Indiana Scenic Drives: Ohio River Scenic Byway

By: Melissa Arnold
This map details Ohio River Scenic Byway.

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.

Find more useful information related to Indiana's Ohio River Scenic Byway:

  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.


Highlights of Ohio River Scenic Byway

Historic farms and architecture can be seen along the Ohio River Scenic Byway.

The beauty of Indiana's Ohio River Scenic Byway is unmatched, especially in the fall when the forests surrounding the byway change to red and golden tones. These beautiful colors are reflected in the blue serenity of the Ohio River. You can also take a side trip off the byway that leads to breathtaking views and opportunities for exciting sightseeing in the national and state forests surrounding the byway.

Also, you don't want to overlook the charm of the Indiana towns with their historic districts that stand proud with regal Victorian homes.


Heading east to west on the byway, consider using the following itinerary.

Hillforest Mansion: Begin at Hillforest Mansion in Aurora and sightsee. Travel along Highway 62, and continue on Highway 56 to Madison. This stretch is approximately 60 miles, but it's on very curvy roads and will take longer than you may expect.

J. F.D. Lanier State Historic Site and Clifty Falls State Park: The J. F.D. Lanier State Historic Site is located in Madison, and Clifty Falls State Park, with its many trails (some of them rugged), is located just outside the town on Highway 56.The town of Madison also has several historic sites open to the public as well as a wonderful Main Street.

Howard Steamboat Museum and Falls of the Ohio State Park: Follow Highway 56 out of Madison, and head south on Highway 62, just past the town of Hanover. Highway 62 will take you into Jeffersonville, Clarksville, and New Albany. These are also known as the Falls Cities and are directly across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky. The Howard Steamboat Museum and Falls of the Ohio State Park are located here.

Corydon Capitol State Historic Site: Continue on Highway 62 out of New Albany to Corydon. This is where the Corydon Capitol State Historic Site is located -- Indiana's first state capital. Other historic sites and a Civil War battle memorial are also located in Corydon. Corydon is approximately 20 miles from New Albany.

Wyandotte Caves and Woods: About ten miles west of Corydon on Highway 62, you come to the Wyandotte Caves and Wyandotte Woods. A variety of cave tours are available, and Wyandotte Woods offers hiking, camping, and picnic areas. Just past the town of Leavenworth, about eight miles from the Wyandotte area, take Highway 66. Around this area, you'll enter the Hoosier National Forest, where you will find a variety of activities.

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial: Stay on Highway 66 through the Ohio River towns of Cannelton, site of the Cannelton Cotton Mill (a National Register site),Tell City, and Grandview. As a side trip, take U.S. 231 north just past Grandview to Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. This national park celebrates the life of Abraham Lincoln. He lived in a cabin at this site from the age of 7 to 21.

Angel Mounds State Historic Site: Back at Grandview, stay on Highway 66 to Newburgh. Angel Mounds State Historic Site is between Newburgh and Evansville.

Reitz Home Museum: The Reitz Home Museum is located in the historic downtown Riverside District of Evansville. This is just a short distance from the Ohio River. Take Highway 62 west out of Evansville. It's about 25 miles to the Illinois border and the end of the Indiana portion of the route.

Travelers on the Ohio River Scenic Byway in Indiana have the unique opportunity to follow in Abraham Lincoln's boyhood steps, trod the path of freedom seekers on the Underground Railroad, and experience the fascinating history of quaint river towns.

Find more useful information related to Indiana's Ohio River Scenic Byway:

  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.