Scioto River

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Scioto River
Columbus from Main St. Bridge-crop.jpg
The Scioto River in downtown Columbus, Ohio
Scioto River
Interactive map showing the Scioto River
Country United States
State Ohio
Counties Hardin, Marion, Delaware, Franklin, Pickaway, Ross, Pike, Scioto
Physical characteristics
  locationNear Roundhead, Ohio
  coordinates 40°36′32″N83°52′37″W / 40.6089398°N 83.8768831°W / 40.6089398; -83.8768831 [1]
Ohio River near Portsmouth
38°43′50″N83°00′46″W / 38.7306319°N 83.0126747°W / 38.7306319; -83.0126747 Coordinates: 38°43′50″N83°00′46″W / 38.7306319°N 83.0126747°W / 38.7306319; -83.0126747 [1]
486 ft (148 m)
Length231 mi (372 km)
Basin size6,517 sq mi (16,880 km2) [2]
  average6,674 cu ft/s (189.0 m3/s) [3]
Map of the Scioto River watershed Sciotorivermap.png
Map of the Scioto River watershed

The Scioto River ( /sˈtə/ sy-OH-tə) is a river in central and southern Ohio more than 231 miles (372 km) in length. [4] It rises in Hardin County just north of Roundhead, Ohio, flows through Columbus, Ohio, where it collects its largest tributary, the Olentangy River, and meets the Ohio River at Portsmouth. Early settlers and Native Americans used the river for shipping, [5] but it is now too small for modern commercial craft. The primary economic importance for the river now is for recreation and drinking water. It is the longest river that is entirely within Ohio.


Geography and geology

In western Hardin County, within one mile (1.6 km) of its source Scioto River headwaters.jpg
In western Hardin County, within one mile (1.6 km) of its source

The lower Scioto River valley is large compared to the width of the river and is extensively farmed. Meltwaters from retreating glaciers carved the valley exceptionally wide. Valley bottoms are smooth, and flood deposits created during and since the most recent Glacial period cause floodplain soils to be very productive. As a result, farms line much of the lower Scioto where it flows through low, rolling hills covered in hardwood trees.

The geologic history of the Scioto River is tied to the destruction of the Teays River network during the Ice Ages and consequent creation of the Ohio River. The north flowing Teays River was dammed by glaciers, and damming of other rivers led to a series of floods as lakes overflowed into adjacent valleys. Glacial Lake Tight is estimated to have been two-thirds the size of modern Lake Erie. Valleys beyond the reach of glaciers were reorganized to create the Ohio River, and the Scioto River replaced the Teays River. The Scioto River flows through segments of the Teays River valley but opposite the direction the Teays River flowed. In the cities of Columbus and Dublin, the river has cut a gorge in fossil-bearing Devonian limestone, and many tributary streams have waterfalls, such as Hayden Falls.


The Scioto River at Chillicothe Scioto ChillicotheOH.jpg
The Scioto River at Chillicothe
Scioto River in Columbus, Ohio looking north toward Dublin, Ohio WikiAir Ohio 01 - Scioto River.JPG
Scioto River in Columbus, Ohio looking north toward Dublin, Ohio

The Scioto River valley was home to many Native American cultures. The best known groups are the Mound Builders of the Hopewell tradition with mounds constructed by the Adena people more than 2000 years ago. Numerous burial mounds can be seen near Chillicothe at the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park. The former strength of these cultures is demonstrated in settler accounts from as far east as Virginia. The name Scioto is derived from the Wyandot word skɛnǫ·tǫ’ 'deer' (compare Shenandoah , derived from the word for deer in another Iroquoian language). [5]

During the antebellum years, the Scioto River provided a route to freedom for many slaves escaping from the South, as they continued north after crossing the Ohio River. Towns such as Chillicothe became important stops on the Underground Railroad.

A traditional fiddle tune in the Appalachian repertoire, “Big Scioty”, takes its name from the river. The melody is attributed to the Hammons family of West Virginia. [6]

In 2012, the river dropped to record- or near-record-low water levels as a result of the acute effects of the 2012 North American drought in Ohio. [7]

Dams and reservoirs

There are two major dams on the river. Griggs Dam in Columbus was built in 1904–1908 to impound a water supply for the city. Farther upstream, at Shawnee Hills, the O'Shaughnessy Dam was built in 1922–1925 creating a larger reservoir which was billed at the time as "the finest inland waterway in the United States." Both dams are operated by the city of Columbus.

