New Web site touts Ohio River byways

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 2, 2004

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

Ohio tourism leaders hope the words of poet Robert Frost help guide travelers and that their paths make all the difference for communities along the Ohio River road.

State and local tourism leaders hope a new Web site created to help travelers plan trips along the Ohio River Scenic Byways also helps spark more tourism.

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"The new Web site promotes the Ohio River Scenic Byway as a state, national and international travel destination," said Paul Staley, coordinator of the Ohio Scenic Byway." It will also help support economic development in the Ohio River Scenic Byway communities and provide a user-friendly way for people to discover the variety of diverse experiences available on the byway."

The new Web site,, was created by federal and state transportation and commerce agencies.

More than 500 events and attractions are featured from the areas along the 967-mile stretch of highway in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

Lawrence County's Convention and Visitors Bureau Director said the "scenic route" is one of southeast Ohio's untapped resources.

"We get a lot of people who come in an want to see the scenic route," said Viviane Khounlavong. "When you travel, it's a way to get away and just relax. Compare driving on an interstate and driving along a beautiful country road."

And as more and more American's opt for the slower, more local flavor experience by taking the roads less traveled, the new Web site can help them plan their trips.

"The site can be searched by category, state, date, attraction or event name and keyword," said Ohio Scenic Byways Coordinator Paul Staley. "Users can also identify dining and lodging options near the attractions or events in which they are interested."

Information on the site is organized into six major categories: river towns, the great outdoors, famous people and places, history and folklore, culture and entertainment and festivals and events.

Although the number of local sites accessible on the site is small, Khounlavong says it illustrates the need to further develop the area's potential tourist stops.

"We could have bus tours if we renovated and did more with our Underground Railroad sites, the sites in Burlington and the floodwalls in Ironton," she said.

"We're so rich in Underground Railroad history and the iron furnaces," Khounlavong said, adding that her office receives more inquiries about Underground Railroad sites than any other type of inquiry.

"We just haven't really tapped into that. (And) it's very important to the heritage and culture of Lawrence County Š we need to preserve that," she said. "We need to think of travel and tourism as an economic development tool."