Vacations: Important Landmarks in Ohio

Source of the Ohio River: “The Point” in Pittsburgh PA. The Allegheny River (left) and the Monongahela River (right) join to form the Ohio. The West End Bridge crosses the Ohio in the foreground.
Source of the Ohio River: “The Point” in Pittsburgh PA. The Allegheny River (left) and the Monongahela River (right) join to form the Ohio. The West End Bridge crosses the Ohio in the foreground. | Source

OHIO Means Big River

What does the name "OHIO" mean?

It does not mean "beautiful", for that is a misconception arising from the old-time song tribute to our river, "Beautiful Ohio." Ohio means "big river" in an Iroquoian language, so the song title in full English is Beautiful Big River. In fact, our 980-mile long Ohio River running along the state's southern border to meet the mighty Mississippi was named by my ancestors in the Iroquois Confederacy. Their word is O-Y-O (three syllables), whose meaning is big river or great river. In English, our state song could also be Beautiful Great River.

A French explorer named Rene Robert Cavelier Sieur de La Salle was first of the Europeans to see the river, in 1669, and called it la belle riviere. Later, an American wrote Ohio's State Song after the French name to result in Beautiful Ohio. This is why much of the general public thinks that the "Indian" name for the river is "Beautiful River." However, 10,000+ years ago, we called it Big River. It was big and so were the fish in it - at least as long as a tall man's arm, every fish.

Our river is the Big River in the Ohio River Valley. Along its many miles in Ohio is an incredible array of bridges, parks, and great historic cities.

Native Americans and Europeans used the Ohio for transportation and food sources. Later, the river became the boundary between the North and South during the American Civil War as well as a gateway to the Underground Railroad. Underground Railroad sites still dot the riversides.

Source of the Ohio River: Pennsylvania and West Virginia

A markerPoint Park, Pittsburgh PA -
Point State Park, 101 Commonwealth Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, USA
[get directions]

See photo of the rivers joining at the top of this Hub.

The Source of the Ohio River In Pennsylvania and West Virginia

The Ohio River starts up to the northeast in Pennsylvania at The Point around Point Park in Pittsburgh. The Allegheny River to the north and the smaller Monongahela River from West Virginia to the south come together and form the Ohio River. Three bridges cross the three rivers in this point area. In the photo above, the West End Bridge crosses the actual Ohio River in the foreground, with the Allegheny to the left and the Monongahela to the right in the background.

The Ohio flows southwest to Wheeling WV, where the first bridge was built across the river anywhere along its length in 1849. This was a during period of infrastructure construction during which my non-Native American ancestors worked on the National Road that included the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, seen below.

The distance from The Point to the Wheeling Suspension Bridge is about 100 miles along the river, but only about 70 miles over roads.

The River Reaches the State of Ohio at Historic Wheeling WV.

Wheeling WV Suspension Bridge, first bridge across the Ohio River. Built in 1849 as part of the National road, Route 40 on which my grandfather and great grandfather worked.
Wheeling WV Suspension Bridge, first bridge across the Ohio River. Built in 1849 as part of the National road, Route 40 on which my grandfather and great grandfather worked. | Source

Hundreds of Miles of Landmarks

Beginning with Wheeling Island, there are at least 88 islands in the Ohio River by the time one reaches the joining with the Mississippi River at Cairo IL. Along the way between Pittsburgh to Mississippi, the river includes 20 locks and dams, closer together in the first half of the river and farther apart past Portsmouth OH.

Hannibal Locks and Dam is located in the Pittsburgh Area. Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park and Museum is open to visitors every year from May 1 to October 31 and is located in Parkersburg WV (see links for these and other landmarks in the links further below).

The Ohio River Scenic Byway on the Ohio side of the river is 452 miles long and travels through 14 counties. The Museum of Ceramics is in east Liverpool OH, just south of Wheeling. In Bellaire OH south of East Liverpool, National Imperial Glass Collectors' Society, Inc. has a long-time museum. Glass and pottery works were prolific along the river for some time and older pieces often have high values.

Hannibal Locks and Dam
Hannibal Locks and Dam | Source

Ohio River Scenic Byway

Along either Ohio Road 7 (or West Virginia Road 2) running roughly parallel with the river on either side, Marietta is about 88 miles southwest of Wheeling. On the Ohio side, travelers can visit several small towns that have been involved in hydroelectric power, mining, farming, and steel manufacturing as well as historical sites such as old iron furnaces; and pass through part of the Wayne National Forest (look at "C" on the map below).

