May 30, 2013

5/27/13 - Cuyahoga Valley NP

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is unlike any other national park we’ve visited.  For one thing, it’s an urban park, near Cleveland and Akron, Ohio.  There are homes and even towns within the park.  For another, it isn’t protecting a unique geological feature in the US, like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, which is my idea of a national park.

This park was established to protect an area where the Ohio & Erie Canal USED TO BE.  The canal was destroyed by a huge flood in 1913, but trains had mostly replaced the boats 50 years before.  Mostly what you see is the towpath where the mules walked when they pulled the boats along the canal.  Occasionally you can see a sunken area in the grass where the canal was—check out the picture:
Personally, I think it should be designated a National Historic Site; I’d even go for National Historic Park, but definitely not a National Park.  It was created as a National Recreation Area in 1974, and in 2000 it was upgraded to NP status.  I have no idea why…  (If you’re a Buckeye, go ahead and let me know what you think; I can take it!) 
Interestingly, it’s one of the Top 10 most visited national parks in the country—probably because it’s so close to big cities.  It’s a great place to ride a bike or hike along the towpaths, and edging one side of the park there’s a metro trail.  There are trails for horses, and even a couple of ski resorts right in the park!  (It’s Ohio, remember?  Don’t think mountain; think bunny hills.)  There are even four golf courses in the park.
The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad runs through the park along the Cuyahoga River (an Indian name for “Crooked River”), with locomotives and passenger cards circa 1950s.  We rode the train from Peninsula Depot Visitor Center up to Rockside Station, then back.  That was fun—and since the weather was a little iffy, it worked out quite well.
The kids on the train loved it when we passed Thomas the Tank Engine—there’d been a special event with the blue steam engine during the Memorial Day weekend. 
After our train ride, we drove back to the Boston Store.  The restored store from 1836 is now a Visitor Center.  (The Canal Visitor Center is closed for renovations, so we didn’t learn much about the canal.  I’d gone with the song about the Erie Canal in my head, so I started off in the wrong state.)
There’s a boardwalk trail to Brandywine Falls—second highest falls in the state at 65’!  (I already said it’s Ohio—it’s a really flat state!)  By then it was drizzling a bit, but it was a short walk and definitely worth it!  Best view is from the Lower Observation Platform.

More pictures at Cuyahoga Valley

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