Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Take Me to the River--Part One

US 50 at the Indiana border to the west side of Cincinnati

Something about the wide expanse of moving water has always attracted people to the banks of a river like the beautiful Ohio, from the business and travel opportunities to the recreational possibilities of navigable waters. The Ohio River from the Indiana border in the west to the West Virginia and Pennsylvania juncture in the east comprises hundreds of miles of small river towns, rolling hills, farm lands, parks, recreational facilities, and industrial development which all take advantage of and inspiration from the moving water.

One enjoyable day trip along the Ohio River begins at the Ohio-Indiana border on U. S. 50, a scenic byway that follows the river into the Queen City, Cincinnati. A perfect way to start the day is with breakfast at the State Line Restaurant, a friendly roadside diner open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week. The breakfast special includes homemade goetta, a popular Cincinnati area German tradition made from ground pork and pinhead oats. Add to the goetta some eggs, hash browns or home fries, toast and coffee and the perfect southern Ohio breakfast is yours. There are no substitutions allowed on the special, and no one would think of substituting anything for the southwest Ohio specialty goetta which is made to perfection daily for a devoted crowd. With four pickups and eight cars parked in front of the diner at 11:30 AM on a springtime Friday, this diner is obviously a local favorite, and it is a wonderful starting point for the trek eastward to Shawnee Lookout conservation area.

After a filling breakfast, travelers can plan on spending the morning at Shawnee Lookout where the recreational possibilities provide ample opportunity to burn breakfast calories. Heading east on U. S. 50 is Elizabethtown where the first light marks the right turn toward Shawnee Lookout, a Hamilton County park. From a challenging 18-hole golf course to numerous hiking trails and a boat ramp for canoe and kayak enthusiasts, Shawnee Lookout encompasses 1,439 acres along the Great Miami River where it feeds into the Ohio. The park works to conserve historical sites and natural resources for all to enjoy. The 1.4-mile Miami Fort Trail follows prehistoric Indian earthen works with views of the Great Miami and Ohio Rivers. The historic Micajah Dunn two-story log cabin, circa 1795, and Springhouse School building, dating back to 1800, can be toured near an Indian burial mound, all adjacent to picnic areas and playgrounds. Three nature trails allow visitors to view the habitats of many birds, fish, mammals, and amphibians which are drawn to the protected wetland areas of the conservancy. Whether it is a morning of golfing, hiking, or paddling, visitors can pause at lunchtime to enjoy a picnic at one of the many beautiful spots in the park, or they can move on down the road to an Ohio historical monument, the Harrison Tomb, and picnic later at another Hamilton county riverside park.

The Harrison Tomb, which is open year-round during daylight hours, can be reached by turning left out of the Shawnee Lookout entrance and following the Ohio River along Brower Road into North Bend, Ohio. This scenic river drive passes industrial developments and a power plant in addition to quaint riverside homes and camps that look over the river to the Kentucky hills. President William Henry Harrison and other family members are honored with a grand limestone tower marking their burial site on Mt. Nebo in North Bend. The tower commands a panoramic view of the bend on the Ohio River near the place where the ninth president spent much of his adult life and met his wife Anna Tuthill Symmes following the War of 1812. The Harrison Tomb is surrounded by a nature path meandering through a lovely hollow and back up to the Congress Green Cemetery, the burial site of Anna’s father, John Cleves Symmes, among others. A short walk and a gorgeous view make this stop worth at least a half-hour of the day’s trip along the Ohio.

A convenient stop for walking along the banks of the Ohio is the Fernbank Park, just east of the Harrison Tomb Historical Site on U.S. 50. In addition to the paved path for biking, walking or running, this Hamilton County park provides sheltered picnic areas and a giant play area for children. Day-trippers who did not picnic at Shawnee Lookout will want to stop here to enjoy a packed lunch and to watch the river traffic of barges and pleasure boats.

For travelers not interested in a picnic, there are a few options for lunch or dinner on U.S. 50 as they travel east toward Cincinnati. If it is a Sunday, Rohrer’s Tavern in North Bend has a buttermilk fried chicken dinner special that includes a dessert of fried apples over ice cream dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with caramel sauce—YUM. The house specialty is their signature, award-winning, hand-breaded cod, or try a half-pound Build-Your-Own Angus burger. Rohrer’s has been an Ohio River town tradition for sixty years.

Another fun stop is a little further east on U.S. 50, right next to Anderson Ferry. The Anderson Ferry takes cars across to Kentucky seven days a week. Next door is Drew’s on the River, a sports bar and grill, which has an outdoor tiki bar and spacious patio overlooking the river. It is a family friendly place during the day for traditional pub food, and Drew’s offers live music every Friday and Saturday night for the adult crowd.

The next stop on the road is the big city—Cincinnati. Traffic picks up and the drive get s a bit complicated. Of course the city has everything to offer travelers—good restaurants, hotels, shopping, professional baseball and football, museums, and the river. Just across the river in Kentucky is Newport on the Levee offering live music, restaurants, shopping and an aquarium for more fun. However, Cincinnati and Newport are for another day, or two, or three. For those who are called to the river, the road continues east toward more adventure and history in the charming river towns yet to come.


  1. Well said. I often reflect that too few people are aware of the really lovely sights southern Ohio has to offer -- even right here in Butler County. I cross Four Mile Creek almost daily. I love to see the sportsmen standing knee-deep in the water fishing. Seven Mile Creek has a lot of blue herons -- gorgeous as they walk slowly along the stony banks, stunning when they fly.

    I also am a bit jealous that you have the time to travel and write. I'm subscribing to your blog, so keep 'em coming.

  2. I love the way you paint pictures with your words! Now I want to get in the car and travel your highway! Thanks!