Thomas Hutchins map of the Falls of the Ohio drawn in 1778.
The Rapids, or Falls of the Ohio are located about 705 miles from the "Forks" at Pittsburgh
Zadok Cramer's map of the Falls of the Ohio as it appears in the Eight Edition of the Navigator published
in 1814. The following text accompanies this map in the 1814 Edition:
Editor's Note: The "Notice" displayed here is from
an 1818 Edition of the Pittsburgh Gazette. A more complete account about plans to build a canal around
"Falls of the Ohio" can be found in Wikipedia.org
under the heading "Louisville and Portland Canal."
The Rapids of the Ohio
"Are occasioned by a ledge of rocks which extend quite across the river, and are hardly to be perceived by the navigator in times of high freshes, unless by the superior velocity of the boat, which descends over them at the rate of from 10 to 13 miles an hour. When the water is low, the greater part of the rock becomes visible, and it is then that the passage becomes dangerous.
There are three channels or passes through the rapids: The course north or right of No. 62 or Goose Island, called the Indian schute, is the main channel, but it is not passable in times of low water. The course between Nos. 62 and 63, Rock and Goose Islands, called the Middle schute, is a safe and easy passage in all situations of the water above the middling stage. The pass between No. 63, Rock island, and the Kentucky shore, called the Kentucky schute, is lost in Rock harbor, and is passable only in time of high water.
Near the bottom on the left side of No. 63 is a fine mooring place for boats, called Rock Harbor.
It is opposite the upper end of Shippingport, and has water enough at all seasons for vessels of any burden.
No. 64, Sandy island, may be passed on the right in high water only. The left or south pass is the main channel. From No. 64, to No. 63, is excellent mooring ground, and water enough for vessels of any tonnage.
The pass south of Corn island No. 61, and the Kentucky shore, is passable only in time
of high water.
From the great danger in passing the rapids, the courts of Louisville and Jeffersonville have been very careful to appoint experienced and trusty men as pilots, how can always be had at a moment's warning to conduct boats and vessels over them; and from a little ambition shewn by the pilots of both places to excel in their occupation, accidents, arising from the want of either skill or care, very seldom happen.
In leveling the descent of the rapids, they have been found to be 22-1/2 feet in two miles, the distance from Bear Grass creek to the foot of the falls.
Two miles above the rapids the river is deep, and three quarters of a mile broad; and in low water the channel is contracted to the breath of 250 yards. . . .
A canal has been proposed to be cut on the Kentucky side, to commence a little below Bear Grass creek, and open below Shippingport, a distance of 588 perches, or one mile and three quarters and twenty-eight perches. — The accomplishment of this object indeed would be a happy event to the trade of the Ohio. The highest ground through which the canal would have to be taken, would not exceed 29 feet, and its average depth would be 20 feet 6 inches. The route throughout is stiff clay, lying upon a bed of rock not exceeding 40 inches than the floor of the canal. The canal is calculated sufficiently capacious for a ship of 400 tons, and this would afford a column of water greater than 3 feet by 24, during the lowest stages, and 24 feet fall.
From the known enterprising disposition of the Kentuckians, we have little doubt but this contemplated canal will be completed in a few years. If encouragement be wanting, we cannot see why the legislatures of Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, should not throw in their strength to accomplish an object which would doubtless prove very advantageous to the citizens of each of those states, as well as to the state of Kentucky.
The first settlement we find made at the falls, was in the year 1774, when a number of surveyors, who were sent out by governor Dunmore of Virginia, to survey the interior of Kentucky, stopped here for some time, and erected temporary huts for their residence."