The Wabash River is a long river in the eastern United States that flows southwest from northwest Ohio near St. Henry, Ohio across northern Indiana to Illinois where it forms the southern Illinois-Indiana border before draining into the Ohio River, of which it is the largest northern tributary. From the dam near Huntington to its terminus at the Ohio River, the Wabash flows freely for which makes it the longest stretch of free-flowing river in the United States east of the Mississippi River.
The name "Wabash" is an English spelling of the French name for the river, "Ouabache." French traders named the river after the Miami Indian word for the river, waapaahšiiki, meaning "it shines white". The Miami name reflected the clarity of the river in Huntington County, Indiana where the river bottom is limestone. This is a historical oddity since today the river bottom is no longer visible due to water pollution and agricultural siltation.
The Wabash was mapped and named by French explorers to the Mississippi, including the sections now known as the Ohio River Although the Wabash is today considered a tributary of the Ohio, it was considered the other way around until the mid-18th century. This is due to the fact that the French traders traveled North and South from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Ohio River was not considered an important trade route until France and Great Britain began fighting for control over it, sparking the French and Indian War.. For 200 years, from the mid-1600s into the 1800s, the Wabash was a major trading route, linking Canada, Quebec and the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River and Louisiana.
Three notable battles in U.S. history: the Battle of Vincennes (1779), St. Clair's Defeat (1791) and the Battle of Tippecanoe (1811), were fought near the Wabash; the last two have each been referred to as the "Battle of the Wabash".
On July 2, 2008, it was reported that after heavy flooding over the previous several weeks the river had cut a new channel. This cut-off created a new island at Mackeys Bend. This is now the largest island on the Wabash River. Detailed information about this historic event can be found at http://www.indianawaterways.com/wabashrivercutoff.htm
Rhodes, Captain Rick, "The Ohio River --In American History and Voyaging on Today's River" has a section on the Wabash River, 2007, ISBN 978-09665866-33