The broad Ohio River, viewed from Tower Rock in Illinois' Shawnee National Forest.
It isn't fair. Mention the words scenic and Ohio River in the same sentence and most people who've never seen this noble body of water will smile, just to be kind. Mention the Rockies and they'll go wobbly with desire, even if they've never gotten close to those peaks.
This unfortunate fact is something to keep in mind when choosing a byway for your vacation. The words and photos at byways.org do their best to present each route, but they help only if accepted with an open mind.
Knowing that the Iroquois named this massively broad, 980-mile waterway O-hi-o (Beautiful River) should help to pique one's interest, as does knowing that we've not ruined it yet. Today, we can travel high above the wide, tree-lined river, enjoying the kind of expansive views most people think are available only in the West.
Here's another suggestion when choosing a byway: Don't be afraid to make it even better. It's tough to go wrong in terms of scenery in most of the gorgeous state of Utah. It seems that with every turn you bump into another national park or monument. But where you bump into it – in this case the northern or southern end of the long Capitol Reef National Park – can be important, especially if you're a little pressed for time.
In good weather (there's a dirt road ahead), you can turn off Scenic Byway 12 at the tiny town of Boulder and head due east toward the remarkable downhill traverse of the Burr Trail switchbacks through a geologic wonder called the Waterpocket Fold. Even after hiking through the crazy slot canyons and around the colorful limestone spires ("hoodoos") of Bryce Canyon National Park (also on this byway), the fold is a treat.