Head Out to the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival
By Heather Rader

Head Out to the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival

With its location along the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers and a rich history of being a riverboat town, Marietta attracts nearly 100,000 people admiring authentic riverboats at the annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival.

Since 1976, the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival welcomes authentic and historic sternwheel boats to line the river bank, preserving the area’s rich riverboat heritage. This free, family-friendly, three-day festival encourages history lovers, boat enthusiasts, families and spectators to gather along the river banks and admire more than thirty sternwheel boats. Although the majestic riverboats are the main attraction, visitors can also enjoy live entertainment, food vendors, children’s activities, a car show, boat races and fireworks. The 2017 Ohio River Sternwheel Festival is September 8th, 9th and 10th.




Ohio River Sternwheel Festival




Ohio River Sternwheel Festival

While visiting Marietta for the sternwheel festival, take a ride on the Valley Gem Sternwheeler. Docked along the Muskingum River, this authentic riverboat offers narrated sightseeing tours, dinner cruises and private charters. I ventured on a sightseeing cruise and found the boat ride aboard the Valley Gem was the perfect way to introduce Marietta’s riverboat culture. The boat has an upper deck open to the elements with a covered area for seating, the lower deck is enclosed and can be heated or air-conditioned for passenger comfort. The snack bar on board offers various drinks and snacks to enjoy while cruising the two rivers. Take a trip back in time, learn about the area’s history, feel the mist from the paddle wheel upon your face and enjoy the beauty of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers aboard the Valley Gem Sternwheeler.




Valley Gem Sternwheeler

The Ohio River Museum offers curious boat and history enthusiasts a glimpse of Ohio’s strong boating history. With numerous exhibits, historic artifacts and vintage photographs and videos on display, visitors will learn about the steamboat era and the ecology of the Ohio River. The crown jewel of the museum is the moored W.P. Snyder, Jr. The W.P. Snyder, Jr. is the only intact steam-powered “pool-type” stern-wheeled towboat in the United States. The historic boat is no longer operable, but visitors can tour the boat to see how life was aboard this once hard-working towboat.




W. P. Snyder, Jr. at the Ohio River Museum

Take a weekend to explore Ohio’s rich riverboat history by visiting Marietta and the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival! 

For more ideas on your next adventure, Find It Here at Ohio.org.

About the Author