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of Kingdom of Great Britain, British colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America. Founded in the 17th and 18th centuries, th ...
.
Lord Dunmore's War Lord Dunmore's War—or Dunmore's War—was a 1774 conflict between the Colony of Virginia , legislature = House of Burgesses (1619–1776) , today = , demonym = , area_km2=, area_rank=, GDP_PPP=, GDP_PPP ...
south of the Ohio river also contributed to cession of land north to Quebec to prevent colonial expansion onto Native American territory. During the
Revolutionary WarRevolutionary War(s) may refer to: * American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), the armed conflict between Great Britain and 13 of its North American colonies, which had declared themselves the independent United States of America * French Revolution ...
. in 1776 the British military engineer John Montrésor created a map of the river showing the strategic location of Fort Pitt, including specific navigational information about the Ohio River's rapids and tributaries in that area. However, the 1783 Treaty of Paris gave the entire Ohio Valley to the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
, and numerous white settlers entered the region. The economic connection of the
Ohio Country upright=1.75, The Ohio Country with battles and massacres between 1775 and 1794 The Ohio Country (sometimes called the Ohio TerritoryA misnomer since it was never an organized territory of the United States or of any other nation or Ohio Valley b ...
to the East was significantly increased in 1818 when the
National Road The National Road (also known as the Cumberland Road) was the first major improved highway in the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country ...

National Road
being built westward from
Cumberland, Maryland Cumberland is a U.S. city in and the county seat of Allegany County, Maryland, Allegany County, Maryland. It is the primary city of the Cumberland, MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area. At the 2020 United States Census, 2020 census, the city had a ...
reached Wheeling, Virginia (now
West Virginia West Virginia () is a U.S. state, state in the Appalachian region, Appalachian, Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States, Southeastern regions of the United States.The United States Census Bureau, Census Burea ...
), providing an easier overland connection from the
Potomac River The Potomac River () is found within the Mid-AtlanticMid-Atlantic or Mid Atlantic can refer to: *The middle of the Atlantic Ocean *Mid-Atlantic English, a mix between British English and American English *Mid-Atlantic Region (Little League World ...

Potomac River
to the Ohio River. The
Wheeling Suspension Bridge The Wheeling Suspension Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the main channel of the Ohio River The Ohio River is a long river in the United States. It is located in the Midwestern United States, Midwestern and Southern United States, flowi ...

Wheeling Suspension Bridge
was built over the river at Wheeling from 1847 to 1849, making the trip west easier. For a brief time, until 1851, it was the world's largest suspension bridge. The bridge survived the
American Civil War The American Civil War (also known by Names of the American Civil War, other names) was a civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865, fought between northern U.S. state, states loyal to the Union (American Civil War), Union and sout ...
, after having been improved in 1859. It was renovated again in 1872, and remains in use as the oldest vehicular suspension bridge in the U.S.
Louisville Louisville (, , ) is the largest city A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The complexity of a settlement can ra ...
was founded in 1779 at the only major natural navigational barrier on the river, the
Falls of the Ohio The Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Conservation Area is a national, bi-state area on the Ohio River The Ohio River is a long river in the United States. It is located in the Midwestern United States, Midwestern and Southern United States, ...
. The Falls were a series of rapids where the river dropped in a stretch of about . In this area, the river flowed over hard, fossil-rich beds of
limestone Limestone is a common type of carbonate In chemistry, a carbonate is a salt Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of Salt (chemistry), salts; salt in its na ...

