At the center of activity at Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the twisty Cuyahoga -- "crooked river" in the regional Native American tongue -- which winds its way through floodplains, valleys, and ravines on its 22-mile journey through the park. Nearly 200 miles of streams feed the river.
The ecology of Cuyahoga Valley National Park is diverse. Two distinct geographic regions intermingle -- the Appalachian Plateau and the bordering Central Lowlands -- as well as some of the only remaining wetlands environments in Ohio.
The valley's 1,200 wetlands acres help support a diverse wildlife population, with white-tailed deer being the park's most visible resident. Cuyahoga supports nearly 200 species of birds, as well as numerous invertebrates, fish, amphibians, mammals, and reptiles. Beavers, coyotes, turtles, and wild turkeys are just a few of the park's wild denizens.
The rich soil of the Cuyahoga Valley supports a mosaic of flora, more than 900 plant species in all. There are forests rich in oak, hickory, and maple. Today the Park Service authorizes a number of sustainable agricultural operations within the boundaries of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, including a vineyard and an herb farm.
Many park visitors see the sights from the comfort of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. The trains offer various trips, including some longer excursions that include disembarking to tour the village of Peninsula or the Canal Visitor Center. Other outings include visits to Hale Farm and Village, Stan Hywet, Akron Zoo, Quaker Square, and the Hartville Marketplace.
Cuyahoga Valley National Photo Opportunities
The unusual conglomeration of pioneer villages, wilderness, and the historical structures allow sightseers an array of photographic options. Architecture buffs will be interested in the Western Reserve style of the handsome Frazee House, while bird lovers won't want to miss the Bath Road Heronry. Here's a look at some of the park's best photo opportunities:
- Brandywine Falls: In historic Brandywine Village, the Brandywine Falls once powered a sawmill and a grist mill. Today the structures are gone, but the 60-foot falls still flow over sandstone and shale -- and with a stunning effect.
- Bath Road Heronry: Located on Bath Road between Akron-Peninsula and Riverview roads, the heronry is a great place to photograph the great blue heron. This magnificent bird has a 70-inch wingspan, a blue-gray back, and a white crown and face. The herons nest in colonies where they mate, raise their young, and often times roost for the year.
- The Ledges Overlook: The Ledges are a series of sandstone banks in the southeast part of Cuyahoga Valley. From this spot, hikers can gaze at the lush leaf canopies that stretch over the valley below.
Long before this region was established as a national park, the Ohio & Erie Canal snaked through the lands. On the following page, you can read about the history of the canal and the surrounding area.