Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Indian Head Rock (a happy 8 ton rock landmark once protruding out of the Ohio River)....

Indian Head Rock is an approximate 8 ton sandstone boulder that sat in the middle of the Ohio River, near Portsmouth, for centuries. History has it that the stone, which protruded from the water, was a popular landmark used as a carving stone, photo locale and marker for those travelling along the river. The stone is riddled with names, dates and even a fun little "happy face." The origin of the "happy face" etching remains a mystery; Is it an ancient petroglyph carved by a native American? Is it a marking for a treasure sunk below and now long lost? Or is it just graffiti carved on lark? What is not a mystery is the fight that ensued after the boulder was extracted from the river just a few years ago.

In or around 2008, a team from Ohio removed the boulder from the bottom of the Ohio River and housed it over in Portsmouth, Ohio. Remember, it wasn't until the 1920's (or thereabouts) that dams were put in place on the Ohio River. These dams raised the river level and sunk the Rock. The result was increased commerce, but no more swims out to the boulder for photo shoots and carving. The stone spent decades sunken some 15 or so feet below the waters surface. That is, until the "rock rising."

Unfortunately the "rising of the rock" by Ohioans led to a "rising of the feud". Kentucky laid claim to Indian Rock and, as the politicians fought, the leader of the extraction team was indicted by Kentucky County officials for allegedly violating the Kentucky Antiquities Act. The indictment didn't stick and, ultimately, a settlement was reached, but not before years of legislative feuding and "one-up-manship." Indian Head Rock has been returned to Greenup County, Kentucky from its short resting spot on the land in Portsmouth. (Remember, despite the name, most of the Ohio river is owned by Kentucky, with the northern low water mark, as such existed in 1792, creating the boundary. The rock must have been on the "Kentucky side"). We cannot find where Indian Head Rock is on display and wonder whether it still sits in the Greenup County garage (much like the ending of Raiders of the Lost Ark as the government wheels away the Ark for warehouse storage in a plain wooden box)


  1. What a cool story...I hope that they actually display the Rock sometime soon and preserve it. So much history....First time reader/Great blog

  2. Very lame if the rock is stowed away in some garage......