(Taken from The Book of Knowledge, edited by Harold F.B. Wheeler)

Of the two great tributaries that flow into the Mississippi, the Ohio, though shorter in length, is vastly more important than the Missouri, for its navigable waters traverse more than 1,000 miles of the greatest industrial and farming district in the United States, furnishing means of transportation for many of the raw and manufactured products of the region.

This useful and picturesque river is formed by the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers at Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. It flows thence in a south-westerly direction, until it finally reaches Cairo, where it joins the Mississippi. It forms the north-western boundary of West Virginia, the northern boundary of Kentucky, and the southern boundaries of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Its waters are fathered from the tributaries which drain the neighbouring country – the Muskingum, Scioto, Miami, and Wabash from the north, and the Kanawha, Big Sandy, Licking, Kentucky, Green, Cumberland, and Tennessee rivers from the south.

Numerous islands, some under cultivation, divide the waters of the river. Of these the most famous is Blennerhassett, connected with Aaron Burr’s conspiracy to establish a separate republic in 1807, near Parkersburg, West Virginia. Formerly the course of the river was impeded by falls, sand-bars, and snags, and from June to November the waters were too low to accommodate craft of any size. These conditions have been gradually overcome. Canals and locks are built around the falls, the largest of which are at Louisville, Kentucky. Sand-bars and snags have been dredged out, and dams, wing dikes, and channels provide against the drought. In especially dry years, however, low water still impedes steamboat traffic. The average flow is three miles an hour.

It was La Salle who discovered the Ohio, in about 1670, when he descended the river at least as far as the present site of Louisville. In the middle of the 18th century, it became important in the struggle for the interior between the French and the English, the English eventually gaining control (1763). After 1768 settlers from Virginia followed this course into the new country. In 1783 the whole Ohio country became a part of the United States, and in 1787 the organization of the North-West Territory opened the whole region to settlers. The first great tide of western immigration swept along this course.

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