Aerial Photo of Ohio River

Our Mission and History

Ohio River Foundation (ORF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2000 by a group of citizens who were concerned about the Ohio River and saw the need for increased response to the degradation of this valuable natural resource. ORF is dedicated to protecting and improving the water quality and ecology of the Ohio River and all waters in its 14-state watershed. ORF works towards these goals through environmental education and conservation activities that serve to inspire environmental stewardship and bolster climate change resiliency for native species, habitats, and communities.

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 wildlife habitat. The health of the river and its tributaries affects the quality of life of everyone in the watershed. That means Ohio River Foundation’s constituency is the more than 30 million people living in the Ohio River watershed (approximately 10% of the U.S. population).


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


  • ORF leads largest restoration project in SW Ohio with installation of 10,000 live stakes on Little Miami and Great Miami Rivers
  • ORF introduces Student Conservation Leaders, a new environmental leadership program for high school students
  • ORF joins nine partners in filing a petition with USEPA to request promulgation of regulations to reduce nutrient pollution in the Ohio River.


  • ORF begins 40-acre invasive species removal project at Kingswood Park in Deerfield Township


  • River Explorer passes 45,000-student milestone. Program offered in Greater Cincinnati and Greater Columbus. Students from 30+ schools per year participate in the program.
  • Mussels in the Classroom passes 3,000-student milestone
  • ORF completes tree installation on Great Miami River riparian habitat


  • ORF and volunteers remove thousands of invasive plants and trees from parks in Greater Cincinnati
  • ORF and its partners create more than 10 acres of pollinator habitat in the Great Miami River corridor
  • ORF completes 4-acre wetland creation and creek restoration in Summit Park, Blue Ash


  • ORF produces the inaugural annual Cincinnati Coffee Festival to great acclaim with more than 4,000 attendees — goal is to raise important program funds and reach a new demographic with an underlying message of conservation and protecting water quality.
  • Mussels in the Classroom begins
  • Owingsville Dam on Slate Creek – KY – Removed. Reconnects 4 miles of habitat
  • Gunpowder Creek Dam – KY – Removed
  • ORF leads creation of Ohio River Valley Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area for 22 county region of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky


  • YCT crew performs restoration projects on Northern KY mitigation sites
  • ORF receives grant for removal of Owingsville Slate Creek Dam 2015
  • ORF receives grant for removal of Camp Michaels Gunpowder Creek Dam
  • ORF obtains $257,000 grant for City of Blue Ash for creek restoration project in Summit Park, Blue Ash (OH)
  • River Explorer passes 25,000 student milestone and begins operation in Columbus, Ohio with 1,000 students
  • Road removal/bridge installation completed in Lewis County (KY) over Spy Run, tributary to Kinnikinnick Creek
  • ORF and its partners complete Stillwater River Restoration Project and removal of the West Milton Dam (OH)
  • 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.


  • ORF and its partners remove the Apple Lane low-water crossing through Beaver Creek and replace it with a bridge (KY)
  • River Explorer program receives Cincinnati Business Courier Green Business Award 2013
  • Hoosier YCT nominated for The Regional Forester Honor Award for outstanding achievement by Forest Service partners and employees.
  • Formal launch of Corporate Volunteer Program — MillerCoors volunteers install 1,500 sq.ft. of native habitat.


  • US Department of Interior selects Youth Conservation Team program from 280 applicants for $28,000 grant to work in Hoosier and Boone National Forests.
  • Field & Stream Magazine selects ORF’s Beaver Creek (KY) restoration and education project to be nationally featured as a Hero for a Day project.
  • River Explorer education program passes 13,000 student milestone.


  • $100,000 USFWS grant awarded to ORF to work with Harrison County, KY on fish barrier removal and Beaver Creek restoration.
  • Youth Conservation Team (YCT) program begins in summer with ten high school students. Program saves local park districts $35,000.


  • ORF secures $1.3 million funding for West Milton, Ohio for low head dam removal and river restoration project.
  • ORF receives Ohio River Basin Fish Habitat Partnership grant to facilitate removal of West Milton low-head dam on the Stillwater River.


  • Launched School Rain Gardens Program with 750 students from 4 schools designing and installing 1,600 sq. ft. (total) of rain gardens.
  • Offer in-classroom Wonderful Watersheds program for schools wanting in-school hands-on learning experiences for students.


  • Became first non-profit promotional USEPA WaterSense Partner in Ohio River watershed.
  • Formed, with USFWS and other agencies, the Ohio River Basin Fish Habitat Partnership – dedicated to restoration of the ecology of the Ohio River watershed.


  • Begin Community Rain Garden Program. Installed 12 stormwater rain garden projects in Ohio and Kentucky totaling more than 14,300 sq. ft.
  • 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.


  • Published River at Risk – An Economic Analysis of Ohio River Locks. This first public analysisexposed serious flaws in Corps of Engineers navigation traffic forecasting.
  • 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.
  • 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.


  • River Explorer education program begins. Schoolchildren go down to local waterways to learn about watershed ecology, conservation, and stewardship.


  • 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.
  • 2003-2014 Produced an educational and recreational event: Great Ohio River Paddle.


  • 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.
  • Ohio River Foundation formed as Ohio River Advocacy

Your Donation Makes a Big Impact

  • $25 can provide food for the freshwater mussel “ambassadors” we use in our Mussels in the Classroom program.
  • $100 can buy water quality equipment to enable us to identify pollution problems.
  • $500 can help 50 students be River Explorers for a day of learning in a river or creek.
  • $1,000 can plant 100 native trees to restore critical habitat and help keep our water clean.