The Portsmouth Ohio Floodwall Murals are an iconic Ohio landmark that portrays the local history through exquisitely painted murals. Over 55 murals adorn the floodwalls, each depicting a moment in time. Discover these murals and plenty of other great things to do in Portsmouth, Ohio.
How to get to Portsmouth, Ohio
Portsmouth is found along the Ohio River in south-central Ohio in Scioto County. Portsmouth can be accessed through Route 52, Scenic Ohio River Scenic Byway, in addition to route 23.
- Cincinnati ~ 2 hours ~ 101 miles
- Chillicothe ~ 55 minutes ~ 45 miles
- Columbus ~ 1 hour 41 minutes ~ 91 miles
The History Behind The Portsmouth Ohio Floodwall Murals
Portsmouth, Ohio, is a river community that has seen its share of disastrous floods. However, after the great flood of 1937 that wreaked havoc on the small town, the city built flood walls to protect it. In 1947, 20ft cement walls stretched 2,000 ft between the heart of the area’s riverfront and Front Street. While the walls were effective in keeping floodwaters at bay, they were an eyesore to residents who had lost their beautiful view of the river.
The idea for the murals was originated from Dr. Lou Chaboudy and his wife Ava during a visit to Steubenville, Ohio. There they admired the town’s murals which sparked the idea. The naked floodwalls in Portsmouth were empty canvas waiting to be filled. In 1992 the city approached local artist Richard Dafford with an opportunity to turn the floodwalls into a work of art. Dafford met with town historians to gather historical facts, ideas, and events to turn into murals that would become the famous storytellers of Portsmouth’s rich history.
Richard Darfford started the first mural in 1993. There are over 55 murals that cover nearly 2,000 years of history, from the Adena culture to nuclear industries that had made Portsmouth home.
Take A Self-Guided Tour of the Portsmouth Ohio Floodwall Murals
The Scioto County Welcome Center and Parking
The first stop during your Portsmouth adventure needs to be to the Scioto County Welcome Center. The welcome center not only offers parking but plenty of great information on the murals and local businesses.
Pick up a floodwall mural self-guided pamphlet, learn about the history of the area, then see Robert Dafford’s portrait of Ava and Dr. Louis Chaboudy. After you take the walking tour, be sure to pick up a brochure with Scioto Historical’s driving tour of local sites depicted in Dafford’s paintings.
Address: 42 2nd St, Portsmouth, OH 45662
Tip: If you enjoy coffee, stop by local coffee shop Lofts to grab a coffee before your walk. That way, you can sip while enjoying the murals.
The Mobile Tour of Portsmouth Ohio Floodwall Murals
Get immersed in your tour by downloading the Portsmouth Murals App, which can be found on the App Store or Google Play. The mobile tour turns your self-guided tour into an audio tour in addition to written content. The app contains a map that allows visitors to discover more of Portsmouth, Ohio.
Each mural panel is described in great detail during the mobile tour, highlighting its historical significance and artist commentary.
The physical address for the beginning of the Portsmouth Murals Tour is 626 Front Street.
Walking Tour Of The Portsmouth Ohio Floodwall Murals
Create your own tour by simply walking Front Street and reading the information panels highlighting each mural. The panels line the sidewalk across the street from the floodwalls. This allows guests to take in the entire mural while reading.
The sidewalk is very flat and easy to navigate with a stroller or wheelchair. Bring sunscreen and water as there is limited shade. One could quickly drive alongside the murals, but the interpretive signs help bring them to life. The details in each mural are exquisite as well, which could easily be missed in a drive-by tour.
The murals are stunning. Each one feels as if you could “step in” to that part of history. Wonder why Roy Rogers is prominent in the murals? It is because Portsmouth, Ohio, was the childhood home of Roy Rogers.
Tip: After your self-guided tour, visit the Portsmouth Brewing Company that is literally at the end of Front Street and the tour!
Where To Eat In Portsmouth, Ohio
Portsmouth Brewing Company
Stop into Ohio’s oldest operating brewery that was built in 1843. Try the Red Bird Ale, a revived recipe from 1840’s then stay for appetizers or dinner! This microbrewery makes all of its beer and is conveniently located near the end of the floodwall murals.
Address: 224 2nd St, Portsmouth, OH 45662
Lofts Coffee Company and Roastery
This charming coffee shop roasts and grinds its own coffee. Lofts Coffee is a must during any visit to Portsmouth. However, they didn’t stop with coffee. Lofts offer an assortment of entrees, pastries, salads, and even cocktails. It is the ideal spot for brunch in Portsmouth, Ohio.
Address: 842 Gallia St, Portsmouth, OH 45662
Market Street Cafe
This quaint corner store cafe is serving up tasty sandwiches, salads, and breakfasts! They are only open till 4 pm, so plan accordingly. Market Street Cafe is a great spot to order a sandwich to-go to take on a picnic to Riverside Park or hiking in Shawnee State Park.
Address: 212 Market St, Portsmouth, OH 45662
Locals and visitors alike will rave about the Scioto Ribber, which is known for its smoked meats. Ribs and chicken are to die for, while steaks are grilled to perfection. The Ribber is family-friendly and a great spot to stop at for dinner!
Address: 1026 Gallia St, Portsmouth, OH 45662
Things To Do In Portsmouth Ohio
Riverfront Park In Portsmouth, Ohio
Wonder what lies on the other side of the floodwall murals? With a few different entry points, visitors can access Riverfront Park. The park has sweeping views of the Ohio River, picnic areas, and a playground. The park has seen some damage from flooding, but it is a great spot to go for a walk, enjoy a picnic or watch the barges float by.
This stadium, formerly known as Universal Stadium, was home to the National Football League’s Portsmouth Spartans in 1930. The Spartans played here from 1930 to 1933 when the franchise moved to Detroit as the Detroit Lions.
Horseshoe Mound is one of the last remaining historic earthworks in Portsmouth that is open to the public. The park is home to a play structure and picnic tables.
Shawnee State Forest
Shawnee is the largest State Forest in Ohio, encompassing over 63,000 acres. It is often referred to as “The Little Smokies of Ohio.” There are a variety of ways to explore beautiful Shawnee State Park. It is full of hiking trails, boating, fishing, swimming, mountain biking, and more.
They even offer a Shawnee State Forest Auto Tour. The Auto Tour lets you enjoy the gorgeous forest without leaving the comfort of your car. There are plenty of stops to get out, do a little hiking, picnic, and more.
Go Antiquing In Portsmouth, Ohio
Right next to the floodwall murals is an exceptional place to go antiquing called Unique Antiques Warehouse. They have a variety of truly unique finds. It is easy to spend an entire morning browsing their collections. Then hop over to Ghosts in the Attic Antique Mall to continue your hunt for that perfect treasure.
Where To Stay In Portsmouth, Ohio
Our preferred spot to stay when visiting Portsmouth is the Shawnee Lodge. The lodge is a quick 20-minute drive from the floodwall murals but is situated in the middle of Shawnee State Park. The views are gorgeous; there is a restaurant on-site, along with plenty of other great amenities.
Please read our full review of Shawnee Lodge and schedule your visit!