Ohio River Scenic Byway – IL


  • DesignationNational Scenic Byway (1998)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric
  • LocationOH,IN,IL
  • Length188 of 943 total miles
Byway Visitor Information
Ohio River Scenic Byway Illinois
Statewide Byway Partners
Illinois Department of Transportation
Illinois Office of Tourism
View from a hill overlooking a town on the Ohio River.
Public domain Photo


Visitors can experience a mixture of beautiful scenery and history by following along the Ohio River Scenic Byway, which meanders along the banks of the Ohio River, offering almost continuous views of the river. Along the byway, visitors will discover the history of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio through rural landscapes and quaint river communities, covering periods from Native American habitation through western settlement, affecting transportation patterns and industrialization.

Local Byway Partners

Story of the Byway

Wind and rain chiseled away at sedimentary rocks more than 320 million years ago to in what is now the Shawnee National Forest. The area offers hiking and backpacking as you enjoy panoramic views. Gardens of the Gods has a ¼ mile observation trail that offers great views of the forest and the valley below. Nearby equestrian trails lend to the horseback riding experience. Stop at Pounds Hollow for swimming and fishing or Smithland Pools for sport fishing opportunities. The Ohio River is great for floating or rend a boat and cruise the river. The Ohio River Valley awaits you.

Driving Directions

The Byway follows the Ohio River as it creates the state border along the southern tip of Illinois. The Byway begins in Ohio and continues along the southern Indiana state border before traveling to Illinois where it follows Highways 62 and 146.

Points of Interest

  • Shawnee National Forest

    Towering rock formations and deep valleys carve the landscape around the Ohio River.

  • Cave-In-Rock State Park

    A 240-acre park with hiking, fishing, picnicking, and playgrounds. Named for its 55-foot-wide cave.

  • Gardens of the Gods

    Hiking, camping, and panoramic views.

  • Metropolis

    Fictional home of Superman with a 15-foot likeness in the town square.

  • Mound City National Cemetery

    Civil War history with more than 2,700 Union and Confederate soldiers buried here.


  • Heritage Tour of the Ohio River Scenic Byway

    Day 1
    Start off in Cairo, located at the southernmost tip of the state. It’s history is significant and spans from the time of the region’s discovery in 1673. The town was an important point in the American Civil War. While in Cairo, visit Cairo’s Magnolia Mansion, built in 1869 by Charles A. Galigher, who made his fortune selling flour during the Civil War. A reception for President U.S. Grant was held here during 1880. Also in Cairo is the Historic Safford Library, a grand building built in 1883 that has remained largely unchanged. Explore the library as well as all the unique treasures it holds.

    From Cairo, make your way to Mound City where you will discover the Mound City National Cemetery. The land was used as a naval shipyard during the Civil War for the Union. The city was also home to the Civil War Naval Hospital, which first accepted patients in 1861 although the structure no longer exists.Immediately after the Civil War, 1,644 men were interned-all of whom died in the town during the war.

    After exploring Mound City, make the short drive down the river to Metropolis to visit Illinois’s first State Park. Nearby, visit the Kincaid Mounds to discover the lives of America’s original inhabitants.

    Day 2

    Continue along the byway to Golconda. The downtown district is full of beautiful historic buildings. This town was a significant crossing point on the Trail of Tears. After take a short detour to visit the Garden of the Gods in the Shawnee National Forest or visit the Rock Caves of Hardin County. Make an optional trip over to the Saline County Pioneer Village and Museum.

    As you exit the Shawnee National Forest, drive by the Crenshaw Mansion, also known as the Old Slave House. Crenshaw made his fortune off slave-labor produced salt and practiced kidnapping freed blacks and selling them to southern states.

    End your day in Shawntee, once a busy port on the Ohio River. Drive by the beautiful Old Shawneetown Bank before you end your journey.

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