limestone
. The first
locks Lock may refer to: *Lock and key, a mechanical device used to secure items of importance. *Lock (water navigation), a device for boats to transit between different levels of water Arts, entertainment, and media *Lock (film), ''Lock'' (film), a ...
on the river the
Louisville and Portland Canal after many enlargements. The Louisville and Portland Canal was a canal bypassing Falls of the Ohio, the Falls of the Ohio River The Ohio River is a long river in the United States. It is located in the Midwestern United States, Midwestern and ...
were built between 1825 and 1830 to circumnavigate the falls. Fears that Louisville's transshipment industry would collapse proved ill-founded: but the increasing size of steamships and barges on the river meant that the outdated locks could serve only the smallest vessels until well after the
Civil War A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war between organized groups within the same Sovereign state, state (or country). The aim of one side may be to take control of the country or a region, to achieve independen ...
when improvements were made. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers improvements were expanded again in the 1960s, forming the present-day
McAlpine Locks and Dam The McAlpine Locks and Dam are a set of canal locks, locks and a hydroelectric dam at the Falls of the Ohio River at Louisville, Kentucky. They are located at mile point 606.8, and control a long navigation pool. The locks and their associated can ...

McAlpine Locks and Dam
.


Nineteenth century

During the nineteenth century, emigrants from Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky traveled by the river and settled along its northern bank. Known as butternuts, they formed the dominant culture in the southern portions of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois with a society that was primarily Southern United States, Southern in culture. Largely devoted to agricultural pursuits, they shipped much of their produce along the river to ports such as Cincinnati. Because the Ohio River flowed westward, it became a convenient means of westward movement by pioneers traveling from western Pennsylvania. After reaching the mouth of the Ohio, settlers would travel north on the Mississippi River to St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri. There, some continued on up the Missouri River, some up the Mississippi, and some farther west over land routes. In the early 19th century, river pirates such as Samuel Mason, operating out of Cave-In-Rock, Illinois, waylaid travelers on their way down the river. They killed travelers, stealing their goods and scuttling their boats. The folktales about Mike Fink recall the keelboats used for commerce in the early days of American settlement. The Ohio River boatmen inspired performer Dan Emmett, who in 1843 wrote the song "The Boatman's Dance". Trading boats and ships traveled south on the Mississippi to New Orleans, and sometimes beyond to the Gulf of Mexico and other ports in the Americas and Europe. This provided a much-needed export route for goods from the west since the trek east over the Appalachian Mountains was long and arduous. The need for access to the port of New Orleans by settlers in the Ohio Valley is one of the factors that led to the United States' Louisiana Purchase in 1803.


Free states border

Because the river is the southern border of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, it was part of the border between free states and slave states in the years before the
American Civil War The American Civil War (also known by Names of the American Civil War, other names) was a civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865, fought between northern U.S. state, states loyal to the Union (American Civil War), Union and sout ...
. The expression "sold down the river" originated as a lament of Upper South slaves, especially from Kentucky, who were shipped via the Ohio and Mississippi to cotton and sugar plantations in the Deep South. Changes in crops cultivated in the Upper South resulted in slaves available to be sold to the South, where the expansion of cotton plantations was doing very well. Invention of the cotton gin made cultivation of short-staple cotton profitable throughout the Black Belt of this region. Before and during the Civil War, the Ohio River was called the "River Jordan" by slaves crossing it to escape to freedom in the North via the
Underground Railroad#REDIRECT Underground Railroad The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is ...
. More escaping slaves, estimated in the thousands, made their perilous journey north to freedom across the Ohio River than anywhere else across the north-south frontier. Harriet Beecher Stowe's ''Uncle Tom's Cabin'', the bestselling novel that fueled abolitionist work, was the best known of the anti-slavery novels that portrayed such escapes across the Ohio. The times have been expressed by 20th-century novelists as well, such as the Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Prize-winning Toni Morrison, whose novel ''Beloved (novel), Beloved'' was adapted as a film of the same name. She also composed the libretto for the opera ''Margaret Garner'' (2005), based on the life and trial of an enslaved woman who escaped with her family across the river.


