When Meriwether Lewis journeyed down the Ohio River to meet William Clark, his stopping place was a rugged area of wooded hills where the river swirled and eddied over rock formations dating back eons and containing a rich load of fossilized materials. Called the Falls of the Ohio (fallsoftheohio.org), it was the most hazardous spot on the 981-mile river — and also where Lewis and Clark would begin their epic journey to the Pacific Northwest.
Clark was staying with his older brother, George Rogers Clark, in a cabin above the Ohio, a tiny dot among the more than 150,000 acres of land Indiana awarded to the latter for his heroism during the Revolutionary War. Now a state park, the Falls has one of the largest, naturally exposed, Devonian fossil beds in the world (dating back 390 million years) and a great interpretative center. It’s located in Clarksville — yes, there’s a reason for that name — and along with New Albany and Jeffersonville, it’s one of three delightful cities on the Indiana side of the river across from Louisville, Ky. Collectively, they’re know as the “Sunny Side of Louisville” (sunnysideoflouisville.org).
Where to Dock
The 85-acre Louisville Waterfront Park (louisvillewaterfront.com) offers free public docking in the city’s historic downtown area and can accommodate large boats up to around 60 feet. Also in the city, floating docks and slips up to 70 feet are available at RiverPark Marina (riverparkplace.net).
Juniper Beach Docks (juniperbeachdocks.com), just six miles from Louisville, offers transient dockage for boats up to 90 feet. Heather’s on the River (heathersontheriver.com), 13 miles north of downtown Louisville, offers overnight docking (reservations recommended), 24-hour fuel services, a restaurant and a Tiki bar.
Where to Eat
Downtown New Albany, with its Victorian era downtown, offers some great global cuisine, including Habana Blues Tapas Restaurant (habanabluestapasrestaurant.com), Asian Fusion at the Dragon King’s Daughter (dragonkingsdaughter.com) and Louis Le Francais (louislefrancaischef.com), named 2014 Best French Restaurant in Metro Louisville.
For seafood, a local favorite since 1948 is Kingfish (kingfishrestaurants.com), with a great deck on the Ohio River in Jeffersonville. If you’re willing to go further afield, Joe Huber’s Family Restaurant (joehubers.com) in nearby Starlight is Indiana country eating at its best — fried chicken, mashed potatoes and fried biscuits with house-made apple butter.
Where to Imbibe
As long as you’re in Starlight, visit nearby Huber’s Orchard, Winery & Vineyards, the largest producer of wine grapes in the state. The complex features an immense second-floor tasting room, both indoor and outdoor dining, an ice cream and cheese store, and Family Farm Park. In an interesting aside, the Huber family arrived in southern Indiana just a quarter century after George Rogers Clark died.
At the New Albanian Bank Street Brewhouse (newalbanian.com) try the cask-conditioned Bob’s Old 15-B Robust Brown Porter and Black & Blue Grass, a spiced Belgian ale. Also in New Albany, sample River City Winery’s (rivercitywinery.biz) award-winning Culbertson Red and Lazy River White.
What to Do
Situated across the Ohio River from Kentucky, towns like New Albany were often stops on the Underground Railroad. The Carnegie Center for Art and History (carnegiecenter.org) spotlights this past with its award-winning exhibit “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage: Men and Women of the Underground Railroad.”
A few blocks away, the 160-foot tower of the Town Clock Church, built in 1852, was a beacon for those on the river, and the church’s interior had several hidden rooms for those on the run to freedom.
Take a tour at Schimpff’s Confectionary (schimpffs.com), which opened in Jeffersonville in 1891 and is now owned by Warren and Jill Schimpff. There are candy-making demos using the store’s original equipment. Museum like displays include probably the largest collection of vintage candy presses in the U.S and a plethora of candy memorabilia such as candy boxes, tins, wood candy dispensing machines and signage as well as a 1940s soda fountain.
Also in Jeffersonville, there’s the Howard Steamboat Museum (steamboatmuseum.org) in a magnificent Romanesque mansion. Enjoy free concerts on Friday nights in Jeffersonville’s Warder Park and Bicentennial Park in New Albany.
Follow the Ohio River Greenway (ohiorivergreenway.org), a multi-use river path connecting the three Indiana cities as well as Louisville. Stroll past the marvelously restored homes in New Albany’s Mansion Row District, making sure to stop at the three-story Second French Empire-style Culbertson Mansion (indianamuseum.org/explore/Culbertson). The 20,000-square-foot, 25-room residence is now a state historic site open for tours.
There’s swimming, a sprayground and five miles of walking trails at Jeffersonville Aquatic Center & Skate Park (jeffparks.org).
Atlantis Waterpark in Clarksville has lots of thrills and spills, including its 43-foot maze of water slides and Tsunami Seas wave pool with five-foot curlers, as well as King Neptune’s Cove for little ones (atlantiswaterpark.net).
Just across the river in Louisville, take a cruise on the Belle of Louisville (belleoflouisville.org), built in 1914 and the oldest operating Mississippi River-style steamboat in the world.