MARIETTA, Ohio - Although the address might be a bit confusing, visitors to the Ohio River Museum will find that institution at a beautiful waterfront location - albeit on the banks of the Muskingum River, next to the dock for the passenger sternwheeler Valley Gem.
The museum, in downtown Marietta near the confluence of the two rivers, tells the story of the Ohio River when it was a major American thoroughfare. The museum’s three buildings include a large collection of beautiful scale models depicting the golden age of riverboats, exhibits about famous riverboat captains - including some of the first African American and female captains - as well as mementos and relics from riverboat life.
Museum visitors also will see the salvaged pilothouse from the steamboat Tell City, built in 1889, one of the oldest surviving steamboat pilothouses. Also on display is a replica of the 1788 flatboat that brought the first settlers downriver to Marietta.
The centerpiece of the museum is the W.P. Snyder Jr., a century-old steam towboat that once pushed barges between the coal mines of West Virginia and the steel mills of Pittsburgh. The vessel was one of the last working steam towboats on the Ohio River system. Museum visitors can take a tour of the Snyder, a National Historic Landmark, to learn what it was like to be a deck hand on the river in the early 20th century.
The Snyder was a marvel of its day, with power-assisted steering mechanisms and a steam-powered generator to make electricity on board at a time when many of the houses and farms it passed along the river still lacked power.
The Snyder has been lovingly refurbished and looks as if it could still raise a head of steam and take off up the river - either river.
For more information about the Ohio River Museum in Marietta, call 1-800-860-0145 or visit ohiorivermuseum.org.
Steve Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.