State border dispute

The colonial charter for Virginia defined its territory as extending to the north shore of the Ohio, so that the riverbed was "owned" by Virginia. Where the river serves as a boundary between states today, Congress designated the entire river to belong to the states on the east and south, i.e., West Virginia and Kentucky at the time of admission to the Union, that were divided from Virginia. Thus Wheeling Island, the largest inhabited island in the Ohio River, belongs to West Virginia, although it is closer to the Ohio shore than to the West Virginia shore. Kentucky sued the state of Indiana in the early 1980s because of their construction of the never-completed Marble Hill Nuclear Power Plant in Indiana, which would have discharged its waste water into the river. This would have adversely affected Kentucky's water supplies. The Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. Supreme Court held that Kentucky's jurisdiction (and, implicitly, that of West Virginia) extended only to the low-water mark of 1793 (important because the river has been extensively dammed for navigation so that the present river bank is north of the old low-water mark.) Similarly, in the 1990s, Kentucky challenged Illinois's right to collect taxes on Harrah's Metropolis, a riverboat casino docked in Metropolis, Illinois, Metropolis, citing its own control of the entire river. Tropicana Evansville, A private casino riverboat that docked in
Evansville, Indiana Evansville is a city in and the county seat A county seat is an administrative centerAn administrative centre is a seat of regional administration or local government Local government is a generic term for the lowest tiers of public adminis ...
, on the Ohio River opened about the same time. Although such boats cruised on the Ohio River in an oval pattern up and down, the state of Kentucky soon protested. Other states had to limit their cruises to going forward, then reversing and going backward on the Indiana shore only. Both Illinois and Indiana have long since changed their laws to allow riverboat casinos to be permanently docked, with Illinois changing in 1999 and Indiana in 2002.


Bridge collapse

The Silver Bridge at Point Pleasant, West Virginia collapsed into the river on December 15, 1967. The collapse killed 46 people who had been crossing when the bridge failed. The bridge had been built in 1929, and by 1967 was carrying too heavy a load for its design. The bridge was rebuilt about one mile downstream and in service as the Silver Memorial Bridge in 1969.


Conservation area

In the early 1980s, the Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Conservation Area was established at Clarksville, Indiana.


Ecology

The Ohio River as a whole is ranked as the most polluted river in the United States, based on 2009 and 2010 data. The more industrial and regional West Virginia/Pennsylvania tributary, the Monongahela River, ranked 17th for water pollution, behind 16 other American rivers. The Ohio again ranked as the most polluted in 2013, and has been the most polluted river since at least 2001, according to the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO). The Commission found that 92% of toxic discharges were nitrates, including farm runoff and waste water from industrial processes such as steel production. The Commission also noted mercury pollution as an ongoing concern, citing a 500% increase in mercury discharges between 2007 and 2013. For several decades beginning in the 1950s, the Ohio River was polluted with hundreds of thousands of pounds of Perfluorooctanoic acid, PFOA, a fluoride-based chemical used in making teflon, among other things, by the DuPont chemical company from an outflow pipe at its Parkersburg, West Virginia, facility.


Economy

The Ohio River is extensively industrialized and populated. Regular barge traffic carries cargoes of oil, steel and other industrial goods produced in the region. Major cities located along the northern and southern banks of the river include Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Louisville, Kentucky;
Evansville, Indiana Evansville is a city in and the county seat A county seat is an administrative centerAn administrative centre is a seat of regional administration or local government Local government is a generic term for the lowest tiers of public adminis ...
; and Cincinnati, Ohio.


Geography and hydrography

The combined Allegheny-Ohio river is long and carries the largest volume of water of any tributary of the Mississippi. The Indians and early European explorers and settlers of the region often considered the Allegheny to be part of the Ohio. The Point State Park, forks (the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers at what is now Pittsburgh) were considered a strategic military location by colonial French and British, and later independent American military authorities. The Ohio River is formed by the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela River, Monongahela rivers at what is now Point State Park in
Pittsburgh Pittsburgh ( ) is a city in the Commonwealth (U.S. state), Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the United States and the county seat of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Allegheny County. A population of 302,971 residents lives within the city limit ...

