The Falls of the Ohio Foundation originally formed as The Clarksville Riverfront Development Foundation in 1987. The Foundation’s first mission was to preserve and protect the Falls of the Ohio and to spearhead the fundraising effort to build a first-class educational interpretive center at the Falls and oversee its development.
The Foundation became partners with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in 1990, when the Falls became Indiana’s twentieth state park.
Through the Foundation’s fundraising efforts and partnerships with the State of Indiana and Town of Clarksville, construction of the Interpretive Center began in 1992, and was completed in 1994.
Since the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center’s opening in 1994, the Foundation has focused on supporting the State Park’s efforts by providing additional educational program development and capital improvements to the Interpretive Center and Falls area.
In January 2016, the Foundation completed a $6 million fundraising campaign for new interactive and immersive exhibits, including building renovations.
The Foundation completed fundraising for the New Orientation Film in the auditorium, with a grand opening on September 14, 2018. And, in 2020 the Foundation upgraded technology components in the Classroom, providing new educational and interpretive opportunities for those interested in learning more about the Falls of the Ohio.
The Falls of the Ohio Foundation is governed by a Board of Directors and has a Community Leadership Council. The physical office is located in the Falls of the Ohio State Park Interpretive Center, with space being donated by the DNR. The Foundation employs a part-time administrative and programs assistant, and executive director.
In 2003 and 2015 the Falls of the Ohio Foundation and State Park received the Partnership of the Year Award by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
In 1999, the Foundation was honored with the competitive Excellence in Interpretive Support Award from The National Association for Interpretation. The Foundation received this award for its work at the Falls of the Ohio in recognition of exceptional and sustained support toward enhancement of interpretation, and for serving as a model for other interpretive venues and contributors.
In addition to the Crossroads Campaign for new exhibits, the following are some of the Foundation’s contributions since the Interpretive Center’s opening in 1994:
Capital Improvements – Kids Corner exhibit area, aquarium exhibit, George Rogers Clark Cabin, Lewis and Clark exhibit, Sun Circle and Ohio Valley Improvement Association exhibits, three new video projectors for the auditorium orientation film, a big screen video adaptor for the auditorium, 20 auditorium seats/aisle lighting, handicap accessible door opener, Woodland Loop Trail upgrade to handicap accessible, an outdoor drinking fountain, sidewalk to Ashland Park.
Educational Programs – annual summer day camps; programs for Rauch in New Albany and Home of the Innocents in Louisville, pre-school reading programs, nature club; student field trips, Lewis and Clark Falls Bicentennial activities; co-sponsor of Fossil Festival, Earth Day and other events, video series, temporary exhibits including Tentacles, Archaeology in the Ohio Valley, The Nature of Shells, Dinosaurs and More, Indiana Crystals, Cave Photography, George Rogers Clark, Fossil Art, Adena-Hopewell, Pinhole Photography, Lewis and Clark, Honeybee, Waterfalls, Tentacles, The History of Sharks, 1937 Flood, Patterns in Nature, Historical Photos of the Falls, Indiana’s Natural Wonders, The Garden of the Sea Lily, Gene Stratton-Porter From the Clarksville Prison, Microworld, Antartica’s Incredible Fossils; co-sponsor of teacher workshops including 1997 Geography Educators Network of Indiana.
Materials/Equipment – “Probing the Wonders of the Falls” educator’s guidebook, wildlife/aquatic videos and books, Braille books, microscope for digital video camera, mussel trunk, Ohio River navigation maps, laser disc player/control system, two exhibit speakers, three televisions, two video players, two regular and one handicap accessible deck telescopes.
Since 1994, the Falls of the Ohio State Park Interpretive Center has served over 1,100,000 visitors, including over 350,000 school-age students through its educational exhibits, programs, special events, and workshops. Most of the targeted audience for educational programs are school-age children from the Falls of the Ohio region. Many of these programs address the Indiana and Kentucky science standards. Additionally, more than 500,000 people (children and adults) have participated in 20,000+ educational programs. This includes school groups preK-college, home school groups, scout and other children and adult groups, teacher workshops, summer day campers, nature and history enthusiasts, and visitors of all ages.
Visitors have come from all 50 states and over 100 countries. In addition, an estimated 500,000 visitors use the park annually as sightseers, anglers, hikers, canoeists, bird watchers, and for a vast range of other recreational and educational needs.