Ohio River

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The Ohio River is the largest tributary, by volume, of the Mississippi River. At the confluence, the Ohio is even bigger than the Mississippi (Ohio at Cairo: 281,500 cfs (7,960 m3/s);[2] Mississippi at Thebes: 208,200 cfs (5,897 m3/s)[3]) and, thus, is hydrologically the main stream of the whole river system, including the Allegheny River further upstream. It is approximately 981 miles (1,580 km) long and is located in the Eastern United States.

The river had great significance in the history of the Native Americans, as numerous civilizations formed along its valley. In the five centuries prior to European contact, the Mississippian culture built numerous regional chiefdoms and major earthwork mounds in the Ohio Valley, such as Angel Mounds near Evansville, Indiana, as well as in the Mississippi Valley and the Southeast. For thousands of years, Native Americans, like the European explorers and settlers who followed them, used the river as a major transportation and trading route. Its waters connected communities. Historically the Ohio Valley was territory of the Osage, Omaha, Ponca and Kaw, but they migrated west of the Mississippi River under pressure from Iroquois warriors from the northeast. By the mid-17th century, they had settled in their historic grounds in Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma and nearby states.

René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle led an expedition to the Ohio River in 1669; his French party were the first Europeans to see the river. After European-American settlement, the river served at times as a border between present-day Kentucky and Indian Territories. It was a primary transportation route for pioneers during the westward expansion of the early U.S. The Ohio flows through or along the border of six states, and its drainage basin encompasses 14 states. Through its largest tributary, the Tennessee River, the basin includes many of the states of the southeastern U.S.

During the 19th century, the river was the southern boundary of the Northwest Territory, and it served as the border between free and slave territory. It is sometimes referred to as the "Mason-Dixon line". It is commonly acknowledged as the western natural extension of the original Mason-Dixon line that divided Pennsylvania and Delaware from Maryland and West Virginia (then a part of Virginia). It was thus the unofficial and, at times disputed, border between the Northern United States and the American South or Upper South.

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