OHIO VALLEY — Cargo moves quietly up and down the Ohio River, and those who have grown up on it’s banks see it as part of everyday life. It is nothing out of the ordinary to see dozens of towboats moving along the river, checking through locks and dams located at various points.
More than 184 million tons of cargo are transported on the Ohio River each year, with coal being the most commonly transported product. In 2017, 12 percent of coal shipped in the United States was transported by river barges — each barge carries between 1,500 and 1,750 ton of coal.
Coal transportation on the Ohio River isn’t new, and can be traced back to the early days of settlement. The first Geological Survey of Ohio in 1827-1838 identified mineral resources in the state, particularly coal. Soon after, mining began in the Ohio Valley, and the river provided a ready made source of transportation.
Coal in the region is an integral part of the fabric of the area, and it’s long history is worth exploring, but for now, just take a moment to notice the river traffic as it moves gracefully through the water, and to thank the captains and pilots for safely navigating their loads up and down the river on a daily basis.
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Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.