Our Mission, History, and Accomplishments

Ohio River Foundation (ORF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 2000 by a group of citizens concerned about the Ohio River, and the need for increased citizen response to the degradation of this valuable natural resource. ORF's mission is to protect and restore the water quality and ecology of the Ohio River and its tributaries for the health and enjoyment of present and future generations.

ORF has grown to offer programs in education and stewardship that reach thousands of schoolchildren each year and touch the lives of thousands more citizens by protecting water quality and improving quality of life.

The Ohio River watershed is a source of drinking water, place of recreation and commerce, and provides wildlife habitat. The health of the river and its tributaries affects the quality of life of everyone in the watershed.  Thus, our constituency is all people living in the Ohio River watershed (approx. 25 million people =10% of the US population).

Ohio River Foundation...

  • Promotes equal consideration of environmental protection and economic factors in watershed management
  • Fosters river stewardship through education and collaboration
  • Works with scientists and governmental agencies to protect and improve water quality
  • Provides access to resources to support citizen involvement in Ohio River development activities and governmental initiatives
  • Promotes increased opportunities for river restoration
  • Encourages environmentally friendly alternatives to polluting businesses and business practices


Since our founding in April 2000 as Ohio River Advocacy, Ohio River Foundation has led efforts in Ohio River watershed conservation and environmental education.  Here are some of our accomplishments: 


  • (2017) Creek restoration completed in Summit Park, Blue Ash
  • (2017) Removal of Slate Creek Owingsville Dam
  • (2017) Removal of Gunpowder Dam  
  • (2017) ORF leads creation of Ohio River Valley Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area for 22 county region of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky
  • (2017) YCT crews perform restoration projects in Hoosier National Forest and Clermont County
  • (2016) YCT crew performs restoration projects on Northern KY mitigation sites
  • (2016) ORF receives grant for removal of Owingsville Slate Creek Dam
  • (2015) ORF receives grant for removal of Camp Michaels Gunpowder Creek Dam
  • (2015) ORF obtains $257,000 grant for City of Blue Ash for creek restoration project in Summit Park, Blue Ash (OH)
  • (2015) Road removal/bridge installation completed in Lewis County (KY) over Spy Run, tributary to Kinnikinnick Creek
  • (2015) ORF and its partners complete Stillwater River Restoration Project and removal of the West Milton Dam (OH)
  • (2015) YCT crews perform habitat protection work in Bonne National Forest – Red River Gorge, Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge (IN), and properties of Great Parks of Hamilton County and Cincinnati Park Board. Cumulative project completion for YCT program passes 200 projects.
  • (2014) ORF and its partners remove the Apple Lane low-water crossing through Beaver Creek and replace it with a bridge (KY)
  • (2013) Hoosier YCT nominated for The Regional Forester Honor Award for outstanding achievement by Forest Service partners and employees.
  • (2013) Students perform more than 1,500 hours of habitat restoration and protection projects in Hamilton and Campbell Counties, and Boone and Hoosier National Forests.
  • (2013) Formal launch of Corporate Volunteer Program -- MillerCoors volunteers install 1,500 sq.ft. of native habitat.
  • (2012) US Department of Interior selects Youth Conservation Team program from 280 applicants for $28,000 grant to work in Hoosier and Boone National Forests.
  • (2012) More than 2,500 people vote on-line to win ORF a $10,000 grant from MillerCoors for habitat restoration along the Great Miami River.
  • (2012) Field & Stream Magazine selects ORF's Beaver Creek (KY) restoration and education project to be nationally featured as a Hero for a Day project.
  • (2011) Toyota (TMMK) awards Ohio River Fdn. $10,000 grant to have Harrison County HS students participate in River Explorer and habitat assessment activities associated with Beaver Creek restoration project. This begins ORF efforts to offer school year education opportunities with restoration projects.
  • (2011) $100,000 USFWS grant awarded to ORF to work with Harrison County, KY on fish barrier removal and Beaver Creek restoration.
  • (2011) Youth Conservation Team program begins in summer with ten high school students.  Program saves local park districts $35,000. First conservation work-study program launches in Ohio River watershed.
  • (2010) ORF secures $1.3 million funding for West Milton, Ohio for low head dam removal and river restoration project.
  • (2010) ORF receives Ohio River Basin Fish Habitat Partnership grant to facilitate removal of West Milton lowhead dam on the Stillwater River.
  • (2008-present) Formed, with USFWS and other agencies, the Ohio River Basin Fish Habitat Partnership - dedicated to restoration of the ecology of the Ohio River watershed.
  • (2007-present) Community Rain Garden Program.  Installed 12 stormwater rain garden projects in Ohio and Kentucky totaling more than 14,300 sq. ft.
  • (2000-present) Conduct 404-permit application alert and comment project, whereby ORF informs groups and citizens throughout the watershed about applications for permits of possible interest to them and files formal comments, when appropriate. More than 850 alerts have been issued to groups in OH, KY, WV, IN, IL and PA.
  • (2006) Published River at Risk – An Economic Analysis of Ohio River Locks.  This first public analysis exposed serious flaws in Corps of Engineers navigation traffic forecasting. 
  • (2006) Led a successful effort to force the Army Corps of Engineers to scrap plans to build auxiliary lock extensions on the Ohio River, after it was revealed that the benefits did not outweigh the cost. The project would have wasted $2 billion of taxpayers money and destroyed 11 river acres of habitat.
  • (2006) Formed Ohio River coalition of groups to resist efforts by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) to drastically weaken water quality standards for the Ohio River.  More than 5,000 comments filed, and 250 people at public hearings voiced their opposition causing ORSANCO to postpone a vote on the proposals.
  • (2003) Published A Framework for Ecosystem Restoration of the Ohio River and its Watershed, detailing the scientific issues related to comprehensive ecosystem restoration for the Ohio River and its watershed.
  • (2001-2003) Held Ohio River Watershed Strategic Planning Meetings. Participants discussed how to work together to strengthen our respective efforts in the watershed, and what individual group assistance ORF can provide. 
  • (2000) Founding member of national Water Protection Network (f/k/a Corps Reform Network) -- leading efforts to change the way the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates and our country's river and waterways are managed. 


