Follow the River: A Drive Along the Ohio River Scenic Byway
In 1803, Meriwether Lewis left Pittsburgh with a keelboat filled with supplies and began his journey down the Ohio River to meet William Clark and the crew of the Corps of Discovery, now known as the Lewis & Clark Expedition. The Ohio “Beautiful River” was much shallower then causing the boat to get hung up on “riffles” and requiring Lewis to stop at many of the frontier river towns to get help. Now, over 215 years later, we can much more comfortably follow a similar route by driving the Ohio River Scenic Byway.
Up, down and around the state of Ohio are 27 roads designated as Scenic Byways: scenic routes that have unique historic, recreational, cultural and natural features. Five have been named National Byways including the Ohio River Scenic Byway that follows the river along the Ohio border and continues into Indiana and Illinois.
From East Liverpool on the eastern edge of the state, the Byway meanders along the Ohio River for 462 miles through 14 counties via St. Rt. 7 south to St. Rt. 52 west to Cincinnati. The Byway offers a road trip experience to please every kind of traveler.
Love history? There are museums and historic sites that can be explored including the Museum of Ceramics in East Liverpool, the River Museum in Wellsville, Fort Steuben and the First Federal Land Office in Steubenville, the Great Stone Viaduct in Bellaire, the Ohio River Museum in Marietta, the Southern Ohio Museum (with over 10,000 prehistoric artifacts) in Portsmouth, the John Rankin House (Underground Railroad site) in Ripley, and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.
Is recreation on your vacation list? Looking to enjoy nature and the great outdoors? The Byway runs through both Wayne National Forest and Shawnee National Forest as well as several state parks, all of which offer trails, biking, water activities, camping, picnicking, and adventure courses.
Bikers enjoy the annual Rally on the River in Ironton, while birders can scout out sightings at the Appalachian Birding Trail in Adams County. From Beaver Creek State Park with its national wildlife refuge and nature center, to the rugged splendor of Shawnee State Park in Scioto County, there are numerous natural wonders to explore just off the Byway. There are also numerous access points along the river for boats and canoes.
Cultural offerings abound with festivals and concerts and art shows throughout the year in the communities along the Byway. In southern Ohio, Portsmouth boasts massive floodwall murals by famed artist Robert Dafford, while further north 25 larger-than-life works of art gave Steubenville the moniker “The City of Murals.”
The French Art Colony in Gallipolis presents exhibitions and live performances, while the Fur Peace Ranch in Pomeroy is a pilgrimage site for guitarists. The largest city along the route is Cincinnati which is home to art museums, live music venues and professional theater.
Most of the Ohio River Scenic Byway runs through Appalachia and travelers can explore the unique foods, wineries, breweries and crafts of the region. Farmers’ markets and farm-to-table events present the agricultural bounty of the area as well.
With the dams and locks and development, the Ohio River has changed in the past 200 years since Meriwether Lewis sailed but the beauty of the river and the delightful discoveries that can be made are still available to us today. For more information visit www.ohioriverscenicbyway.org and to keep up on the events that are offered in communities along the Byway through the year, check out www.facebook.com/OhiosRiverTrail.
The Ohio Scenic Byway