The Scioto River at Chillicothe
|Origin||Near New Hampshire, Ohio|
|Mouth||Ohio River near Portsmouth|
|Length||231 miles (372 km)|
|Mouth elevation||486 ft (148 m)|
|Avg. discharge||6,674 ft³/s (189 m³/s)|
|Basin area||6,517 mi² (16,879 km²)|
The Scioto River (// sy-OH-toh or // sy-OH-tə) is a river in central and southern Ohio more than 231 miles (372 km) in length. It rises in Auglaize County in west central Ohio, flows through Columbus, Ohio, where it collects its largest tributary, the Olentangy River, and meets the Ohio River at Portsmouth. Too small for modern commercial shipping, its primary economic importance is for recreation and drinking water.
Geography and geology
The lower Scioto River valley is large compared to the width of the river and is extensively farmed. Meltwaters from retreating glaciers carved the valley exceptionally wide. Valley bottoms are smooth, and flood deposits created during and since the most recent Glacial period cause floodplain soils to be very productive. As a result, farms line much of the lower Scioto where it flows through low, rolling hills covered in hardwood trees.
The geologic history of the Scioto River is tied to the destruction of the Teays River network during the Ice Ages and consequent creation of the Ohio River. The north flowing Teays River was dammed by glaciers, and damming of other rivers led to a series of floods as lakes overflowed into adjacent valleys. Glacial Lake Tight is estimated to have been two-thirds the size of modern Lake Erie. Valleys beyond the reach of glaciers were reorganized to create the Ohio River, and the Scioto River replaced the Teays River. The Scioto River flows through segments of the Teays River valley but opposite the direction the Teays River flowed. In the cities of Columbus and Dublin, the river has cut a gorge in fossil-bearing Devonian limestone, and many tributary streams have waterfalls, such as Hayden Falls.
The Scioto River valley was home to many Native American cultures. The best known group is the Mound Builders of the Hopewell tradition. Numerous burial mounds can be seen near Chillicothe at the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park. The former strength of these cultures is demonstrated in settler accounts from as far east as Virginia. The name Scioto is derived from the Wyandot word skɛnǫ·tǫ’ 'deer' (compare Shenandoah, derived from the word for deer in another Iroquoian language.
The book Trans-Allegheny Pioneers is a compilation of historical events surrounding the move west across the Allegheny Mountains. Settlers reaching the Virginia-West Virginia border region in the late 17th century had many exciting encounters with Native American parties from their seat of power, the Scioto River valley.
During the antebellum years, the Scioto River provided a route to freedom for many slaves escaping from the South, as they continued north after crossing the Ohio River. Towns such as Chillicothe became important stops on the Underground Railroad.
In 2012, the river dropped to record- or near-record-low water levels as a result of the acute effects of the 2012 North American drought in Ohio.
Threats facing the river include agricultural pollutants from upstream and urban-generated pollutants such as contaminated street runoff and waterborne litter. Rapid residential and commercial development in the watershed is increasing stormwater runoff.
Dams and reservoirs
There are two major dams on the river. Griggs Dam in Columbus was built in 1904-1908 to impound a water supply for the city. Farther upstream, at Shawnee Hills, the O'Shaughnessy Dam was built in 1922-1925 creating a larger reservoir which was billed at the time as "the finest inland waterway in the United States." Both dams are operated by the city of Columbus. Removal of an existing dam, the Main Street Dam, has been proposed. The removal would shrink the width and depth of the river. Some experts insist that returning the river to more natural contours would make it healthier.
Cities and towns along the Scioto River
Cities and towns, listed from upstream to downstream:
- Green Camp
- Shawnee Hills
- Upper Arlington
According to the Geographic Names Information System, the Scioto River has also been known as:
- Big Sciota River
- Big Scioto River
- Chianotho River
- Great Siota River
- Menkwi Siipunk
- Riviere Chianouske
- Sciodoe Creek
- Sciota River
- Seeyotah River
- Sinhioto River
- Siothai River
- Sioto River
- Olentangy River
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