  • (2017) River Explorer passes 35,000 student milestone
  • (2017) ORF introduces new program: Mussels in the Classroom in OH, IN, and KY
  • (2016) River Explorer passes 30,000 student milestone
  • (2015) River Explorer passes 25,000 student milestone and begins operation in Columbus, Ohio with 1,000 students
  • (2014) River Explorer education program passes 20,000 student milestone. Since 2005, students from 45+ schools have explored area creeks, rivers, and streams to learn about Ohio River watershed ecology, conservation, and stewardship.
  • (2014) River Explorer program receives Cincinnati Business Courier Green Business Award
  • (2013) ORF receives funding to expand River Explorer to Columbus, Ohio.
  • (2012) River Explorer education program passes 13,000 student milestone.
  • (2009) Launched School Rain Gardens Program with 750 students from 4 schools designing and installing 1,600 sq. ft. (total) of rain gardens.
  • (2009-present) Offer in-classroom Wonderful Watersheds program for schools wanting in-school hands-on learning experiences for students.  
  • (2008-present) Became first non-profit promotional USEPA WaterSense Partner in Ohio River watershed.
  • (2005) River Explorer education program begins.  Schoolchildren go down to local waterways to learn about watershed ecology, conservation, and stewardship. 
  • (2003-2014) Produce an educational and recreational event: the Great Ohio River Paddle. Paddlers participated over the course of the multi-day event to learn about Ohio River conservation issues, river communities, and fundraise for ORF. 
  • (2008) Partnered with state river organizations to present Ohio River Watershed Summit.  Forum for government officials, non-profits, and citizens to learn about the state of the river and discuss potential solutions to environmental problems. 
  • (2007-2009) Partnered with Aveda, Inc., to educate 300,000+ customers in OH, IN, and KY about rain gardens, stormwater pollution, and homeowner conservation, and raised $300,000 for ORF programs.
  • (2007) Collaborated with Thomas More College to offer tri-state students and citizens the opportunity to participate locally in World Water Monitoring Day.
  • (2003) Co-produced Ohio River Ecosystem booth with the US Fish & Wildlife Service at Tall Stacks in Cincinnati, in October 2003.  More than 10,000 schoolchildren and 20,000 adults visited with us.