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The Ohio River
The Ohio River
I have lived in Ohio my entire life. Yet I was 33 years old before I actually saw the Ohio River. I’d learned about the river in school and I’d seen pictures all my life but I’d never actually been close enough to touch it. When I was a child and my family would take trips to North Carolina or Florida we would drive at night and I would sleep the entire ride. And as an adult my route always took me far enough north into Pennsylvania that I missed crossing the river on my way to the east coast. Last weekend I made a trip into West Virginia and got my first glimpse of the Ohio River. I was amazed by the bridge, the barges on the water, and the hundreds of homes right at the water’s edge, crammed together like a mob waiting for shop doors to open on Black Friday. And don’t get me started on the industrial pipes, shoots, and buildings along the river. I was so amazed that I decided to write an article about the different barges and mines I saw on the river. While looking for information and photographs I realized I don't really remember anything I learned back in school! So follow along while I share what I found and one day soon I will add an article on the barges.
Geography of the Ohio River
The Ohio River starts at the confluence of the Alleghany and the Monongahela Rivers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and ends in Cairo, Illinois where it flows into the Mississippi River. The Ohio River touches or flows through six states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. In addition to bordering or flowing through those states listed, waters from parts of New York, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama drain into tributaries that empty into the Ohio River. There are 20 dams on the 981 mile Ohio River that are managed by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Over 25 million people live in the Ohio River Basin and the Ohio River is the source of drinking water for more than 3 million people . There are approximately 164 species of fish and approximately 50 species of mussels in the river - although several species of fish have a consumption advisory due to pollutants and 5 of the 50 species of mussels are in danger of extinction.
History of the Ohio River
It is said that Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle was the first European to see the Ohio River in 1669. He descended the river until it was obstructed by a waterfall (most likely the Falls at Louisville). In the 1750’s the river’s strategic importance in the struggle between the French and the English for possession of the interior of the continent was fully recognized. The English finally won control of the territory along the river banks in 1763 and the area was opened to settlement. Although the river is not developed for hydropower it maintains a depth of 9 feet so barges can carry coal, oil, steel, and manufactured articles.
While performing research to learn more about this wonderful river I came across several web sites boasting the river’s recreational attributes. Any recreational activity that brings a person into contact with the water of the Ohio River is called ‘contact recreation’. Different contract recreation possibilities are fishing, boating, water skiing, and paddling. The Ohio River has no official designated swimming areas; however swimming is also a possible contact recreation. During warm months the river can be safely enjoyed. There are certain conditions when contact recreation is discouraged though. Contact recreation on the Ohio River is best avoided for at least 72 hours after it rains. This is because nonpoint pollution is most prevalent during and after rainfall, particularly E. coli bacteria. Rainfall also increases the risk of turbulent waters and submerged debris that could lead to accidents or injuries. The best time to enjoy the river is when the water levels are low, the flow is slow, and the weather has been dry