Cruising south on Ohio Route 7, our curvy road takes the longest straight stretch of the Ohio River Scenic Byway from Monroe County to Washington County – land once surveyed by George Washington. It’s called the “Long Reach” and the first president’s 1770 campsites are marked along the way.
Along this expanse, in southern Monroe County, the Fly Ferry Landing offers an authentic heritage voyage. In business continually since 1815, the ferry from Fly to Sistersville, West Virginia is one of only four remaining on the Ohio River between Pittsburgh and the Mississippi River and the only one joining Ohio and West Virginia.
Wild and magnificent Wayne National Forest, blanketing more than a quarter million acres of Appalachian foothills, can be found in patches all along the southeastern portion of the Ohio River Scenic Byway. The forest, resplendent with covered bridges, rock shelters, and natural springs, features more than 300 miles of trails for hiking, all-terrain vehicle riding, horseback riding, or mountain biking. Camping, fishing and hunting are also available in season.
The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge consists of 3,300 acres – 22 islands and three mainland tracks – scattered along 400 miles of the beautiful river. A nature trail offers an amazing view of wildlife and wetlands habitats on Middle Island. Optimal viewing times are early in the morning or at dusk. The refuge is open to the public without admission fees from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset.
The famed “Gateway to the Northwest Territory”, Marietta was Ohio’s first settlement. The legendary riverboat town is an artistic community, rich in architecture and infused with European panache – as evidenced in our boutiques and restaurants. The Pioneer City hosts several museums and galleries, including the Ohio River Museum, the Campus Martius Museum and the Castle. Indulge in a riverboat cruise aboard a sternwheeler, enjoy a trolley ride exploring our two historic districts or cross the Muskingum River on an uncommon walking bridge. The Pioneer City is world famous for its prehistoric earthworks and Mound Cemetery – the burial place of ancients and Revolutionary War veterans.
Ohio’s best adventure town, Marietta is also a great place to embark on an outdoor challenge. The Marietta Adventure Company provides equipment and guides for cycling, kayaking, bouldering and more. Marietta is full of trails for walking or biking. The rivers are such an important aspect of life here, annual festivals like the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival, Riverfront Roar, and the Rivers, Trails, and Ales Festival keep the Ohio River Levee hopping with entertainment and activity all summer.
Ohio’s second settlement, Belpre, hosts the Farmer’s Castle Museum, with a collection of artifacts recalling history from the Native Americans who first lived here to the importance of the region as part of the Underground Railroad. The Unicorn Wine Guild and Tea Room serves up unique tasting opportunities and a chance to make your own libations. “Belle Prairie” overlooks Blennerhassett Island – home to one of the earliest and greatest conspiracies in American history. The site is open May through October for visitors to explore the grounds, tour the mansion, or take a wagon ride on the Ohio River island.
Rural Meigs County is full of golden opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, music lovers, locavores and historians. Major attractions include Forked Run State Park, Shade River State Forest, Meigs County Museum, Buffington Island State Park (the site of the only Civil War battle fought in Ohio), and the state’s oldest standing courthouse. Meigs County is also the home of the world famous Fur Peace Ranch – a guitar camp with overnight facilities and a concert hall – the nationally recognized stage for the PBS concert series. A utopian skateboard society can be found at Skatopia near Rutland operated by pro-skater Brewce Martin. The Wild Horse Café in Pomeroy serves up southwestern cuisine with a river view.
In Gallia County, the riverfront village of Gallipolis is a little, but unforgettable place. The Our House Museum served as an inn and tavern for travelers in the 1800’s, including General Lafayette who left his coat behind. The French Art Colony features extensive creative programming including exhibitions and live performances. A few miles away, the Bob Evans Farm Homestead Museum offers a look at the family heritage behind the popular restaurant while providing farm fun and entertainment for the whole family. The Bob Evans Farm Festival is a fall favorite for folks from all over the region. At the former site of the Jewell Evans Grist Mill, the Merry Family Winery has taken up residence – growing and producing their own varietals.