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Definition: Ohio from Philip's Encyclopedia

River in E central USA, formed at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers at Pittsburgh in W Pennsylvania. It flows W and then SW to join the Mississippi River at Cairo, Illinois. The Ohio River valley is a highly industrialized region. Length: 1,571km (976mi).

Summary Article: Ohio River
from The Civil War Naval Encyclopedia

The largest tributary, by volume, of the Mississippi River. The Ohio River, which is 981 miles long, begins in Pittsburgh at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. From there it flows south and west along the border of five states: West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. It joins the Mississippi in the far southern portion of Illinois near Cairo. The Ohio River has 27 major tributaries. At the beginning of the Civil War, before West Virginia was created from the northwestern portion of Virginia and joined the Union, Virginia had bordered the Ohio River. The Ohio River is quite deep, ranging from about 27 feet from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati to a maximum depth of some 160 feet near Louisville, Kentucky, and then back to about 20 feet near Cairo, Illinois.

Most of the Ohio River is navigable for large ships; the widest portion of the river is just west of Louisville, where it is normally about one mile from bank to bank. The only significant barrier on the entire river occurs at the Falls of the Ohio, near Louisville, where the Ohio drops about 26 feet over a two-mile stretch. Prior to the construction of locks and other features that mitigated this, ships could traverse the area, but that required expert piloting. The first lock was built in 1825.

French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, was the first European to explore the river, in 1669. The Ohio River valley was home to a large number of various Native American tribes prior to white settlement of the area, which began in the 1700s. Numerous large cities sprang up along the river, including Pittsburgh, Wheeling, Cincinnati, and Louisville. The Ohio River was an important trade and travel route, especially before the advent of railroads. Many pioneers moving west traversed the Ohio.

The Ohio River was a critical waterway in the Civil War and the events leading up to it. It formed the border that separated free and slave states in the East and was a favored avenue of movement for the Underground Railroad. The phrase “sold down the river” originated from the sale of slaves in Kentucky who were sent downriver via the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans to be resold to sugar and cotton planters. Many slave families were broken up by this river trade.

See also

Cairo Naval Station; Cumberland River; Mississippi River; Mound City Naval Station; New Orleans, Louisiana; Red River; Riverine Warfare; Tennessee River

  • Banta, Richard E. The Ohio. University of Kentucky Press Lexington, 1998.
  • Wade, Richard C The Urban Frontier: The Rise of Western Cities, 1790-1830. University of Illinois Press Champaign, 1996.
  • Pierpaoli, Paul G. Jr.
    Copyright 2011 by ABC-CLIO, LLC

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