Ten facts about the Ohio River

In a whimsical twist in my novel What’s Left, I placed the town along the Ohio River. Well, the navigable waterway is a defining element of southern Indiana.

  1. Length of the Ohio River: 981 miles
  2. Length along Indiana: 240 miles before adding twists. Drains all but the northernmost area of the state.
  3. At its mouth: It is considerably larger than the Mississippi, making it the main hydrological stream of the whole river system.
  4. Number of states feeding into the Ohio River: 15.
  5. Largest tributary: Tennessee River, 652 miles long. Its watershed includes Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, a corner of Louisiana, as well as Tennessee and Kentucky.
  6. Largest northern tributary: Wabash River, 503 miles long. It originates in Ohio and flows across Indiana before becoming part of the border with Illinois.
  7. Average depth of Ohio River: 24 feet.
  8. The biggest city along its way: Pittsburgh, metropolitan population of 3.5 million. The river begins with the confluence of the Allegheny, from upstate New York, and the Monongahela, which drains part of West Virginia and Maryland as well as Pennsylvania, at Point State Park in the Gold Triangle.
  9. Next largest: Cincinnati, metropolitan area population of 2.2 million. Can be seen as the waterway’s hub.
  10. Major hurdle: Louisville, Kentucky, sits at the Falls of the Ohio, which once presented a barrier to river traffic. The McAlpine Locks and Dam stand where the Louisville and Portland Canal was built in 1830 to allow vessels to bypass the falls. It was the first major engineering project on the river and, by some accounts, the first on an American waterway.
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