MTM Cincinnati: The Ohio River

There are five major rivers in North America, or at least north of the Rio Grande. The St. Lawrence joins America and Canada, serving as a border in some places. The Columbia drains the Rockies into the Pacific Ocean. The Mississippi is the longest, being the most important waterway in the United States.  It’s basin is formed by two major tributaries, the western one being the Missouri.

In the east, it’s the Ohio River, which is also what ultimately gave birth to Cincinnati.

The name comes from its Iroquois name “Oyo.”  It is formed by the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers in downtown Pittsburgh.  981 miles later, it empties into the Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois.  The river is dammed in several places to ease navigation.

Barges are the primary means of transportation on the river.  This hearkens back to the history of cities such as Cincinnati, Louisville, and Paducah, Kentucky, as riverboat towns.  Indeed, passenger riverboats still ply the river from Pittsburgh all the way down to New Orleans.

The river birthed Cincinnati.  Originally the home of Shawnee Indians and the Ft. Ancients before them, the section between the Little and Great Miami Rivers made an attractive settlement for Europeans.  As the town grew, steamboats became the city’s main industry.  Steamboats were built in Columbia-Tusculum, the riverfront neighborhood east of downtown along what is now Kellogg Avenue.  Many of the streets south of Lunken Airport still bear names such as “Anchorage,” hearkening back those early days.

The river also provided a means for Northern Kentucky (the three counties along the Ohio inside the 275 Loop) after its seedy gangster past.  In the early 1990’s, the cities of Covington and Newport began remaking the riverfront.  Covington now has a skyline.  Two new hotels have sprung in Newport, and Newport-on-the-Levee anchors

Cincinnati, after leaving its own riverfront lay fallow for over a decade, has started developing the space between Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium.  The Banks, which was a vacant lot surrounding the Underground Railroad Museum for many years, is now being developed.

The biggest event on the river in Cincinnati is the annual WEBN Fireworks.  Which we’ll discuss next week.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

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MTM Cincinnati: Theodore Berry Park

East of downtown, next to the Montgomery Inn Boathouse, sits Theodore Berry Park, a tranquil 20-acre stretch of land along the former Eastern Avenue, now called Riverside Drive.

The above photo shows the entrance from the parking lot.  This was taken after the recent Snowpocalypse of 2010, of which Cincinnati sat on the edge.  The curved signs, all spiraled around each other, say “Theodore M Berry International Friendship Park,” the official name of the park.  The park is named for Cincinnati’s first African-American mayor.  Berry served as mayor from 1972 to 1975 and was a member of the city’s third pary, the Charterite Committee.  The park opened in May of 2003 in the shadow of Mt. Adams and Columbia Parkway (US 50).

The park is about half a mile in length and features winding walking paths and a bike trail that ultimately will be part of the Ohio River Trail.  Along the bike trail, you can see the town homes that prompted changing the street’s name from Eastern, which is identified with the deteriorated eastern leg of the street past Delta Avenue, to Riverside, which is the section being redeveloped into a quiet Riverfront neighborhood.

The park’s most prominent feature is its modern sculpture.  There is one composed of three concave mirrors between the bike trail and one of the walking paths.  (The flash in the picture is your humble narrator’s camera.)

There is a “woodhenge” in the park’s entrance of Bain St., which is really just an exit ramp off of Columbia Parkway.

At the far end of the park stands a fifty-foot tower that looks like  scale model of one of the new buildings going in at the World Trade Center.  It certainly would not look out of place next to the Freedom Tower and its sisters.  However, I’m sure someone can chime in below in the comments section as to what this particular sculpture is.

The park’s biggest attraction, though, is its proximity to the Ohio River.  Within walking distance of the Boathouse, Sawyer Point (another park I’ll visit in warmer weather), and Great American Ballpark and US Bank Arena, the park features a serpentine sitting wall where one can comtemplate the river slowly flowing by.  Below is a shot facing eastward, toward the bend near Dayton, Kentucky.

And this is facing west toward downtown at the Boathouse-side entrance. In the background is the “Big Mac” Bridge, carrying I-471 into Northern Kentucky.

I had hoped to catch a barge while I was in the park, but I didn’t see one until I was up on the Big Mac headed home.  (I parked across the river in Newport for an early morning hike.)  The barge, I think, captures the essence of the river.  It’s part of why one of the townhouse developments overlooking the park is called “Twain Point.”

More at the My Town Monday blog.