Indiana's Ohio River Scenic Byway is a winding, hilly route follows the Ohio River. The route offers a pleasant escape from suburban concerns as it passes villages, well-kept barns, vineyards, and orchards. Historic architecture along the way retains a charm that is often missing from modern development.
Here, tucked away in the very toe of southwestern Indiana, are swamps full of water lilies and rare birds. The most rugged part of this byway features rock outcroppings, forested hills, caves, and scenic waterways. The limestone bluffs (dotted with cave entrances) are abundant with wildlife.
Archaeological Qualities of Ohio River Scenic Byway
Angel Mounds State Historic Site is located on the banks of the Ohio River near Evansville. It is one of the best-preserved Native American sites in North America, where an advanced culture lived between A.D. 900 and 1600. These people were named Mississippian by archaeologists. The town served as an important center for religion, politics, and trade. Noted archaeologist Glenn A. Black directed excavation of the site from 1938 until his death in 1964. At the park is an interpretive center, where artifacts are displayed and explained.
Historical Qualities of Ohio RIver Scenic Byway
In the early days, the Ohio River was the primary way west for early settlers of the frontier. Later, with the coming of the steamboat, the Ohio River became the center of the transportation and industrial revolution. Prior to the Civil War, the river had great significance as the boundary between slave and free states. The river is used today for recreation and to transport coal to generating plants.
Abraham Lincoln's family built a farmstead along Little Pigeon Creek, not far from the Ohio River. At the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, you can see and help with the daily chores the Lincoln family performed on the Indiana frontier. Log farm buildings are staffed during the summer months by costumed interpreters.
Corydon was the place where the Indiana State Constitution was drafted in 1816. The Corydon Capitol State Historic Site preserves the state's first capitol, constructed of Indiana limestone. The Culbertson Mansion State Historic Site in New Albany preserves a 22-room French Second Empire home built in 1869. It was built by a wealthy local merchant.
The Levi Coffin House in Fountain City (which is north of the byway and was back then called Newport) was the place where more than 2,000 freedom seekers found refuge. Levi Coffin, known to many as the President of the Underground Railroad, opened the doors to his home to offer food, shelter, and clothing to runaway slaves on their journey to freedom.
Natural Qualitites of Ohio River Scenic Byway
As a traveler of this route, you will enjoy agricultural countryside dotted with well-kept barns, vineyards, and orchards. Vistas of rural villages dominated by church spires and historic courthouses span the byway, and thriving cities with imposing architecture can be seen as well. Tucked away in southwestern Indiana, you can find cypress swamps, water lilies, and rare birds.
One of the natural features that is found along the Ohio River Scenic Byway is the Hovey Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area south of Mount Vernon. This area is a 4,300-acre wetland. Adjoining the lake is the Twin Swamps Nature Preserve, the highest-quality cypress swamp in Indiana. In Evansville, nature can be found even in the middle of the city at the Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve, a 200-acre stand of virgin timber. Hoosier National Forest offers 193,000 acres of forest, along with four lakes, scenic drives, river overlooks, and Ohio River access sites.
The Needmore Buffalo Farm in Elizabeth southeast of Corydon is home to a sizable North American bison herd. Visitors can discover the role of the buffalo in southern Indiana and purchase buffalo meat and craft items.
Recreational Qualities of Ohio River Scenic Byway
The Hoosier National Forest has plenty of opportunities for enjoyment. Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville offers many nature hikes where you can look at fossil beds and various aquatic habitats. There are also picnic areas and a museum.
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