The removal of the Main Street Dam in downtown Columbus, which was built in 1921, began in November 2013. [8] The $35.5 million removal project was initially proposed in the 2010 Strategic Plan for downtown Columbus and was funded by a coalition of public and private entities. Prior to its demolition, the Main Street Dam impounded roughly 2.3 miles (3.7 km) of the Scioto River, artificially enlarging its width to an average of 500 feet (150 m) in downtown Columbus. Once completed, the Scioto Greenways project will reduce the width by nearly half, and expose 33 acres (13 ha) of land which will be reclaimed as parkland by the city. Riffles and pools will be restored to the river channel, returning it to its natural riparian state. Experts believe the restoration project will result in a healthier river and better habitat for native plant, fish, and mussel species. [9]

Cities and towns along the Scioto River

The Scioto River near South Bloomfield Scioto River 2.jpg
The Scioto River near South Bloomfield

Cities and towns, listed from upstream to downstream:

Notable crossings

Variant names

According to the Geographic Names Information System, the Scioto River has also been known as:

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ohio River</span> Major river in the midwestern United States

The Ohio River is a 981-mile (1,579 km) long river in the United States. It is located at the boundary of the Midwestern and Southern United States, flowing southwesterly from western Pennsylvania to its mouth on the Mississippi River at the southern tip of Illinois. It is the third largest river by discharge volume in the United States and the largest tributary by volume of the north-south flowing Mississippi River that divides the eastern from western United States. It is also the 6th oldest river on the North American continent. The river flows through or along the border of six states, and its drainage basin includes parts of 14 states. Through its largest tributary, the Tennessee River, the basin includes several states of the southeastern U.S. It is the source of drinking water for five million people.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ashville, Ohio</span> Village in Ohio, United States

Ashville is a village in Pickaway County, Ohio, United States. The population was 4,097 at the 2010 census. Ashville is located five miles south of Columbus and six miles north of Circleville.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Waverly, Ohio</span> City in Ohio, United States

Waverly is a city in, and the county seat of, Pike County, Ohio, United States, located 14 miles south of Chillicothe. The population was 4,165 at the 2020 census. The town was formed in 1829, as the construction of the Ohio and Erie Canal along the west bank of the Scioto River brought new growth to the area. In 1861 the county seat was moved here from Piketon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chillicothe, Ohio</span> City in Ohio, United States

Chillicothe is a city in and the county seat of Ross County, Ohio, United States. Located along the Scioto River 45 miles (72 km) south of Columbus, Chillicothe was the first and third capital of Ohio. It is the only city in Ross County and is the center of the Chillicothe, OH Micropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 22,059 at the 2020 census. Chillicothe is a designated Tree City USA by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Portsmouth, Ohio</span> City in Ohio, United States

Portsmouth is a city in and the county seat of Scioto County, Ohio, United States. Located in southern Ohio 41 miles (66 km) south of Chillicothe, it lies on the north bank of the Ohio River, across from Kentucky, just east of the mouth of the Scioto River. The population was 20,226 at the 2010 census. Portsmouth also stands as the state's 88th most populated city.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dublin, Ohio</span> City in Ohio, United States

Dublin is a city in Franklin, Delaware and Union counties in the U.S. state of Ohio. The population was 49,328 in the 2020 census with a census estimate of 49,037 in 2019. Dublin is a suburb of Columbus. The city of Dublin hosts the yearly Memorial Tournament at the Muirfield Village Golf Club. The Dublin Irish Festival advertises itself as the largest three-day Irish festival in the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hopewell tradition</span> Ancient North American indigenous civilization

The Hopewell tradition describes the common aspects of an ancient pre-Columbian Native American civilization that flourished in settlements along rivers in the northeastern and midwestern Eastern Woodlands from 100 BCE to 500 CE, in the Middle Woodland period. The Hopewell tradition was not a single culture or society, but a widely dispersed set of populations connected by a common network of trade routes. This is known as the Hopewell exchange system.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Teays River</span>

The Teays River (pronounced taze) was a major preglacial river that drained much of the present Ohio River watershed, but took a more northerly downstream course. Traces of the Teays across northern Ohio and Indiana are represented by a network of river valleys. The largest still existing contributor to the former Teays River is the Kanawha River in West Virginia, which is itself an extension of the New River. The name "Teays," from the much smaller Teays Valley still extant above the surface, has been associated with the river and the remainder of its related buried valley since 1910. The more appropriate name would be ancestral Kanawha Valley. The term Teays is used when discussing the buried portion of the ancestral Kanawha River. The Teays was comparable in size to the Ohio River. The River's headwaters were near Blowing Rock, North Carolina; it then flowed through Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.. The largest tributary to the Teays River was the Old Kentucky River, which extended from southern Kentucky through Frankfort and subsequently flowed northeast, meeting other tributaries and eventually joining the Teays.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hopewell Culture National Historical Park</span> United States national historical park

Hopewell Culture National Historical Park is a United States national historical park with earthworks and burial mounds from the Hopewell culture, indigenous peoples who flourished from about 200 BC to AD 500. The park is composed of six separate sites in Ross County, Ohio, including the former Mound City Group National Monument. The park includes archaeological resources of the Hopewell culture. It is administered by the United States Department of the Interior's National Park Service.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hopeton Earthworks</span> United States historic place

