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The Falls of the Ohio River, Indiana and Kentucky

Carl B. Rexroad
Carl B. Rexroad
Indiana Geological Survey, 611 North Walnut Grove, Bloomington, Indiana 47405
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Richard L. Powell
Richard L. Powell
Geoscience Research Associates, Inc., Bloomington, Indiana 47401
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January 01, 1987


The Falls of the Ohio River is internationally renowned for the profusion of corals and other fossils found in the Devonian beds at this site. Indeed, the earliest paper on its corals was published in Belgium by Rafinesque and Clifford in 1820. Subsequently, about 75 papers have described some 600 fossil species fromthe falls, Other studies have addressed the geomorphology of the area, including in particular the origin and history of the Ohio River and of the falls. The Falls of the Ohio is also important in understanding the Devonian history of southern Indiana and adjacent Kentucky.

In reality a series of rapids, the Falls ofthe Ohio encompassed a stretch of the Ohio River about 2 mi (3.2 km) long between Louisville, Kentucky, onthe south bank of the river, and New Albany, Clarksville, and Jeffersonville, Indiana, on the northern bank (Fig. 1). “In these rapids, the river has a descentof twenty-two and a half feet, … but in no case, has it a perpendicular fall of more than three. At high water, an acceleration of current, not usual to other parts of the river, is all that is perceived; but at low water, it cannot be passed by loaded boats, without great risk and danger” (Lapham, 1828). Therefore, the Falls Cities owe their initial growth and development to the fact that during times of low water, boats following this major artery of westward expansion either had to off-load and portageor had to wait for high water.

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DNAG, Centennial Field Guides

North-Central Section of the Geological Society of America

Geological Society of America
ISBN electronic:
Publication date:
January 01, 1987




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