Formerly the River Heritage Museum, RDC is an educational facility focusing on our nation's rivers through interactive exhibits and guided tours.


  • Front of the museum, located in the historic Henry A. Petter Supply Co. building.
    Front of the museum, located in the historic Henry A. Petter Supply Co. building.
  • Architecture photos from House Walker architecture.
    Architecture photos from House Walker architecture.
  • The center’s simulator, the first of its kind to be open to the general public, was created by the same company that builds simulators for the maritime industry and navies around the world. Credit: River Discovery Center
    The center’s simulator, the first of its kind to be open to the general public, was created by the same company that builds simulators for the maritime industry and navies around the world. Credit: River Discovery Center
  • The Mark V diving suit, used to perform maintenance on our nations dams, was used as late as the 1980’s. Donated by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Credit: River Discovery Center
    The Mark V diving suit, used to perform maintenance on our nations dams, was used as late as the 1980’s. Donated by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Credit: River Discovery Center
  • At the back of the museum complex, visitors may enjoy a film called Rivers: Heart of our Nation. This 17-minute film is an overview of the importance of the river in our daily lives. Guests will learn about river history, flooding, recreation on the river
    At the back of the museum complex, visitors may enjoy a film called Rivers: Heart of our Nation. This 17-minute film is an overview of the importance of the river in our daily lives. Guests will learn about river history, flooding, recreation on the river

In 1988, Mayor Gerry Montgomery, at the urging of Mr. W.W. Dyer, initiated an ad hoc committee to pursue the prospects for developing a museum complex to showcase the Four Rivers Region maritime heritage.

The River Heritage Center (RHC) as it was originally named, formally a board of directors in 1992. In 1996, renovation work goes underway by Seamen's Church Institute of New York as it provides impetus for RHC to consider using part of Petter complex to house a river museum. From 2000-2001, the River Heritage Center was renamed the River Heritage Museum, the restoration of historic façade took place and the 2nd floor restoration is completed and named after Paul Walker, founder of Walker Boat Yard. 

The grand Opening of Phase I Exhibit Gallery was in 2003 and U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell was the featured speaker and years later in 2012, RDC had their first new fundraiser, Paducah Dragon Boat Festival.

The River Discovery Center is a family attraction centered around fun learning about their inland river housed in one of Paducah’s oldest buildings, the historic Henry A. Petter Supply Co. building. It was renamed in 2008 after the new exhibits opened that focus on new river industry. The main attraction is the state-of-the-art pilothouse boat simulator. Other attractions include a working model of a lock and dam, a build-a-river exhibit and a dredging exhibit showing how the sediment of river bottoms is moved. The River Discovery Center stimulates curiosity and understanding of our nation's vital river system through real stories and interactive experiences for people of all ages.

Visitors can feel what it’s like to pilot a tow boat and view a video capsule that shows 24 hours of traffic on this important juncture in the river. History, culture and music of the river are represented in exhibits that also include the river transportation industry. The interactive exhibits tell the story of the four rivers region. This educational facility features functions and habitats of the rivers of the four rivers region.

Because of Paducah’s position at the junction of the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers, and its close proximity to the Mississippi and Cumberland Rivers, it has become a hub for the inland waterways industry. More than 20 barge and towing companies are located there and can be seen carrying their cargo up and down the riverways.

The museum has grown in popularity over the years that an expansion is planned to be completed over the next several years to accommodate more visitors.

About the History. River Discovery Center. . Accessed March 11, 2018. http://www.riverdiscoverycenter.org/about/history.

Boat Simulator. River Discovery Center. Accessed March 21, 2018. http://www.riverdiscoverycenter.org/exhibits/boat-simulator. 

Corps of Engineers Diving Suit. River Discovery Center. Accessed March 21, 2018. http://www.riverdiscoverycenter.org/exhibits/corps-of-engineers-diving-suit. 

River Discovery Center. Paducah Travel. Accessed March 21, 2018. https://www.paducah.travel/listings/river-discovery-center/970/.

River Film. River Discovery Center. . Accessed March 21, 2018. http://www.riverdiscoverycenter.org/exhibits/river-film. 

River Heritage Museum. AboutPaducah. Accessed March 21, 2018. http://www.aboutpaducah.com/articles/river-heritage-museum.html.

Tulipan, Michael. Exploring Kentucky's Waterways. The Savvy Explorer. September 27, 2009. Accessed March 21, 2018. http://thesavvyexplorer.com/exploring-kentuckys-waterways/.