The Ohio River flows through and along the borders of six states in the United States before the mouth at the Mississippi River in Cairo, Illinois.
It’s the second largest river by discharge volume in the entire country, and it’s the largest tributary to the “Mighty Mississippi.”
Why is it famous?
When the Laurentide Ice Sheet dammed off the Teays River that was flowing north during the Illinoian glaciation, the area for drainage that the Teays used to follow was blocked off. As a result, the Ohio River was formed draining to the south somewhere between 2.5 and 3 million years ago.
Many Native American tribes formed along the Ohio River, and they used it for thousands of years as a trading route and method of transportation. The Europeans didn’t discover the river until the later part of the 17th century.
There are plenty of famous sights and travel destinations scattered along the 979 miles of the Ohio River. The city of Pittsburgh and Point State Park are two places to see the river in Pennsylvania. Cincinnati, Ohio, Louisville, Kentucky, and Forked Run State Park in Ohio are also notable places where the Ohio River makes part of its journey.
It’s the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers found at Point State Park in Pennsylvania that starts the headwaters of the Ohio River. The stream flows northwest through two counties before a bend changes the direction to south-southwest. Then, the Ohio River continues through West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania’s triple-state boarder.
Upstream from Wheeling, West Virginia, the river also creates a border between West Virginia and Ohio. Going through Cincinnati in a southwest and west-northwest past, it bends to a west-southwest course for the remaining part of the journey along the borders of Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois before reaching the Mississippi River.
Events in time
Starting in the 1950s, the DuPont chemical company began polluting the river from an overflow pipe that was located at its facility in Parkersburg, VA. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of a fluoride-based chemical used to make Teflon and other products dumped into the water for decades. In 2009 and 2010 it was rated as the most polluted river in the country.
The Ohio River continues to be an essential contribution to industrial processes, including the manufacturing and farming industries in the United States. The Ohio Environmental Council is working on solutions for stopping pollution and protecting wildlife. The primary focus is preserving and improving the overall safety of the water for the future.