Cuyahoga River Water Trail
Did you know that the Cuyahoga is Northeast Ohio’s largest river? It flows over 100 miles in an unusual U shape. This results in its mouth at Lake Erie being only 30 miles away from its headwaters. It begins as two branches in northern Geauga County, flowing south, they come together and eventually head west. As the river passes through Akron it starts flowing north straight through Cuyahoga Valley National Park then through the 26-foot deep shipping channel in Cleveland before finally spilling out into Lake Erie.
A water trail may not be your first thought when you hear the name Cuyahoga. What probably comes to mind is the 1969 incident in which the heavily polluted river caught fire. Though the Cuyahoga was not the first river to burn, its picture was captured on the front page of the New York Times half a century ago and it put the entire nations eyes on Cleveland.
This famous article put massive pressure on our country’s leaders to better our environmental laws. Thanks to Cleveland and the Cuyahoga’s striking image, the Environmental Protection Agency was created the next year and in 1972 Congress passed the federal Clean Water Act.
The Cuyahoga River remains a symbol of America’s efforts to clean and restore its waterways. Infamous for catching fire, the Cuyahoga is now sparking a different type of excitement. Wildlife and people are returning. More recently, 80 plus miles of the Cuyahoga have been designated by Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director, Mary Mertz, as the 13th official water trail. What is a water trail? As defined by the National Park Service, it is a recreational route on a waterway with a network of public access points supported by broad-based community partnerships. Water trails provide conservation and recreational opportunities.
The Cuyahoga River water trail will take advantage of new opportunities. Together it will allow us to:
- Increase public access to and along the 100+ miles of the Cuyahoga for all people
- Share resources for better safety, amenities, and paddler etiquette
- Enjoy the heath of and beauty of Cuyahoga River
- Boost tourism and economic drive in nearby communities
An amazing consortium of stakeholders referred to as ‘The Cuyahoga River Water Trail Partners’ (CRWTP) started their pursuit of state designation almost 7 years ago. This incredible effort was started by Friends of the Crooked River who then passed the torch to Andrea Irland of the National Park Service- Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program who helped to spearhead the work from there – the anticipatory objective being that of state designation! The Cuyahoga River water trail not only provides a valuable resource for low impact recreation, economic development, and tourism, but it further builds upon support to enhance river appreciation, conservation, and stewardship.
West Creek Conservancy provided fiscal administration but the heavy lifting was completed by the managing partners, the City of Akron, City of Cuyahoga Falls, City of Kent, Cleveland Metroparks, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Portage Park District, Geauga Park District, Summit Metro Parks, Mantua Village and the Village of Silver Lake as well as many other stakeholder partners who were critical in the designation of this water trail (a full list of partners can be found on our map/website). Generous funding was provided by The George Gund Foundation, Akron/ Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau, REI Co-op., Ohio & Erie Canalway Association & the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The Cuyahoga River Water Trail received designation on October 4th, 2019. The beautiful fall day brought in over 200 people to listen to remarks from funders and partners of the organization who officially designated the trail. Several efforts were made in order to receive designation including, but not limited to: open houses, letters of support and resolutions, and identifying and vetting access points along the river.
Everything has its challenges, but the Cuyahoga River has already overcome many including dams, portages, limited access, debris, seasonal and storm overflows, and safety. These have all been taken into consideration. Many have already been met with possible solutions and are an ongoing conversation between the water trail partners, who continue to meet and work together to provide everyone using the CRWT the best experience possible.
We thank everyone who has supported the water trail in this ever-flowing process (pun intended). We hope that you will continue to help us grow and create a trail that is used by all who enjoy spending time in, on and around the river. Please, if you have any comments send them our way!
See you on the river,
The Cuyahoga River Water Trail Partners