Pittsburgh
,
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania ( , elsewhere ; pdc, Pennsilfaani), officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean or whose coastlines lie on endorheic basi ...

Pennsylvania
. From there, it flows northwest through Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Allegheny and Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Beaver counties, before making an abrupt turn to the south-southwest at the
West Virginia West Virginia () is a U.S. state, state in the Appalachian region, Appalachian, Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States, Southeastern regions of the United States.The United States Census Bureau, Census Burea ...
–Ohio–Pennsylvania triple-state line (near East Liverpool, Ohio; Chester, West Virginia; and Ohioville, Pennsylvania). From there, it forms the border between West Virginia and Ohio, upstream of Wheeling, West Virginia. The river follows a roughly southwest and then west-northwest course until Cincinnati, before bending to a west-southwest course for most of the remainder of its length. The course forms the northern borders of West Virginia and
Kentucky Kentucky ( , ), officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ...
; and the southern borders of Ohio, Indiana and
Illinois Illinois ( ) is a in the region of the . Of the fifty U.S. states, it has the , population, and the . is the state's largest city and the fifth with the capital in , located in the center of the state; other major metropolitan areas in ...

Illinois
, until it joins the
Mississippi River The Mississippi River is the List of longest rivers of the United States (by main stem), second-longest river and chief river of the second-largest Drainage system (geomorphology), drainage system on the North American continent, second only to ...

Mississippi River
at the city of Cairo, Illinois. Where the Ohio joins the Mississippi is the lowest elevation in the state of Illinois, at . The Mississippi River flows to the Gulf of Mexico on the Atlantic Ocean. Among rivers wholly or mostly in the United States, the Ohio is the second largest by discharge volume and the tenth longest and has the eighth largest drainage basin. It serves to separate the
Midwestern The midwestern United States, often referred to simply as the Midwest, is one of four census regions of the United States Census Bureau The United States Census Bureau (USCB), officially the Bureau of the Census, is a principal agency of ...
Great Lakes states from the Upper South states, which were historically Border states (American Civil War), border states in the Civil War. The Ohio River is a left (east) and the largest
tributary A tributary, or affluent, is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or main stem (or parent) river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean. Tributaries and the main stem river drain the surrounding drainage ba ...
by volume of the
Mississippi River The Mississippi River is the List of longest rivers of the United States (by main stem), second-longest river and chief river of the second-largest Drainage system (geomorphology), drainage system on the North American continent, second only to ...

Mississippi River
in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
. At the confluence, the Ohio is considerably bigger than the Mississippi, measured by long-term mean discharge. The Ohio River at Cairo is 281,500 cu ft/s (7,960 m3/s); and the Mississippi River at Thebes, Illinois, which is upstream of the confluence, is 208,200 cu ft/s (5,897 m3/s). The Ohio River flow is greater than that of the Mississippi River, so hydrologically the Ohio River is the main stream of the river system.


River depth

The Ohio River is a naturally shallow river that was artificially deepened by a series of dams. The natural depth of the river varied from about . The dams raise the water level and have turned the river largely into a series of reservoirs, eliminating shallow stretches and allowing for commercial navigation. From its origin to Cincinnati, the average depth is approximately . The largest immediate drop in water level is below the McAlpine Locks and Dam at the Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Conservation Area, Falls of the Ohio at Louisville, Kentucky, where flood stage is reached when the water reaches on the lower gauge. However, the river's deepest point is on the western side of Louisville, Kentucky. From Louisville, the river loses depth very gradually until its confluence with the Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois, where it has an approximate depth of . Water levels for the Ohio River from Smithland Lock and Dam upstream to Pittsburgh are predicted daily by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Ohio River Forecast Center. The water depth predictions are relative to each local flood plain based upon predicted rainfall in the Ohio River basin in five reports as follows: * Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Hannibal Locks and Dam, Ohio (including the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers) * Willow Island Locks and Dam, Ohio, to Greenup Lock and Dam, Kentucky (including the Kanawha River) * Portsmouth, Ohio, to Markland Locks and Dam, Kentucky *
McAlpine Locks and Dam The McAlpine Locks and Dam are a set of canal locks, locks and a hydroelectric dam at the Falls of the Ohio River at Louisville, Kentucky. They are located at mile point 606.8, and control a long navigation pool. The locks and their associated can ...

