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Once a source of shame, the Cuyahoga River is now an inspiration for how dedicated people can heal a damaged river. The "comeback" Cuyahoga is now the centerpiece of the lovely Cuyahoga Valley National Park, established Oct. 11, 2000, as one of our newest national parks. Encompassing about 33,000 acres of valley, the park covers a 22-mile section of the river between Cleveland and Akron. The river was so bad that in 1969 it caught on fire for 24 minutes and became a national symbol as "the burning river" for how America had failed as stewards of the environment. Today, the winding Cuyahoga — named by American Indians as "the crooked ...

Once a source of shame, the Cuyahoga River is now an inspiration for how dedicated people can heal a damaged river. The "comeback" Cuyahoga is now the centerpiece of the lovely Cuyahoga Valley National Park, established Oct. 11, 2000, as one of our newest national parks. Encompassing about 33,000 acres of valley, the park covers a 22-mile section of the river between Cleveland and Akron. The river was so bad that in 1969 it caught on fire for 24 minutes and became a national symbol as "the burning river" for how America had failed as stewards of the environment. Today, the winding Cuyahoga — named by American Indians as "the crooked river" — journeys through open farmlands, rolling hills and deep forests.

The park offers splendid recreation including the reconstructed Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail running the length of the park. Once a major 308-mile waterway connecting Lake Erie to the Ohio River, the canal was dug entirely by hand by mostly German and Irish immigrants. Historical structures, canal locks and exhibits detailing local history can be enjoyed around the trail.

Operating year round, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is a pleasant way to see the park. The history of trains in the Cuyahoga Valley stretches back more than a century. In 1880, Valley Railway offered leisure excursions until rail use began to decline. In 1972, the scenic excursion route was reborn. Some folks like to bike the Towpath Trail in one direction, then hop on the train for a relaxing ride back to their car. The park also offers a fun new way to use a portable Global Positioning System (GPS) to play EarthCaching. An offshoot of geocaching, EarthCaching involves treasure hunting for caches that the Earth has created rather than containers hidden by humans. The self-guided hikes focus on interesting geological features.

Adjacent to the park is Hale Farm and Village, a working museum that was once the home of early settler Jonathan Hale. The museum features livestock, 19th-century working artisans and the original red brick farmhouse.

Jackie Finch
About the Expert

Jackie Sheckler Finch has written several guidebooks, including The Unofficial Guide to Campgrounds in the Great Lakes States, and four times she was named Travel Writer of the Year by Midwest Travel Writers Association.

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Jackie Finch for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Early October for the autumn foliage