C. E. Morgan at The Oxford American:
La belle rivière: the Great, the Sparkling, the White; coursing along the path of the ancient Teays, the child of Pleistocene glaciers and a thousand forgotten creeks run dry, formed in perpetuity by the confluence of two prattling streams, ancient predecessors of the Kentucky and Licking—maternal and paternal themes in the long tale of how the river became dream, conduit, divide, pawn, baptismal font, gate, graveyard, and snake slithering under a shelf of limestone and shale, where just now a boy is held aloft by his beautiful father, who points and says, “Look!” and the boy looks, and what he will remember later is not just the river like a snake but also the city crowding it, and what a city! A queen rising on seven hills over her Tiber, ringed hills forming the circlet of a crown. A jagged cityscape of limestone and brick and glass with a bright nightless burn. The buildings never shut their brilliant eyes to the river where not so long ago, a teeming white mass came floating down to topple trees between the Great and Little Miamis and garrison pike-forts and sling tart, poison arrows at the wegiwas, those brown beehives up in flames. What freedom to rename the named! Losantiville, or Rome, or Cincinnatus after that noble man who would not stay in Rome, but returned home to his plow on the grange. In his stead, they crowned themselves and an American queen was born, one free of Continental dreams, the first to climb off the king’s cock. Visionaries and confidence men alike launched down la belle rivière in droves. Lawyers and stevedores and sawyers and preachers and masons and Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, and all the rest; the pious came with the venal, the wealthy with aspiring merchants, and the poor came by the thousands as well, passing women lap to lap on flatboats crammed with china, bedsteads, chests, and hogs to the gunnels that dipped and threatened to tip as they rounded broad bends in the river, curving down through the Territory to the Miami Purchase with its terraced bottoms and towering heights. More green than will ever be seen again, and the chance—now forgotten—to peer straight down through the pellucid Ohio, so sunshot and numinous and strange, it was like peering into bright time itself, right into the eyes of an engorged staring catfish not of this age but of millennia before, darting momentarily through a dream no Boston or Philadelphia could offer.