John James Audubon frequented the Falls of the Ohio between 1808 – 1810, making numerous sketches (most were lost in his Henderson studio fire in 1818). The Falls of the Ohio State Park is located along the beautiful north shore of the Ohio River in Clarksville, Indiana just across the river from Louisville, Kentucky. Covering a total area of 144 acres, the property is located in the New Albany quadrangle within Clark County. The park’s 144 acres are divided into three sections. Sixty of the 144 acres are leased from the U.S. Army Core of Engineers (COE). The Interpretive Center, which is where the majority of the park’s activities are based out of, is located on these 60 acres. Eight of the 144 acres are located below the falls, which was the home site of General George Rogers Clark (1752-1818) from 1803-1809, and the remaining 76 acres are located to the northwest of the Clark Home site. This 76-acre area is now known as the Buttonbush Woods, and it is the newest addition to the park. All 144 acres of the park are located within the Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Conservation Area (NWCA), which comprises 1,404 acres of federally protected land and water.
The property has many special designations. The Falls of the Ohio Fossil Beds were designated a National Natural Landmark in 1966 by the National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior. The park is within the boundaries of the Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Conservation Area which is a national area administered by the COE, and it was awarded federal status in 1981. The property was established as a State Park in 1990. The National Park Service certified the Falls of the Ohio State Park as an official site on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail in 2001. The property was registered as part of the Blue Star Memorial Byway in 2003, which is a tribute to the armed forces of America, and the local Terrace Garden Club planned the landscape at the site along with three other flowerbeds at the park. The Clark Home site is on the National Registry of Historic Places for an Archeological Site, and the park is on the proposed plan for the Ohio River Greenway, which will create a park-like setting along the banks of the Ohio River connecting Jeffersonville, Clarksville, and New Albany. The Greenway will be approximately seven miles long, and it will include access to the Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Conservation Area.
The park is located in only one of the 12 natural regions of the state of Indiana known as the Big Rivers Natural Region (Homoya, et al., 1985), and it lies within the Scottsburg Lowland physiographic region of Indiana. This is classified as a low-relief region because much of the region is underlain by Devonian/Mississippian age shale that provides little resistance to erosion; however, it should be noted that most of the bedrock underlying the Falls of the Ohio is limestone, which provides more resistance to erosion than does shale (Indiana, 2002-2005). Perhaps for this reason, some people have sub-divided the Scottsburg Lowland into two regions, the northern part being the Scottsburg Lowland and the southern part being the Charlestown Hills region. According to this division, the Falls of the Ohio State Park would be located in the Charlestown Hills physiographic region of Indiana (Gray, 2000).
Habitats: Open water, marsh, mud bank, pocket prairie, sand bar, and woodland
Woodland Loop Trail (3/4 mile) – partially handicap accessible, partially seasonally flooded; Fossil beds (open space) – seasonally accessible (best June – December)
Diverse species of waterfowl, shore birds, woodland birds, raptors. Abundant migratory species. Nesting osprey, peregrine falcon, bald eagles, great blue heron, double-crest cormorants, black-crowned night herons in area (around and beyond the W.C.A.); great egrets and black vultures are abundant spring – autumn. Thousands of ring-billed gulls in winter. A variety of rare and accidentals are seen during migration.
Birding is popular from the deck with a mile+ long habitat below the fixed weir; wave rock, fisherman’s point, and the ‘duck pond’ are all great locations. Our woodlands contain typical abundant species of passerines.
The Falls of the Ohio State Park is known around the world for its exposed Devonian aged fossil beds which contain more than six hundred species of marine fossils, 30 percent of which were found nowhere else in the world before they were discovered at the Falls. The fossils beds at the Falls encompass an area of more than 220 acres, best exposed June – November.
The park was established to preserve the fossil beds and to specialize in education and interpretation. This is made possible by the year-round interpretive naturalist service and the 16,000 square foot Interpretative Center, which remains open throughout the year. The programming is geared primarily toward school groups. $2 Pay to Park in lieu of a gatehouse – unless you are visiting the Interpretive Center, then parking is free with regular admission to the museum.
The Falls of the Ohio State Park houses the Leonard C. Brecher ornithology book collection. It contains hundreds of books and periodicals dating from 1678 – 1975, including first additions by Audubon, Wilson, and many others. It also contains Brecher’s personal birding notes from mid-1930s until 1975. Books cover every continent. This non-circulating library may be accessed by qualified persons by appointment only. The rare books are not available for casual perusal to protect their condition.
The deck, the ramp to the upper fossil beds, and the first 500 feet of Woodland Loop Trail are handicapped accessible.
The average time to bird is two to three hours.
