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River Facts / Conditions

The Ohio River is 981 miles (1582 km) long, starting at the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela Rivers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and ending in Cairo, Illinois, where it flows into the Mississippi River.

The Ohio River flows through or borders six states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

For a map of the Ohio River Basin, click here: Ohio River Basin

For a breakdown of counties along the Ohio River, click here: Ohio River Counties

For a list of towns along the Ohio River, click here: Towns along the Ohio River

For information on the major tributaries of the Ohio River, click here: Tributaries

  • The Ohio River is a source of drinking water for more than five million people.
  • More than 25 million people, 10% of the U.S. population, live in the Ohio River Basin. For a breakdown on Ohio River Basin Population, click here: Basin Population
  • Approximately 150 species of fish have been collected from the Ohio River.
  • The average depth of the Ohio River is approximately 24 feet.
  • The widest point along the Ohio River is approximately 1 mile at the Smithland Dam.
  • Nonpoint source pollution from urban runoff, agricultural activities, and abandoned mines is a major cause of water pollution in the Ohio River.
  • There are 20 dams and 49 power generating facilities on the Ohio River. For hydropower impacts, click here: Hydropower Impacts. The power generating facilities have a combined capacity in excess of six percent of the total US generating capacity. The navigation dams provide a nine-foot minimum depth for commercial navigation. For more information on navigational dams in the Ohio River Basin, click here: Navigational Dams. For information on how locks operate, click here: Locks.
  • Over 230 million tons of cargo are transported on the Ohio River each year. Coal and other energy products make up approximately 70 percent of the commerce traveling by barge.
  • Fish Tissue Contaminants
    Because many people eat their catch from the Ohio River, ORSANCO collects fish and examines the tissue for the presence of certain chemicals that may be harmful when eaten by humans. Yearly results are sent to the states bordering the River. If necessary, states will issue "consumption" advisories, which place limits on the type and amount of fish that can safely be eaten.