Farms, Barns & River Town Charm
Traveling From Ironton to Gallipolis on Ohio Route 141
Story & Photos by Matt Bayman
At just over 49 miles, Ohio Route 141 isn’t a very long road. But what it lacks in length, it makes up for in beauty and tranquility. Add to this the colorful cities that the road connects—Gallipolis and Ironton—and it’s a route worth taking.
Between the two cities, both of which are located directly on the Ohio River, Route 141 passes through a scenic farming region in the southernmost part of the state. It is most scenic in Lawrence and Gallia counties, with the western most 12 miles of the road being the hilliest. East of this, the road is situated on the flat valley floor of Symmes Creek, which is a chocolate milk-colored stream that Route 141 crosses five times.
Gallia County has several Amish settlements and a number of Amish businesses located near the route. It is not uncommon to share the road with horse and buggy.
Some of the little towns that Route 141 passes through include Hecla, Kitts Hill, Aid, Wilgus, Arabia, Waterloo, Cadmus, Gage and Centenary, but the highlights are the two main cities.
Ironton and Gallipolis share a lot of the same qualities. They are both historic river towns with striking bridges; their downtowns are brightly colored and eclectic; and they have hidden treasures for dining, shopping and
A highlight of visiting any river town is being able to watch the activity and ways of life on the water. Ironton and Gallipolis have giant parks that hug the Ohio River, with plenty of benches and gazebos overlooking the water. Tug boats, barges and other vessels pass by. An occasional fog horn sounds off. Local fishermen come and go from the harbors. Many restaurants position their patios toward the river, allowing customers to take in the local customs, and to enjoy the local flavors. In other words, it’s all about the river.
One of the more unusual features in Gallipolis is the remains of what looks like an old bridge or lock in the river (pictured above), but that is really an ice pier, also called a breaker. These stone structures were once used to stop huge blocks of ice from striking and damaging boats in the harbor at Gallipolis. There were many ice piers built along the Ohio River, but the one in Gallipolis is the only one that remains.
Gallipolis has a number of historical attractions. It is home to Our House Tavern (a historical building), the John Gee Black Historical Center, which preserves the tradition, culture, crafts, music and art of African Americans in southeastern Ohio, and the French Art Colony, which pays tribute to the town’s French heritage and showcases local artists. The city’s big event is the annual Gallipolis River Recreation Festival, held each year in early July.
Directly across the Ohio River from Gallipolis is Point Pleasant, West Virginia—home to the legend of the Mothman. Visitors to this fascinating town can explore obscure, creepy places (like an old dynamite storage facility), tour the Mothman Museum and even stay the night in a haunted hotel room. The Mothman Festival takes place each September and attracts visitors from around the world. It will take place on Sept. 17-18 in 2022.
Another attraction in Point Pleasant is Tu-Endie-Wei State Park. It is located at the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha rivers and offers panoramic views of the rivers and its numerous bridges, not to mention of Gallipolis on the other side of the Ohio River. It also contains historical exhibits and monuments and a series of intricate murals and statues that tell the story of the region. (Learn more about the Mothman HERE)
On the other side of the state—and Ohio River—is Ironton.
Ironton is a little more rustic than Gallipolis, but appears to be a community on the comeback. The heart of the city is Market Square. It’s located next to the Ohio River in view of the impressive Ironton-Russel Bridge. Market Square is a place where live music, a seasonal farmer’s market and festivals take place. This includes the Ohio River Wine Festival and Heritage Festival, held each September, which is probably known as the city’s most popular event.
The city is filled with unique history and architecture. The courthouse and 19th and early 20th century buildings in the downtown are best seen by foot, while the Lawrence County Museum can provide an overview of the river town and its industrial roots.
For food, The Depot restaurant is probably the most popular place, including for locals. Other hot spots are the Shake Shoppe and Melini Cucina Italian Restaurant, among many other choices.
Like Gallipolis, most things in Ironton are focused on the river. And this is what makes visiting the two cities special. There is a river-way-of-life happening; one which is foreign and interesting, yet located so close to home.
Although it’s a road you wouldn’t go out of your way to drive, if you’re ever in the southern tip of Ohio, traveling Route 141 from Ironton to Gallipolis makes for a scenic, memorable experience.