McAlpine Locks and Dam
, Kentucky, to Cannelton Locks and Dam, Indiana * Newburgh Lock and Dam, Indiana, to Golconda, Illinois The water levels for the Ohio River from Smithland Lock and Dam to Cairo, Illinois, are predicted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center. * Smithland Lock and Dam, Illinois, to Cairo, Illinois


List of major tributaries

The largest tributaries of the Ohio by discharge volume are: *Tennessee River /sec *Cumberland River /sec *Wabash River /sec *Allegheny River /sec *Kanawha River /sec *Green River /sec *Monongahela River /sec *Kentucky River /sec *Muskingum River /sec *Scioto River /sec By drainage basin area, the largest tributaries are: *Tennessee River *Wabash River *Cumberland River *Kanawha River *Allegheny River *Green River *Muskingum River *Monongahela River *Kentucky River *Scioto River The largest tributaries by length are: *Cumberland River *Tennessee River *Wabash River *Green River *Allegheny River *Licking River . *Kentucky River *Scioto River *Great Miami River *Little Kanawha River Major tributaries of the river, in order from the head to the mouth of the Ohio, include: * Allegheny River – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania * Monongahela River – Pittsburgh * Saw Mill Run – Pittsburgh * Chartiers Creek – Pittsburgh * Montour Run – Coraopolis, Pennsylvania * Beaver River (Pennsylvania), Beaver River – Rochester, Pennsylvania * Breezewood Creek – Beaver, Pennsylvania * Raccoon Creek (Beaver County, Pennsylvania), Raccoon Creek – Center Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Center Township, Pennsylvania * Little Beaver Creek – East Liverpool, Ohio * Wheeling Creek (West Virginia), Wheeling Creek – Wheeling, West Virginia * Middle Island Creek – St. Marys, West Virginia * Little Muskingum River – Ohio * Duck Creek (Ohio), Duck Creek – Marietta, Ohio * Muskingum River – Marietta, Ohio * Little Kanawha River – Parkersburg, West Virginia * Hocking River – Hockingport, Ohio * Kanawha River – Point Pleasant, West Virginia * Guyandotte River – Huntington, West Virginia * Big Sandy River (Ohio River), Big Sandy River – Kentucky-West Virginia border * Little Sandy River (Kentucky), Little Sandy River – Greenup, Kentucky * Little Scioto River (Ohio River), Little Scioto River – Sciotoville, Ohio * Scioto River – Portsmouth, Ohio * Kinniconick Creek – Vanceburg, Kentucky * Little Miami River – Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio * Licking River (Kentucky), Licking River – Newport, Kentucky, Newport-Covington, Kentucky, Covington, Kentucky * Mill Creek (Ohio), Mill Creek – Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio * Great Miami River – Ohio-Indiana border * Kentucky River – Carrollton, Kentucky * Salt River (Kentucky), Salt River – West Point, Kentucky * Green River (Kentucky), Green River – near Henderson, Kentucky * Wabash River – Indiana-Illinois-Kentucky border * Saline River (Illinois), Saline River – Illinois * Cumberland River – Smithland, Kentucky *
Tennessee River in Decatur, Alabama. , crossing the Tennessee River in Cherokee, Alabama The Tennessee River is the largest tributary A tributary, or affluent, is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or main stem (or parent) river or a lake ...

Tennessee River
Paducah, Kentucky Paducah ( ) is a List of cities in Kentucky, home rule-class city in and the county seat of McCracken County, Kentucky, United States. The largest city in the Jackson Purchase region, it is located at the confluence of the Tennessee River, Tenness ...

