Jefferson Riverport lies on the south shores of the Ohio River some 25 kilometers (16 miles) downstream from the Louisville, Kentucky, riverfront. One of the most successful industrial parks in the United States, Jefferson Riverport is an important part of Louisville's economy. Jefferson Riverport is just nine kilometers (5.5 miles) southeast of the Port of Indiana - Jeffersonville. Jefferson Riverport is also about 130 river miles downstream (150 kilometers or 93 miles southwest by air) from the Port of Cincinnati. Jefferson Riverport is part of the Ohio River System.
Home of Jefferson Riverport, Louisville is the biggest city in the State of Kentucky. Louisville enjoys a diverse economy, and it is a center for trade and transportation for Middle America through its International Airport and Jefferson Riverport. Louisville is a leader in the production of cigarettes and fine bourbon whiskey. Other manufactured goods produced in Louisville include synthetic rubber, aluminum products, paint and varnish, automobiles, appliances, printed materials, and pottery. The service sector in Louisville is growing, particularly in the healthcare industry. Tourism is also vital to Louisville's local economy. Louisville is the site for the world-famous Kentucky Derby. In 2010, Louisville was home to over 741 thousand people.
Before Europeans entered the area that would become Jefferson Riverport and Louisville, the indigenous Shawnee Nation inhabited the region. One of the Shawnee's greatest leaders was the famous Chief Tecumseh.
Driven from the area by the Iroquois in the 1660s, the Shawnee fled to southern Illinois, eastern Pennsylvania, the Cumberland Basin in Tennessee, and even South Carolina. However, they had returned to their original homeland by 1730. This time, American settlers coming to Louisville pushed them out to Missouri, Kansas, and finally Oklahoma. The largest group, the Loyal Shawnee, was the main body of the Nation before the American Civil War.
The United States' Bureau of Indian Affairs considers modern Shawnee as part of the Cherokee Nation. The 600-strong Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band escaped removal in the 1830s. They are not recognized by the federal government or the three official Shawnee groups. However, they organized in 1971 and were recognized by the State of Ohio in 1980. Since then, they have acquired 170 acres of land near Chillicothe and Urbana.
In 1778, George Rogers Clark founded the future City of Louisville on Corn Island, naming it after France's King Louis XVI. Early Louisville grew in the area of the Falls of the Ohio, where the falls were a barrier to travel on the river, making the site a logical stopping point. In 1780, the Virginia General Assembly approved the Louisville town charter. Seeking protection from the indigenous people, the first settlers lived in forts in the Louisville area until the late 1780s.
In 1803, the Lewis & Clark Expedition organized at the Falls of the Ohio in Louisville. The Ohio River was a major influence shaping the growing Louisville settlement. Boats had to be unloaded before they reached the Falls of the Ohio and then moved downriver. By 1828 when the city was incorporated, some seven thousand people lived in Louisville.
For most of the 19th Century, Louisville was an important river port. Because Indiana to the north was a free state as the country entered the Civil War era, Louisville was a frequent point of escape as slaves fled to the North. Louisville was a major base for the Union Army during the Civil War, keeping the State in the Union.
Especially for the Western Theater of the Civil War, Louisville was the center for recruiting, planning, supplies, and transport for the Union. Louisville was not attacked during the war, although a couple of battles were fought at Perryville to the south and at Corydon to the north. After the difficult period of Reconstruction, many Confederate veterans came to Louisville and took political control; so much so that many said Louisville joined the Confederacy after the war was over.
In 1875, the first Kentucky Derby ran at the Louisville Jockey Club (later called Churchill Downs), with ten thousand spectators on hand. Grandson of William Clark and grandnephew of Meriwether Lewis, Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. organized Louisville's Derby.
In 1890, the Mid-Mississippi Valley tornado outbreak included an F4 tornado that nearly destroyed Louisville's downtown area, killing as many as 120 people. Then in 1937, the Ohio River Flood inundated all but a third of the city. Over 175 thousand Louisville residents were forced to evacuate the city. This experience led Louisville to build many flood walls to protect existing neighborhoods, and new residential growth increased in eastern Louisville areas where the elevation was higher. Almost a century after the terrible tornado of 1890, a Super Outbreak of tornadoes struck in 13 states. A devastating F4 tornado hit Louisville, destroying many homes in the area. Luckily, only two people were killed.
During World War II, Louisville was an important center for war production. In 1942, the Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Company located at Louisville's air field was tasked with producing wartime aircraft by the federal government. After the war, the factory was purchased by International Harvester to produce agricultural equipment.
After the 1950s, Louisville fell prey to the nationwide trend of businesses and people moving to the suburbs. New freeways and interstate highways made commuting easier, and tax laws attracted businesses out of Louisville. Local manufacturing declined, and many factories closed, particularly in the older areas of Louisville's West End and South End neighborhoods.
From the 1980s, Louisville has revitalized many urban neighborhoods, making them attractive for college students and young professionals. Downtown Louisville has seen considerable retail and residential growth, and the Bardstown Road, Frankfort Avenue, and Old Louisville neighborhoods have seen many positive changes.