The Falls of the Ohio was never a classic waterfall such as Niagara Falls or even Cumberland Falls in Kentucky. It’s been described as a series of rapids that drop the river level about 26 feet over a length of about a two and a half miles. This is the only place in the nearly thousand mile length of the river that posed a major navigation obstacle. Traditionally, the Ohio River hasn’t been a deep river, in fact in historic times the water level could get so low in the summer that you could literally wade your livestock over from one side to another with ease. That’s why this area was also a bison trace and indigenous people crossed the river here for thousands of years.
Of course, having a river that can be this shallow poses an impediment to river traffic. Louisville is where it is because when the river was low you had to either portage your boat, hire a special pilot to guide you around the rocks and waves, or wait until the river level rose again to move on. When the river was high, the Falls could be heard. John James Audubon once wrote, ” The rumbling sound of the Falls as they tumble over the rock-paved bed of the rapids is at all times soothing to the ear.” All that changed when the Army Corps of Engineers constructed a dam in the 1920’s. The purpose of the dam is to provide a stable pool of water for the barge traffic going through the locks of this important intercoastal waterway. It has meant billions of dollars in river goods can travel easily with coal being the most lucrative cargo. That dam also defines what the Falls of the Ohio are now and in the heart of summer, the famous fossil beds are exposed for all to see. Well, except for the majority of the fossil beds that are now regularly underwater on the opposite side of the dam! To say that this area is far from its original state is an understatement. Most people don’t have knowledge of this and so this place is just as marvelous as ever!
“Oh honey, we made it!” “The waterfall looks beautiful and I’m so glad we are here together to share this.” The new couple on their own personal journey of discovery have decided to check out an American landmark.
“This is such a famous place and I will always remember this day because we spent it together!” “I feel completely refreshed in the presence of you and nature.” “The water spray is so cooling.”
Care is needed because you don’t want to get swept away. The sound of running water can be hypnotic and you can lose yourself in it. ” I’m happy that you are here for me and I will be there for you too.” Such is the promise that they made to each other standing by the waterfall.
“We have our entire futures ahead of us, but for now, let’s remember being happy in this moment.” “The two of us are like this water in that we are on a long journey and who knows if we will ever cross this spot again?”
“This has all been so beautiful, but I’m getting hungry.” “Are you ready to go?” “I’ve heard that there is another waterfall not too far away from here…wanna check it out later?” Behind them, water was pouring through a special slot in the dam that allowed water to pass over these rocks and to provide a little more water for this bit of wetland that remains. When you are hiking out here and you think of it… it can be a little disconcerting knowing that the top of the river is now that high over your head!