The lure of the wide open road beckons the wanderer. Follow the winding Ohio River Scenic Byway across southern Ohio and you’ll see more farmland and fewer industrial sites. This rural stretch of road is a favorite for lovers of uninterrupted, soul-soothing windshield time.
As you approach Ironton, you’ll find you are back in the Wayne National Forest – this time the Ironton District, which provides 100,000 acres of public land for all kinds of outdoor enjoyment. The lush forest is an ever-changing seasonal backdrop, enhancing the rural landscapes of the byway. Trails loop off of the road, enticing curious explorers into the woods. Camp in the wilderness or relax on the beach at Lake Vesuvius.
Ironton is also host to the Rally on the River. Bikers from all over the country gather for this popular event each August with three jam-packed days of music, food, and road worthy fun. Lawrence County is Ohio’s southernmost point – the place where the North, the South, and Appalachia meet. The Appalachian Uprising – a camping, pickin’ and grinnin’ Bluegrass festival – celebrates the harmony every June.
At the confluence of the Ohio and Scioto Rivers, you’ll find lovely, historic Portsmouth. The river town is adorned with massive floodwall murals. The century-old buildings in the Boneyfiddle District have been revitalized to house antique shops, retail establishments, a military museum, restaurants and a brewery. ()
A major arts center is located in Portsmouth at the Southern Ohio Museum, which houses two permanent installations featuring the largest collection of works by Clarence Holbrook Carter and “Art of the Ancients” with 10,000 prehistoric artifacts. Three other galleries feature exhibitions and a 100-seat theatre and student art studio are also onsite.
Just beyond Portsmouth, you’ll discover Shawnee State Park – often called “the Little Smokies” because of its rugged splendor. The 60,000 acre forest was once the hunting grounds of the Shawnee Indians. On the horizon you’ll see a distinctive gentle blue haze, which comes from moisture in the air generated by the forest. The park is open for boating, fishing, picnicking, and swimming. (Hunting is available in the adjacent forest.) The site also features an 18-hole golf course, a nature center, and six hiking trails.
Between Portsmouth and Cincinnati lies the place known as Freedom’s Landing because of its significance to the Underground Railroad. Ripley is the home of abolitionist Rev. John Rankin and the place that inspired Eliza’s story of crossing the frozen Ohio River in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The Rankin House and Historic Site tell the story of the escaped slaves that sought refuge at the station. The John Parker House Museum also commemorates the conflict – through the eyes of a former slave who was determined to secure freedom for others.
The birthplace of US President Ulysses S Grant can be found in Pt. Pleasant. Nearby, in Georgetown, the boyhood home of the 18th president still stands – as does the school he attended as a child. Grant Days are celebrated every April with Civil War era food, music and artillery demonstrations.