Paducah, Kentucky
* Cache River (Illinois), Cache River – Illinois


Drainage basin

The Ohio's drainage basin covers , encompassing the easternmost regions of the Mississippi Basin. The Ohio drains parts of 14 states in four regions. * Northeast ** New York (state), New York: a small area of the southern border along the headwaters of the Allegheny. ** Pennsylvania: a corridor from the southwestern corner to the north-central border. * Mid-Atlantic/Upper South ** Maryland: a small corridor along the Youghiogheny River on the western border. ** West Virginia: all but the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, Eastern Panhandle. ** Kentucky: all but a small part in the Jackson Purchase, extreme west drained directly by the Mississippi. ** Tennessee: all but a small part in the extreme west drained directly by the Mississippi, and a very small area in the southeastern corner which is drained by the Conasauga River. **
Virginia Virginia (), officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), '' ...

Virginia
: most of southwest Virginia. ** North Carolina: the western quarter. * Midwest ** Ohio: 80% (all except a northern strip bordering Lake Erie, and the northwest corner) ** Indiana: all but the northern area. ** Illinois: the southeast quarter. * Deep South **Georgia (U.S. state), Georgia: the far northwest corner. ** Alabama: the northern portion. ** Mississippi: the northeast corner.


Climate transition zone

The Ohio River is a climatic transition area, as its water runs along the periphery of the
humid continental A humid continental climate is a climate, climatic region defined by Russo-German climatologist Wladimir Köppen in 1900, typified by four distinct seasons and large seasonal temperature differences, with warm to hot (and often humid) summers and ...
and
humid subtropical A humid subtropical climate is a zone of climate characterized by hot and humid summers, and cold to mild winters. These climates normally lie on the southeast side of all continents, generally between latitudes 25° and 40° (sometimes 45°) a ...
climate areas. It is inhabited by fauna and flora of both climates. In winter, it regularly freezes over at
Pittsburgh Pittsburgh ( ) is a city in the Commonwealth (U.S. state), Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the United States and the county seat of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Allegheny County. A population of 302,971 residents lives within the city limit ...

Pittsburgh
but rarely farther south toward
Cincinnati Cincinnati ( ) is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Hamilton County, Ohio, Hamilton County. Settled in 1788, the city is located at the northern side of the confluence of the Licking River (Kentucky), Licking and Ohio Riv ...

Cincinnati
and
Louisville Louisville (, , ) is the largest city A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The complexity of a settlement can ra ...
. At
Paducah, Kentucky Paducah ( ) is a List of cities in Kentucky, home rule-class city in and the county seat of McCracken County, Kentucky, United States. The largest city in the Jackson Purchase region, it is located at the confluence of the Tennessee River, Tenness ...

Paducah, Kentucky
, in the south, at the Ohio's confluence with the Tennessee River, it is ice-free year-round. In the 21st century, with the 2016 update of climate zones, the humid subtropical zone has stretched across the river, into the southern portions of Ohio#Climate, Ohio, Indiana#Climate, Indiana, and Illinois#Climate, Illinois.


Geology

From a geological standpoint, the Ohio River is young. Before the river was created, large parts of North America were covered by water forming a saltwater lake about 200 miles across and 400 miles in length. The bedrock of the Ohio Valley was mostly set during this time. The river formed on a piecemeal basis beginning between 2.5 and 3 million years ago. The movement of glaciers during the earliest Laurentide Ice Sheet, ice ages the contemporary river drainages of the Kanawha River, Kanawha, Big Sandy River (Ohio River tributary), Sandy, Kentucky River, Kentucky, Green River (Kentucky), Green, Cumberland River, Cumberland and Tennessee River, Tennessee rivers northward created the Ohio system and the course of early tributaries of the Ohio River, including the Monongahela River, Monongahela and the Allegheny rivers, were set. The Teays River was the largest of these rivers. The modern Ohio River flows within segments of the ancient Teays. The ancient rivers were rearranged or consumed. The section of the river that runs southwest from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Illinois is around tens of thousands of years old.