- Great Blue Herons: Year round
- Great Egrets: May – November
- Black-Crowned Night Herons: June – Mid September
- Black Vultures: Whenever fossil beds are partially exposed
- Double-Crested Cormorants: Year round, peak during spring and fall migration
- Ring-Billed Gulls: Peak in winter
- Bald Eagles: Year round
- Peregrine Falcon: Year Round
- Osprey: Spring – Autumn
- Shore Birds: Late July – November
- Warblers: Spring & Fall Migration along Woodland Trail
- Specialty Species:
- Nesting Opsrey – power line tower on Shippingport Island (seen from Clark’s Cabin): March – August; fishing, bathing, etc. (August – October)
- Nesting Bald Eagles (seen from Clark’s Cabin): March – April
- Gull, Seven species (Year round, but dominate winter months)
- Plovers, Five species (July – November)
- Sandpipers, Twelve species (July – November)
- Yellowlegs, Two species (July – November)
- Noteworthy Records:
- American Avocet (Three, April & July 2010)
- American Golden Plover (September, 2008; October 2011)
- American White Pelican (15 March, 1 July – August 2011)
- Black-bellied Plover (September 2007, September 2009)
- Black Scoter (November 2009)
- Surf Scoter (December 2008)
- White-winged Scoter (January 2011)
- Baird’s Sandpiper (August 2009)
- Stilt Sandpiper (August 2009)
- Buff-Breasted Sandpiper (October 2011)
- Eared Grebe (March, 2009)
- Franklin’s Gull (September, 2011)
- Great Black-backed Gull (November 2009)
- Laughing Gull (March 2009, October 2011)
- Lesser Black-backed Gull (January 2009)
- Little Blue Heron (July, 2011)
- Marbled Godwit (April 2008)
- Red-necked Phalerope (September 2009)
- Ruddy Turnstone (September 2008)
- Snowy Egret (June 2007, September 2008)
- White Ibis (July 2010)
- Willet (40, April, 2010)
GENERAL SITE INFORMATION
- Falls of the Ohio State Park
- Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Area – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- 7:00am – 11:00pm (grounds)
- The pay-to-park station is located behind the Interpretive Center. Fees collected support park operations since we do not have a gate house.
Put $2 in the envelope and insert it into the collection slot in the rear of the parking lot.The $2 parking fee applies for all visits. It doesn’t apply to the lot near the railroad bridge or at the GRC home site.
Indiana’s State Park Pass allows you free parking. It does not apply to Interpretive Center admission.
Interpretive Center Admission Fees
Daily Rate Parking is $2 $9 Age 12 and older $7 Age 11 and younger Under 5 Free
- Museum has modern facilities; there are no outdoor restrooms, restrooms open with museum
- Numerous motels in the area (Clarksville, Jeffersonville), campgrounds at Charlestown State Park 15 miles NE
- Special Considerations:
- Siren sounds before the McAlpine Dam tainter gates open.
- Shorebird habitat is best when the fossil beds are exposed (25 foot or lower on the lower gauge of the McAlpine Dam) see:http://water.weather.gov//ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=lmk&gage=mlpk2&view=1,1 for current river level at the Falls of the Ohio.
- Temporal Considerations:
- Consult our birding brochure (http://www.fallsoftheohio.org/forms/bird_checklist07_FallsOfTheOhio.pdf), or illustrated checklist http://www.fallsoftheohio.org/BirdChecklist.html for species abundance by season.
- Palmer-Ball, Brainard. Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Kentucky. Second Edition. The Kentucky Ornithological Society, 189 p., 10 plates, 2003.
Author: Alan Goldstein
Editor: Dick Patterson
Created: October, 2011Location
South Central Indiana
Clark County, Indiana
DeLorme Page 58, Grid H-6
Observation Deck: 38º 16’ 35.1N 85º 45’ 49.5”
Fisherman’s Point: 38º 16’ 41N 85º 45’ 58.9”W
Clark Home Site: 38º 17’ 12.5N 85º 46’ 34.1”
Ashland Park (winter duck observations): 38º 16’ 10.2N 85º 45’ 16.9”W
From the North:
Take I-65 (Indianapolis)
Take Exit 0 (Jeffersonville). Veer right at second stop sign. Follow Riverside Drive to the Interpretive Center.
From the East:
Exit I-64 (Lexington, Ky)
Take I-264 east (Watterson Expressway). Follow I-264 to I-71 south. It will lead you to I-65 interchange. Follow signs to I-65 North.
I-71 (Cincinnati) Follow to I-65 interchange. Follow signs to I-65 North.
From the West:
Take I-265 east to I-65 south. Take Exit 0. Turn left at the bottom of the ramp. Turn left at the brown “Falls” sign (North Shore Dr.). Turn left at the stop sign onto Southern Indiana Ave. Turn right at the stop sign on to Market St. Veer right at the next stop sign. Follow Riverside Drive to the Interpretive Center. Do not go over the levee!
From the South:
Take the first exit after crossing the Kennedy Bridge (Exit 0). Turn left at the bottom of the ramp. Turn left at the brown “Falls” sign (North Shore Dr.). Turn left at the stop sign onto Southern Indiana Ave. Turn right at the stop sign on to Market St. Veer right at the next stop sign. Follow Riverside Drive to the Interpretive Center. Do not go over the levee!
From City (optional):
Clark Memorial Bridge (from Louisville)
Take a right at the traffic light at the end of the bridge. Immediately turn right onto North Shore Ave. Turn left at the next stop sign onto Southern Indiana Ave., the right at stop sign at Market St. Veer right onto Riverside Drive, go to the Interpretive Center. Do not go over the levee!
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Indiana Audubon Society's mission is to stimulate interest in birds and their protection; to serve the needs of youth, civic, church, schools and other groups by providing information concerning birds; and to educate the public concerning the necessity for conserving and preserving Indiana's natural heritage, its unique flora and fauna.