The Ohio River has played a major role in the history of our great country and continues to serve today as one of our most important inland waterways. The Ohio is formed by the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers at Pittsburgh, PA. It ends approximately 981-miles downstream at Cairo, IL, where it flows into the Mississippi River. It received its English name from the Iroquois word, “O-Y-O,” meaning “the great river.”
The Ohio River is one of the most misunderstood and underutilized recreational waterways in the region. Why? Because it has a perception problem. Sometimes—typically in the spring and winter months—it looks a little dirty due to the mud and debris that flows into the river after a good rain or snow.
However, due to the significant volume of water flowing through the river, it has a remarkable ability to quickly clean itself and become incredibly beautiful and safe for recreational boating and swimming. Late spring through early winter offers some of the best inland boating you can imagine.
If your only experience with the Ohio River is crossing it by bridge or maybe dining outdoors at a great local restaurant—which we highly recommend—you’re missing out on all this great local waterway has to offer. Forget what you think you know about the Ohio and get ready to enjoy a unique and growing boating destination right here in our own backyard.
While the Ohio River stretches 981-miles from Pittsburgh, PA to Cairo, IL, we’ll primarily focus on our local pool which extends from the Markland Lock (mile 531.5) in Warsaw, KY to the McAlpine Lock (mile 604.5) right here in downtown Louisville, KY. This 73-mile stretch of the Ohio River offers great boating, beautiful scenery and some interesting spots to stop along the way.
Our pool of the Ohio River offers way more than meets the eye from a downtown bridge. Venture out of Harrod’s Creek and head downriver for a beautiful view of Louisville’s skyline or a unique way to enjoy a summer concert at Waterfront Park. Or head upriver past the East End Bridge where you’ll find miles and miles of beautiful rural shoreline more reminiscent of Kentucky’s many popular lakes. Whether your ideal day on the water is a long, slow cruise to a destination like Madison, IN, or just motoring a few miles to an anchorage or beach to enjoy the day floating and swimming with friends and family, it’s all possible and easy to find on the river. And for those who are even more adventurous, there truly is no limit to where the Ohio can take you on the water once you leave our pool.
For lake boaters or those who are new to boating, the Ohio can be a little daunting at first. Like any river, the Ohio’s ever-changing conditions can impact water level, current and the presence of floating debris. The Ohio is also a busy working river with commercial barge traffic being a frequent companion of pleasure boaters.
But with proper appreciation and respect for the river, you’ll find that these factors just help to keep boating on the Ohio more fun and more interesting every day you’re fortunate enough to get out on the water. There’s a lot more to boating on the Ohio River than meets the eye.