Ohio River travel in early 1800


The vegetation and forest floors have taken on a “spring look” along the shores of the queen of the rivers – the Ohio River.

Every tree appears to be hung with long, greening, flowing festoons of diverse species of vines, some decorated by enlarging buds and/or flowers.

The days are beginning to be warm. The sun has assumed the rich and glowing warm hue, which during this season, produces increasing evidences of a renewed earth.

Natural growth. A traveler glides down the river, without much disturbance due to the shallow draft of the vessel. Leisurely the vessel glides along, allowing time to gaze at length on the grandeur and natural beauty of the wild scenery.

Natural growth along the shores is quite varied in display. As the traveler travels along the Ohio River, he or she can observe lofty cliffs and hills on one side and on the opposite shore, a flat plain often of alluvial character and the view is extensive.

Islands. Islands of varying sizes and shapes appear at unexpected times and a winding course frequently creates the illusion of a swift mountain stream.

During high water, the smaller islands are often flooded and underwater.

During this era, many sluggish flat boats are overtaken and left quickly astern, many laden with varying produce from the several head waters of the diverse tributaries along the Ohio River.

The shores often are inhabited by several species of game animals. Therefore, the requirements for food stuffs is quite easily supplied.

Silent move. Silently the vessel moves along at an even pace. On either side is evidence of spring that can be seen by the wilderness knowledgeable traveler: The steep hillsides are still open, the buds and small leaflets casting a tint of various greens, trilliums in full bloom dotting the forest floor with brilliant white amid faint pinks of spring beauties.

Several species of birds announce their presence – towhees, cardinals, song sparrows, robins, Carolina wrens and other early spring heralders.

A pleasant, warm spring breeze rustles last fall’s fallen leaves on the forest’s floor and ripples the river surface.

A distance away a splash breaks the silence, perhaps a large fish leaping for an insect or a kingfisher plunging for a fish. A fish cuts a course across the still river as it attempts to capture a small minnow near the river surface.

Topography. As the craft drifts slowly down the 908 miles of its length, the surrounding topography is quite diverse and the width varies from 400 to 1,400 yards, a mean breadth of 800 yards.

The travel along the winding river can prove a bit tedious.

A break. Near Louisville, in Kentucky, the calmness prevalent along most of its course is broken by quite bothersome rapids often referred to as the Falls of the Ohio.

The descent on the falls is two miles long and at the downstream section, is 22 1/2 feet lower.

Early in 1800 a canal was considered to bypass the Ohio Falls. Further downstream is another rapids that also was a slight obstruction.


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