of the Ohio State Park
to celebrate steamboat history
Parrish to speak at Dec. 8 event
CLARKSVILLE, Ind. (December 2012) In 1811,
the New Orleans became the first steamboat to navigate the Ohio and
Mississippi rivers, traveling from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. Up to
that time, steamboats had been used only on the placid East Coast rivers.
No one knew whether steamboats could make the more perilous journey
through the unpredictable and often tumultuous waters of the Ohio and
On her maiden voyage, the New Orleans demonstrated for
all the power and effectiveness of steam travel via the rivers and changed
the course of history for the United States.
At 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Falls of the Ohio State Park,
Chuck Parrish, retired district historian for the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, will offer insights into this history. To commemorate the
bicentennial of the sailing of the New Orleans, the Rivers Institute
at Hanover College created, in conjunction with Parrish, a documentary
celebrating the history of steamboats. At the park, Parrish will lead
a program celebrating the impact and significance of steamboats on both
local and national history and then show the documentary. Admission
is $5 for those 19 and over, and $2 for those under 19.
Parrish followed a lifelong interest in history to a job with Army Corp
by recording and preserving the activities of the Corps as it created
dams, reservoirs, locks and other river improvement projects. He maintained
the records of the projects as well as the preservation of various historical
buildings and homes, which were impacted by the Corps activities. As
a result of his long tenure with the Corps and focus on the local rivers,
Parrish has become a much-sought-after speaker and expert on the history
of the river; also co-authoring books and numerous articles.
When the Rivers Institute wanted to document the history of steamboat
travel, Parrish was the obvious choice for expert direction of the project.
Parrish notes the significant of the maiden voyage of the New Orleans.
Prior to that trip, only flat boats navigated the Ohio and Mississippi
and they could only run downstream. No one knew if the steamboats
could navigate the daunting waters of the Ohio and Mississippi due to
the changing water depths, the turbulent water, and, of course, the
falls of the Ohio, he said. When the New Orleans arrived
at the falls, the water level was too low to navigate. The New Orleans
went back upriver to Cincinnati until the water levels rose to a point
the ship could move. That was the first time a boat went upriver against
the current, proving the value of steam travel.
After that voyage, rivers filled with steamboats, opening the
way for commerce and travel. That changed the course of history,
He notes that cities such as Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville and
others owe their growth to the economic impact of steamboats.
Parrish notes the impact continues today. The modern tow boats
that push millions of tons of cargo along rivers today are the evolution
of these steamboats.
Parrish further explores the impact of steamboats on culture. Songs
such as Big River and Here Comes the Steamboat
as well as the writings of Mark Twain all grew out of steamboats and
their huge impact on life in our country.
The documentary details this history and offers viewers a deep insight
on all the ways steamboats have changed life, both in the past and today.
Alan Goldstein, interpretive naturalist for the Falls of the Ohio State
Park, said he hopes many will turn out for the program. Chuck
is a great speaker and a wealth of knowledge. Anyone who enjoys history
or the river will enjoy this program. Goldstein notes that many
of the attendees will be park volunteers. We have very active
training program for our volunteer naturalists. They field a wide range
of questions, and we want to prepare them well.
In order to prepare volunteers, the park plans monthly programs such
as this one to train and educate volunteers on the history of the area.
All the programs are open to the public and offer in-depth insights
for history lover.
For more information, call the Falls of the
Ohio State Park at (812) 283-4999.
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