About the Site
Cuyahoga Valley National Park  


Park History

Ohio & Erie Canal

Towpath Trail

Cuyahoga River


Brandywine Falls

Brandywine Creek

Inn at Brandywine Falls


Hale Farm

Boston Area

Horseshoe Pond

Kendall Lake

Ledges Area

Brecksville Reservation


Plants and Vegetation

Park Views


One of America's newest national parks is Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This park is located in northern Ohio, just south of Cleveland and north of Akron. It preserves and provides access to the beautiful valley of the Cuyahoga River and parts of the old Ohio and Erie Canal which runs along the river through the park.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is somewhat different from the traditional idea of a national park, as it lacks the magnificent natural wonders of Yosemite, Cuyahoga Valley, Crater Lake, or Yellowstone. It is a bit more like what has been typically categorized as a recreation area or national historic park. In fact, until the year 2000 the park was designated as a National Recreation Area.

The park currently contains 133,000 acres, and within its borders features the Cuyahoga River and its valley and gorge, the Ohio and Erie Canal and Towpath Trail, city and county parkland, many buildings and historical elements, a railroad, hiking, bridle, and bicycle trails, and many recreational opportunities.

Park History

The Cuyahoga River is located in the extreme northern part of Ohio, where it runs through a 22 mile valley and gorge originally sculpted by glaciers. The area was a wilderness inhabited by indigenous peoples at the time of the founding of the United States. In the early days of the nation, portions of the Ohio area were claimed by eastern states, and this section of the future state was known as the "Western Reserve."

A modern view of the Cuyahoga River is shown below.

The area in which Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located was first made available for surveying and settlement in 1805. Settlement was difficult because of the difficulties in transporting people and goods through the wilderness, and as a result the decision to create a canal connecting Lake Erie to the Ohio River was made in 1825.

A section of the Towpath Trail, once used by horses pulling canal boats and now a major recreational facility, is shown below.

The canal was extremely successful in promoting agriculture, industry, and settlement in Ohio. Cleveland became a major city, and the population of the state skyrocketed. However, when the railroad arrived in 1880 the days of the canal as a major transportation factor were numbered. Over time, the canal came to be primarily a recreational resource, until a major flood in 1913 largely destroyed it.

One of the park's most memorable natural features, Brandywine Falls, is shown below.

The Cuyahoga River valley is quite beautiful, and by the early 20th century the recreational potential of the valley and the area was beginning to be appreciated. The area came more and more to serve the recreation needs of Akron and Cleveland, and the cities established a number of local parks in the area, some with the help of the federal Civilian Conservational Corps in the early 1930's. The CCC workers labored on three camps in the area--at Virginia Kendall, Sand Run, Brecksville--where they built lakes, bath houses, shelters, picnic areas, and other structures and facilities. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and other groups established camps in the area.

A section of the Brecksville Reservation is shown below.

Kendall Lake is now popular with park visitors and wildlife alike.

By the 1960's, development activity raised concerns among citizens that the scenic, natural, and historic qualities of the Cuyahoga Valley area were in jeopardy. Activities were undertaken to provide for preservation of the unique characteristics in the area. These culminated on December 27, 1974 when Congress created the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area.

Hale Farm and Village, which highlights the activities of 19th century inhabitants of the area, is one of the many historical features of the park.

The Everett Covered Bridge is another of the park's historical features.

The Inn at Brandywine Falls is the only lodging available within the borders of the park, but it is itself another historical feature, a restored residence from the 19th century.

While the recreational area served its purpose, as time progressed, some confusion developed about the nature of a national recreation area. As a remedy toward those concerns, the area was designated as an official national park in the year 2000. It is currently one of the nation's newest national parks.

Brandywine Creek winds through the eastern section of the park after cascading over Brandywine Falls.

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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

  • Commercial use of the images contained in this document without express written consent is strictly prohibited.

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