In Marietta, you will find the Ohio River Museum with constantly updating exhibit and a permanent exhibit about the historic Steamboat Era. This city as founded in 1788 after the Anerican Revolution to become the first permanent community in the Northwest Territory. The Ohio River was vital for transporation and receiving supplies. A historic railroad bridge is now maintained as a footbridge. The Campus Martius museum complex preserves several sites from beginning of Ohio history after European settlers and migrating people from the original 13 Colonies moved westward and founded Marietta. A castle, a toy museum, and paddlewheeler tours add to the history.

Overlooking Ripley OH on the river, the Rankin House is a State Memorial and a National Historic Landmark. An important part of the Underground Railroad, it stands on Liberty Hill. The hhouse was absolutely vital during the Civil War.

South Point OH is the southernmost community in the State of Ohio, north of Portsmouth. Moving past South Point, Point Pleasant is the birthplace of President and General Ulysses S. Grant.

Cincinnati is a major city o the Ohio River, nicknamed the Queen River City and known historically for its heavy steamboat and paddlewheeler traffic. The first McDonald's restaurant on a paddlewheeler was opened in this city in the early 1980s, although it is no longer there. The National Steamboat Monument is located here, though, not far from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The Roebling Suspension Bridge is still in use, a prototype on which the Brooklyn Bridge was based by Mr. Roebling. Seven other vehicle bridges are active, along with a foot bridge called the Purple People Bridge. Cincinnati is full of landmarks.

The last site to visit on the river before reaching Indiana is Shawnee State Park. It is home to the historic Springhouse School and Log Cabin, along with Native American earthworks and a large wildlife preserve. North Bend OH is located nearby, with a wonderful view of the Ohio River from President William Henry Harrison's monument.

Birthplace of Ulysses S. Grant: Point Pleasant OH

  • Hannibal Locks and Dam. On State Route 7 in Hannibal Ohio, this historic facility is only one of six major river facilities on the upper Ohio River near West Virginia. When you enter the Visitor's Center, you see a wicket dam and a maneuver boat with the history of navigation on this River. The center also offers an observation platform and a day-use area with for picnics. Parking is free.
  • National Underground Railroad Freedom Center - Cincinnati, Ohio

Major Cities Along the Ohio River

show route and directions
A markerThe Point, Pittsburgh PA -
Point Park Community Classes, 201 Wood Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, USA
[get directions]

B markerWheeling WV -
Wheeling, WV, USA
[get directions]

C markerMarietta OH -
Marietta, OH, USA
[get directions]

D markerSouth Point OH -
South Point, OH, USA
[get directions]

E markerPortsmouth OH -
Portsmouth, OH, USA
[get directions]

F markerCincinnati OH - Covington KY -
Cincinnati, OH, USA
[get directions]

G markerHannibal Locks and Dam -
Hannibal Locks and Dam, 3, WV 26155, USA
[get directions]

H markerPoint Pleasant OH -
Point Pleasant, OH 45157, USA
[get directions]

I markerNorth Bend OH -
North Bend, OH, USA
[get directions]

The river goes on to border Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky to Cairo IL and the Mississippi River. The entire Ohio is used by business and the public.

Eight US Presidents From Ohio

Five US Pesidents came from the Ohio River. William Henry Harrison lived in North Bend before his election to the Presidency; Benjamin Harrison was also born in North Bend. Ulysses S. Grant was born in Point Pleasant. Rutherford B. Hayes was born just north of my city in Delaware OH and was city solicitor of Cincinnati on the river for several years. William Howard Taft was born in Cicncinnati and held several important offices before serving as President. His descendants have often held birthday parties at King's Island just north of the the Queen City.

James A. Garfield was born near Cleveland, William McKinley in the same area, in Niles, and William G. Harding from Bloom Grove in North Central Ohio.

All of these Presidents' birthplaces are National and State Landmarks.


50th Anniversary of NASA, 2008

Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, and Jim Lovell (Apollo 13), all from Ohio, reflect on their years in NASA's astronaut program.
Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, and Jim Lovell (Apollo 13), all from Ohio, reflect on their years in NASA's astronaut program. | Source

Astronauts From Ohio

Ohio also has a few landmarks dedicated to our astronauts.