Upper Ohio River

The upper Ohio River formed when one of the glacial lakes overflowed into a south-flowing tributary of the Teays River. Prior to that event, the north-flowing Steubenville River (no longer in existence) ended between New Martinsville, West Virginia, New Martinsville and Paden City, West Virginia. The south-flowing Marietta River (no longer in existence) ended between the present-day cities. The overflowing lake carved through the separating hill and connected the rivers. The floodwaters enlarged the small Marietta, Ohio, Marietta valley to a size more typical of a large river. The new large river subsequently drained glacial lakes and melting glaciers at the end of the ice ages. The valley grew during and following the ice age. Many small rivers were altered or abandoned after the upper Ohio River formed. Valleys of some abandoned rivers can still be seen on satellite and aerial images of the hills of Ohio and West Virginia between Marietta, Ohio, and Huntington, West Virginia.


Middle Ohio River

The middle Ohio River formed in a manner similar to that of the upper Ohio River. A north-flowing river was temporarily dammed by natural forces southwest of present-day
Louisville Louisville (, , ) is the largest city A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The complexity of a settlement can ra ...
, creating a large lake until the dam burst. A new route was carved to the Mississippi. Eventually, the upper and middle sections combined to form what is essentially the modern Ohio River.


Cities and towns along the river

Along the banks of the Ohio are some of the largest cities in their respective states: Pittsburgh, the third largest city on the river and second-largest city in Pennsylvania;
Cincinnati Cincinnati ( ) is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Hamilton County, Ohio, Hamilton County. Settled in 1788, the city is located at the northern side of the confluence of the Licking River (Kentucky), Licking and Ohio Riv ...

Cincinnati
, the third-largest city in Ohio;
Louisville Louisville (, , ) is the largest city A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The complexity of a settlement can ra ...
, the largest city on the river and in Kentucky; Evansville, Indiana, Evansville, the third-largest city in Indiana; Owensboro, Kentucky, Owensboro, the fourth-largest city in Kentucky; and three of the five largest cities in West Virginia—Huntington, West Virginia, Huntington (second), Parkersburg, West Virginia, Parkersburg (fourth), and Wheeling, West Virginia, Wheeling (fifth). Only Illinois, among the border states, has no significant cities on the river. There are hundreds of other cities, towns, villages and unincorporated populated places on the river, most of them very small. Cities along the Ohio are also among the oldest cities in their respective states and among the oldest cities in the United States west of the Appalachian Mountains (by date of founding): Old Shawneetown, Illinois, 1748; Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1758; Wheeling, West Virginia, 1769; Huntington, West Virginia, 1775; Louisville, Kentucky, 1779; Clarksville, Indiana, 1783; Maysville, Kentucky, 1784; Martin's Ferry, Ohio, 1785; Marietta, Ohio, Marietta, Ohio, 1788; Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1789; Manchester, Ohio, 1790; Beaver, Pennsylvania, 1792; and Golconda, Illinois, 1798. Other cities of interest include Cairo, Illinois, at the confluence of the Ohio with the Mississippi River and the southernmost and westernmost city on the river; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the easternmost city on the river at the head or
Forks of the Ohio Point State Park (locally known as The Point) is a Pennsylvania state park on in Downtown Pittsburgh Downtown Pittsburgh, colloquially referred to as the Golden Triangle, and officially the Central Business District, is the urban downtown cente ...

Forks of the Ohio
, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to create the Ohio; and Beaver, Pennsylvania, the site of colonial Fort McIntosh (Pennsylvania), Fort McIntosh and the northernmost city on the river. It is 548 miles as the crow flies between Cairo and Pittsburgh, but 981 miles by water. Direct water travel over the length of the river is obstructed by the Falls of the Ohio just below Louisville, Kentucky. The Ohio River Scenic Byway follows the Ohio River through Illinois, Indiana and Ohio ending at Steubenville, Ohio, on the river. Before there were cities, there were colonial forts. These forts played a dominant role in the
French and Indian War The French and Indian War (1754–1763) was a theater of the Seven Years' War The Seven Years' War (1756–1763) is widely considered to be the first global conflict in history, and was a struggle for world supremacy between Great Britain ...

