Down East Road Trip – Cuyahoga Valley National Park

A Park Frozen in Time, Nestled in the Heart of Urban Ohio

Cuyahoga Valley National Park - Brandywine Falls

As we have come to discover as we’ve embarked on a few of these National Park survey trip over the years, there never seems to be quite enough time. Of course, this is a product of how we plan our road trips – with a desire to sample as many parks as possible – and more often than not it leaves us with hopes of revisiting these parks on an extended or dedicated trip in the future. Such was certainly the case with Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park - Boston Store Visitor Center
Cuyahoga Valley National Park - Everett Covered Bridge

The area that makes up modern day Cuyahoga Valley National Park has a long and rich history as first a place of commerce, and later, by the late nineteenth century, a lovely place of escape and recreation amidst the growing cities that surround it. Central to the valley is the Cuyahoga River, a matter of some notoriety for northern Ohio. At one time, the waterway was branded the most polluted river in the Untied States, and a series of high profile fires literally on the surface of river were paramount in the formation of the EPA in the 1970s. The last of those fires, kindled by a spark from a nearby train, was exactly fifty years ago, on June 22, 1969.

With urban sprawl and pollution threatening the idyllic Cuyahoga Valley, a grassroots movement sprung up in support of making the area into a national park. On December 27, 1974, Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area was born, freezing the area in time and persevering the valley for future generations. In 2000, Congress made the valley the country’s 56th National Park.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park - Interstate Bridge
Cuyahoga Valley National Park - Barn
Cuyahoga Valley National Park - Brandywine Falls

In total, we had an afternoon and a few hours the next morning to explore the park. We began our visit at the Boston Store Visitor’s Center – a unique oblong-shaped building alongside what was once the Ohio & Erie Canal. Today, the canal lane has been converted into a gravel multi-purpose trail, and provided a great opportunity to explore a bit of the flora and fauna that line the old canal – just be mindful of speedy Bicyclists!

In our brief time, we explored a few more corners of the park of the Swiss cheese-shaped park, from the Everett Covered Bridge and its rocky creek-bed, to our favorite part of the trip, Brandywine Falls. A series of boardwalks line the gorge walls as you descend to several overlooks, providing the perfect view of the falls. Even here, there is human history, with the ruins of the Champion Electric Company power station sitting alongside the rushing water of the falls.

All in all, it was a wonderful park, and one we hope to visit again in the not-to-distant future.

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