If you are interested in prehistoric creatures, fossils, paleontology, or the study of how George Rogers Clark or Lewis and Clark explored the Indiana territory this is the park for you. Also, if you are just looking for a nice park that offers an indoor Interpretive Center or you would like to learn about how Indiana looked before it became a state, this is the park for you. The Falls of The Ohio State Park has plenty of educational opportunities for everyone and visitors of all ages will find this an intriguing park.
The Falls of The Ohio State Park is located in southern Indiana just across the river from Louisville, Kentucky in Clarksville, Ohio. The park was established in 1990 and is about 165 acres of land that is within the Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Conservation Area which is federally preserved and protected land and water. This area was covered by a tropical sea millions of years ago and that is what has led to it being a state park today. There is an abundance of fossilized creatures in this area and the park gives you the opportunity to hunt for those kinds of fossils. However, it is important that you do not remove any thing from the park as it is there for all to enjoy.
Why is the area referred to as the falls when it does not look like a normal waterfall is a commonly asked question and it is because of the series of rapids caused by water flowing over the ledges of limestone, which is prevalent in southern Indiana, composed of a large number of fossils. The first rapids were found in front of what is now downtown Louisville and continued about 2.5 miles to Sand Island with a drop of about 26 feet. In the 1920’s a dam was built and the flow of the river was restricted enough that the rapids were covered with water and today there are only a few pieces of the rapids left below the dam. Early explorers, such as George Rogers Clark and William Clark and Meriweather Lewis found this area to be a dangerous spot of travel along the Ohio River due to the dangerous rapids and the low waters and the many layers of limestone.
It is believed that the Ice Age glaciers melted and the raging waters from them formed the Ohio River which exposed the Devonian fossil beds. These fossil beds have helped scientists to have an unique look into the ancient coral sea floor.Many corals, mollusks, echinoderms,and sponges thrived in the water that was once present in this area. Many tiny teeth and scales can be found to back the belief that fish were present during this time too.
The best part of The Falls of the Ohio State Park is the 16,000 square foot interpretative center that is located within the park. Inside this building visitors will find a movie and many exhibits that showcase the geology and history of The Falls of the Ohio. There is an auditorium and educational classrooms as well as a wildlife observation and a river observation room along with a gift shop. Inside there are plenty of educational opportunities for teachers to make this a field trip for all students. The interpretative center is open until 5 p.m. daily.
Outside of the interpretative center is 175 acres of fossil beds that visitors are welcome to hike on when the water level is low. There are easy hiking areas as well as rugged ones. Remember is you intend to hike here that you will be hiking on limestone. There have been 600 species of fossils described at the Falls and 250 species of coral found and identified within the park. There are over 270 species of birds and 125 species of fish that have been identified also at the park. John James Audubon sketched many species of birds within this area while he lived in the area.
There are many activities available here other than looking at the fossils and the heritage of the land. The Falls of the Ohio State Park offers fishing as long as visitors have a Kentucky or Indiana fishing license. There are sauger, striped bass, walleye ,crappie, and catfish within the area. There is also a boat ramp at the George Rogers Clark home site where visitors are available to launch boats year round. There are picnic areas available as well with shelter and grills available at the Clark home site. There are many programs available at many times throughout the year. The George Rogers Clark home site offers a replica of the cabin that Clark built in 1778 when he settled in the area of Clarksville and established the first permanent English- speaking settlement in the Northwest Territory on what is known as Corn Island.
For a trip back in time to study paleontology, early Indiana history, the history of the Ohio River, early Indiana exploration, or just to spend a day on a hike looking for fossils The Falls of the Ohio State Park is the place to visit. While in the area, check out Greentree Mall and the Bass Pro Shop that are within a couple of miles from the park. There are many hotels and restaurants within the area as well for overnight lodging opportunities. Visit downtown Louisville as well since you are just across the river from it.