The Hopeton Earthworks are an Ohio Hopewell culture archaeological site consisting of mounds and earthwork enclosures. It is located on the eastern bank of the Scioto River just north of Chillicothe in Ross County, Ohio, about 1 mile (1.6 km) east of the Mound City Group and Shriver Circle on a terrace of the Scioto River. The site is a detached portion of the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park, along with the Mound City Group, Hopewell Mound Group, Seip Earthworks, Spruce Hill Earthworks and the High Bank Works. The site is open to the public.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Portsmouth Earthworks</span> Archaeological site in Ohio, United States

The Portsmouth Earthworks are a large prehistoric mound complex constructed by the Native American Adena and Ohio Hopewell cultures of eastern North America. The site was one of the largest earthwork ceremonial centers constructed by the Hopewell and is located at the confluence of the Scioto and Ohio Rivers, in present-day Ohio.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cedar-Bank Works</span> Archaeological site in Ohio, United States

Cedar-Bank Works is group of Adena culture earthworks located in Ross County, Ohio in the United States. It is located approximately five miles north of the town of Chillicothe, Ohio.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Piketon Mounds</span> Archaeological site in Ohio, United States

The Piketon Mounds are a group of earthworks located in Piketon, Ohio in the United States. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The specific age of the site is unknown. Some mounds were created by the Adena culture, while other mounds were built by the Hopewell culture.

Columbus, the capital city of Ohio, was founded on the east bank of the Scioto River in 1812. The city was founded as its capitol, beside the town of Franklinton, since incorporated into Columbus. The city's early history was gradual, as residents dealt with flooding and cholera epidemics, and the city had few direct connections to other cities. This led creation of a feeder canal, and later, freight and passenger railroads. The city became known for its industry and commercial businesses into the 20th century, though it experienced a lull in development in the late 20th century. In the 21st century, Columbus has been increasingly revitalized, led by parks projects, new developments, and efforts to beautify individual neighborhoods.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Genoa Park</span> Park in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.

Genoa Park is a 2.07-acre (0.84 ha) urban park along the west bank of the Scioto River in Columbus, Ohio, United States. The park, located between Broad and Rich Streets, is named after Genoa, the birthplace of Christopher Columbus and one of Columbus' sister cities. It opened in 1999.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shriver Circle Earthworks</span> Ohio Hopewell culture archaeological site

The Shriver Circle Earthworks are an Ohio Hopewell culture archaeological site located in Chillicothe in Ross County, Ohio. At 1,200 feet (370 m) in diameter the site is one of the largest Hopewell circular enclosures in the state of Ohio.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scioto Mile</span> Park in Columbus, Ohio

The Scioto Mile is a collection of parks and trails along both banks of the Scioto River in Columbus, Ohio, connecting parts of the Scioto Greenway Trail with downtown Columbus and Franklinton. The nine parks cover 145 acres (59 ha).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scioto Mile Promenade</span> Park and promenade in Columbus, Ohio, U.S.

The Scioto Mile Promenade, also known simply as the Promenade, is a public park and promenade in downtown Columbus, Ohio. The park is part of the Scioto Mile network of parks and trails around the city's downtown area, and has a riverwalk stretching along the east bank of the Scioto River, from Battelle Riverfront Park to Bicentennial Park.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Columbus Civic Center (Ohio)</span> Civic center in downtown Columbus, Ohio

The Columbus Civic Center is a civic center, a collection of government buildings, museums, and open park space in Downtown Columbus, Ohio. The site is located along the Scioto Mile recreation area and historically was directly on the banks of the Scioto River.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Great Flood of 1913 in Columbus, Ohio</span> 1913 flood in the United States

The Great Flood of 1913 severely affected Columbus, Ohio. The area most affected was Franklinton, also known as the Bottoms, for its low elevation near the Scioto River. Among many infrastructure projects, a 7.2-mile floodwall was built from 1993 to 2004 to protect most of Franklinton from flooding.


  1. 1 2 U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Scioto River
  2. "Map of Ohio watersheds". Archived from the original on 2007-03-11.
  3. "Arthur Benke & Colbert Cushing, "Rivers of North America". Elsevier Academic Press, 2005 ISBN   0-12-088253-1
  4. "Scioto River Valley Federation".
  5. 1 2 "Scioto River – Ohio History Central" "Scioto River – Ohio History Central". Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  6. Perlman, Ken (2020). Appalachian Fiddle Tunes for Clawhammer Banjo. p. 51.
  8. "Main Street dam's days are numbered". The Columbus Dispatch. November 26, 2013. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  9. Caruso, Doug (April 3, 2012). "Full text of the Main Street Dam Removal study" (PDF). The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved December 19, 2013.