The first man to set foot on the moon was Neil Armstrong, his hometown in Wapakoneta dedicated completely to his memory. A space related museum has been operating there for decades.

The first man to orbit the Earth is John Glenn. In his 90s, he is still teaching at The Ohio State University in Columbus Ohio and young students love to listen to him. He was instrumental in founding the John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy at OSU, the institute being a landmark in itself. February 7 is Friendship 7 Day in Ohio in commemoration of his space capsule of 1962. John Genn is the only astronaut to fly into space on two dates 36 years apart -- His age at his second launch was 77 aboard US Space Shuttle Discovery, Mission STS-95 in 1998. His birthplace in New Concord OH is a National Historic Place.

Twenty-three (23) other astronauts have been born in Ohio and one came from Cincinnati on the Ohio River: Karl G. Henize. many of the others are from Northeastern Ohio, followed by Central Ohio.

The astronauts of Ohio are all part of the History of Aviation Heritage Trail and the Ohio Space Corridor that runs from Cincinnati up through West Chester-Dayton-Fairborn to Columbus and is a living tribute to the Wright Brothers. The National US Air Force Museum at Wrigh Patterson Air Force Base in Fairborn is a huge landmark with outdoor and indoor displays and presentations from the beginnings of flight through the space age.

Cincinnati - Covington KY Bridge Crossings

Tall Stacks Music, Arts, and Heritage Festival is held every few years at Cincinnati and Covington, showing off many steam boats and paddlewheelers.
Tall Stacks Music, Arts, and Heritage Festival is held every few years at Cincinnati and Covington, showing off many steam boats and paddlewheelers. | Source

Nine Bridges Cross the River at Cincinnati-Newport/Covington

A markerCincinnati -
Cincinnati, OH, USA
[get directions]

  • Brent Spence Bridge - Double-Decker (2)
  • C.W. Bailey Bridge
  • Combs-Hehl Bridge or "275 Bridge"
  • Daniel Beard Bridge or Big Mac Bridge (This is a double bridge)
  • Taylor Southgate Bridge
  • Roebling Suspension Bridge - Historic bridged area of the American Civil War; see image below.
  • Purple People Bridge - Refurbished former railroad crossing and L&N Bridge. It is great fun to walk or job across this one!

The Bridge That Helped Union Troops Transport Supplies and Men

John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, beside the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center on the Water Front.
John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, beside the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center on the Water Front. | Source

Purple Bridge Changes For 2013

Scioto River, Columbus OH

A markerScioto Audubon Park, Columbus OH -
Scioto Audubon Metro Park, 400 West Whittier Street, Columbus, OH 43215, USA
[get directions]

© 2012 Patty Inglish

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Comments 7 comments

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

Ohio has certainly been the home of many U.S. Presidents and astronauts according to your hub. I found this interesting. Thanks for the introduction to landmarks in Ohio. Up, useful and interesting votes.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

Thanks Peggy, and there are a lot more things to see in Northern Ohio!


Michele Travis profile image

Michele Travis 3 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

I lOVE this hub. Well I live in Ohio anyway and have seen the Ohio River from both Cincinnati and Columbus. The picture Cincinnati is a beautiful one. Also, the facts about astronauts, was fantastic! I had no idea that many came from Ohio. I knew about Neil Armstrong, but that was about all I knew. Thank you so much for writing this hub. I learned a lot this morning and loved all of it.

Voted up.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

Hi Michele!

The Ohio River is certainly one l-o-n-g landmark all by itself. It's providing new jobs for people as well, because many of the older bridges are set to be reconstructed.

I hope OSU does some special evebnt for our state holiday for John Glenn this upcoming February!


Michele Travis profile image

Michele Travis 3 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

If OSU does have an event for John Glenn, I would love to go. Also, meeting him would be nice. Meeting the man who orbits the earth. I know that sounds silly, but it would still be fantastic. A once in a lifetime event.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

It would be wonderful. We'll have to look at the OSU website to keep up with celebrations. Hopefully it would be announced in January.


Michele Travis profile image

Michele Travis 3 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

LOL! I am already familiar with it, well looking for nursing jobs. I will now keep my eye out for the celebrations:)

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