French and Indian War
, Northwest Indian War and pioneering settlement of
Ohio Country upright=1.75, The Ohio Country with battles and massacres between 1775 and 1794 The Ohio Country (sometimes called the Ohio TerritoryA misnomer since it was never an organized territory of the United States or of any other nation or Ohio Valley b ...
. Many cities got their start at or adjacent to the forts. Most were abandoned by 1800. Forts along the Ohio river include Fort Pitt (Pennsylvania), Fort McIntosh (Pennsylvania), Fort Randolph (West Virginia), Fort Henry (West Virginia), Fort Harmar (Ohio), Fort Washington (Ohio), and Fort Nelson (Kentucky). Short-lived, special-purpose forts included Fort Steuben (Ohio), Fort Finney (Indiana), Fort Finney (Indiana), Fort Finney (Ohio), Fort Finney (Ohio) and Fort Gower (Ohio).


Gallery

File:Allegheny Monongahela Ohio.jpg, The Allegheny River, left, and Monongahela River join to form the Ohio River at Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the largest metropolitan area on the river. File:LouisvilleNightSkyline2-small.jpg, Louisville, Kentucky, The deepest point of the Ohio River is a scour hole just below Cannelton locks and dam (river mile 720.7). File:Donna York.jpg, A barge hauls coal in the
Louisville and Portland Canal after many enlargements. The Louisville and Portland Canal was a canal bypassing Falls of the Ohio, the Falls of the Ohio River The Ohio River is a long river in the United States. It is located in the Midwestern United States, Midwestern and ...
, the only artificial portion of the Ohio River. File:Cincinnati-skyline-from-kentucky-shore-night.jpg, Cincinnati skyline showing the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge to Covington, Kentucky. File:Ohioriver bridge8475.JPG, Carl Perkins Bridge in Portsmouth, Ohio with Ohio River and Scioto River tributary on right. File:MVIMG 20190523 201311-EFFECTS (1).jpg, Ohio river in Huntington, West Virginia with the east Huntington bridge File:Geography of Ohio - DPLA - aaba7b3295ff6973b6fd1e23e33cde14 (page 133) (cropped2).jpg, The Ohio River seen at Sciotoville, Ohio, Sciotoville, from the "Geography of Ohio," 1923


See also

; Lists of dams and bridges * List of crossings of the Ohio River * List of locks and dams of the Ohio River ; Lists of Rivers * List of variant names of the Ohio River * List of longest rivers of the United States (by main stem) * List of rivers of Illinois * List of rivers of Indiana * List of rivers of Kentucky * List of rivers of Ohio * List of rivers of Pennsylvania * List of rivers of West Virginia ; Ohio Valley, etc. * Ohio and Erie Canal * Ohio River flood of 1937 * Watersheds of Illinois * Ohio River Valley AVA * Ohio Valley in Kentucky * Ohio River Trail * Ohio River Water Trail * Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Conservation Area


Notes


References


Further reading

* *


External links


Ohio River Flows and Forecasts

U.S. Geological Survey: PA stream gauging stations

Ohio River Forecast Center
which issues official river forecasts for the Ohio River and its tributaries from Smithland Lock and Dam upstream
Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center
which issues official river forecasts for the Ohio River and its tributaries downstream of Smithland Lock and Dam * {{Authority control Ohio River, Tributaries of the Mississippi River Rivers of Illinois Rivers of Indiana Rivers of Kentucky Rivers of Ohio Rivers of Pennsylvania Rivers of West Virginia Appalachian Ohio Borders of Illinois Borders of Kentucky Borders of Indiana Borders of Ohio Borders of West Virginia Mississippi River watershed