The Port of Evansville is located in southwest Indiana on the Ohio River. The Port of Evansville is about 185 river miles downriver from the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville, in Louisville. The Port of Evansville is some 242 kilometers (150 miles) east-southeast of St. Louis, Missouri and about 415 kilometers (258 miles) south of the Port of Chicago. This middle America port is part of the Ohio River System. In 2010, the Port of Evansville had a population of over 117 thousand people.
Seat of Vanderburgh County, the Port of Evansville is a transportation hub where fertile farm land, coal, and oil have made it a busy metropolis for southwest Indiana and for the adjacent states of Kentucky and Illinois. The Port of Evansville's modern river terminal facilitates the movement of cargo from barge to rail and truck. Manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, plastics, aluminum, home appliances, and food products contribute to the economy of the Port of Evansville.
The Ohio River was important to the indigenous people that inhabited the area that would become the Port of Evansville. For 500 years before Europeans arrived in the area, Mississippian cultures created earthwork mounds and regional chiefdoms. The Ohio was important to transportation and trade, connecting tribes that included the Omaha, Osage, Kaw, and Ponca who lived in the river valley. In the 1600s, these peoples moved west beyond the Mississippi River as a result of pressure from the Iroquois. Early explorers from France and Canada called the Ohio "La Belle Riviere," the Beautiful River. Immigrants who settled the future Port of Evansville about 200 years ago found a gentle horseshoe bend in the Ohio that created an ideal place to live.
In 1812, Hugh McGary Jr. bought land on the river bend, calling it McGary's Landing. Two years later, he created a town plan and renamed the village Evansville after Colonel Bob Evans who fought in the War of 1812. When Vanderburgh County was established in 1818, the Port of Evansville was established as the county seat.
The Port of Evansville grew quickly as river trade attracted business and residents. In 1819, the Port of Evansville was incorporated, and it received its city charter in 1847. Completed in 1853, the Wabash and Erie Canal was built to connect the Ohio River to the Great Lakes brought increased growth to the Port of Evansville. The same year, the Evansville & Crawfordsville Railroad arrived to connect the Port of Evansville to Terre Haute.
The Port of Evansville contributed to World War II when it produced the most Tank Landing Ships (LSTs) of all inland producers. US Air Force fighter planes, the P-47D or Thunderbolt, were manufactured at the local Whirlpool appliance factory. The version created in the Port of Evansville had a bubble canopy, and more than six thousand aircraft were made there during the war.
Industrial production became a more important part of the Port of Evansville's economy after the war. The Port of Evansville also acquired new subdivisions during the 1950s, drawing retail activities from the downtown area to suburban shopping centers. In 1963, the State of Indiana's first enclosed shopping mall, Washington Square, was opened in the Port of Evansville.
During the last decades of the 20th Century, the Port of Evansville grew as a tri-state hub for commerce, medicine, and services. Growth of the University of Southern Indiana further stimulated growth in the Port of Evansville. More jobs were created with the arrival of plants for Toyota and AK Steel and the opening of Indiana's first gaming boat, Casino Aztar.