Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley wasn’t high on my list of parks I ‘must’ visit but it was a little over halfway between where I was and where I wanted to be. I thought it will make a convenient stop for a couple days.

The park and canal heritage area.

It was created in 1974 to protect the Erie & Ohio canal history and the valley from over development. Local advocates worked with Congress to designate it a national park; it was partially created from two county parks in Cleveland and Akron and includes some private lands, historic buildings and wildlife habitats. The park is within the larger Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area.

Visitors enjoyed the area long before the national park. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) built picnic shelters, updated trails, and created parking lots during the 30’s.

A fire in 1969 on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caused national attention on water pollution and led to environmental activism and regulations on water quality and recovery. It was also great to read about the recovery of the wildlife; in 2007 the first eagle ever recorded was born in the valley!

I had a long day of driving from North Carolina so arrived late. The next morning I went to the Boston Mills Visitor Center, considered the “Heart of the Park” to pick up a brochure and trail guide. There are some nice exhibits in the building and I spoke with a helpful ranger about recommended activities if I only had two days to explore.

I started with a walk on the Ohio & Erie Towpath along the old canal from the visitor center to the Peninsula Depot. The canal and towpath became obsolete in the 1880s when the railroad was built.

Our hike was about 5 miles round trip. The towpath is flat and paved and a very easy trail; it runs about 100 miles along the entire former canal that connected Lake Erie to the Ohio River. We passed several locks on the way to Peninsula. I was thinking about having lunch at one of the restaurants we saw but both had signs on their patios, ‘no dogs’, so we just returned to Boston Mill.

I had given Boo a bowl of water in Peninsula at the visitor center. When returning to Boston, after purchasing a lime popsicle at the Boston Mill Store, I gave him another bowl while we relaxed on their deck. It was a very warm day and he appreciated the cold water.

We started the Blue Hen Falls Trail after our rest. Very steep, up and down, up and down, lots of stairs, then crossing the road, before heading down again and up to a very small waterfall. I didn’t enjoy this trail, plus have seen much better waterfalls even in some small state parks.

I let Boo play in the water then we took a shortcut back to the car via the Boston Mill Road, saving a mile of steep paths through the woods.

The next morning we started at the Ledges parking area in the eastern section of the park. There are several great paths here. We started the Ledges Trail making a short detour off the path to do the 1/2 mile loop of Haskell Run Trail around the Happy Days Lodge. Returning to the Ledges trail we continued to the Overlook then back to the parking lot. Ledges was beautiful and I definitely recommend this trail. Much more isolated than the paths I had taken the day before, quiet and peaceful and very beautiful.

Blue Hen Falls

Leaving Ledges, we stopped at Kendall Lake and did the one mile trail around the lake.

Everett Covered Bridge

We took a break that afternoon and then went back out to the park early evening. We stopped at the Everett Covered Bridge and did a short trail there. There are four long and difficult trails that started here, too.

We went on to the Beaver Marsh Boardwalk. The trails aren’t well marked and I went down the towpath north for a short bit before finding some hikers to ask about the boardwalk. My google maps tried taking me off to River Road. Do not go on the road, stay on the towpath, it’s just about a mile south from the parking area. Lovely. It was good timing as the rangers recommend early morning or evenings to see the wildlife. I did see a couple beavers. Well, I saw some sort of large brown animals in the water. Possible muskrats? They are here as well. I also saw two Great Blue Herons flying over.

Beaver Marsh Boardwalk

My last day in town I thought I’d visit the Canal Exploration Center  at the north section of the park as I was heading to Michigan. Unfortunately, it was still closed until June 8th. We took another walk along the towpath here before continuing our drive.

There does seem to be a lot to see and do in the area that I didn’t experience, lots of additional hiking trails, farms and historic buildings, art centers, and more. Many of their paths are bike friendly or open to equestrians. I am certain the people who live around the park enjoy this beautiful area year round.

Seiberling was the main advocate for the park; ran for Congress to help protect the area and one of the sponsors of the bill.

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