Cuyahoga River | WOSU Radio

Cuyahoga River

Eight years of work finally paid off Friday with the official designation of the Cuyahoga River as an Ohio Water Trail.

The new Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) trail designation means paddlers will have signage, amenities and access points to guide them along the more than 90-mile Cuyahoga River.

One of Ashtabula's 19 covered bridges crosses the river just south of town. A total of 46 miles of the river and its tributaries were named scenic rivers in 2008.
Jeff St. Clair / WKSU

Patricia Seymour grew up in Ashtabula in the 1960ss. On bright spring day at the city’s bustling harbor, Seymour recalls a childhood landscape more reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings.

“It was like Mordor,” Seymour says.

A sailboat awaits the sailing season on Lorain's Black River. The town was built on steel production, but as that industry fades, new emphasis is placed on the region's natural resources.
Jeff St. Clair / WKSU

The Black River is wide at its mouth, with parallel banks encased by metal bulkheads. It’s an industrial river, but there is wildlife, like a hissing pair of geese guarding the entrance to the yacht club marina.

The Anthony J. Celebrezze rests near Fire Station 21 on the Cuyahoga River, Thursday, June 13, 2019, in Cleveland.
Tony Dejak / Associated Press

Standing on the banks of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland’s Industrial Valley, the river looks like chocolate milk surrounded by industry – or the remnants of industry slowly being reclaimed by nature. But in 1969, this was one of the nation’s most polluted waterways

On June 23, 1969, a day after the fire on the Cuyahoga River, Mayor Carl Stokes took reporters on a four-stop pollution tour. It would turn out to be the last fire on the river. We retraced the tour 50 years later.

Stokes first stopped at the Big Creek Interceptor south of Cleveland. It had been malfunctioning for weeks by the time of the 1969 fire. 

The Cuyahoga River has come a long way since the fire 50 years ago. But it still faces an environmental threat in the form of stormwater and development.  

Rainwater rolling off asphalt and rooftops can carry contaminants into the watershed. Local government agencies across Northeast Ohio have laid out rules for developers to limit the harmful effects of stormwater.

Birding Along The Cuyahoga River

May 17, 2019

It’s prime time for birding in Northeast Ohio as many species have arrived from warmer winter spots.

ideastream visited two very different places for bird watching along the Cuyahoga River as part of its series, Cuyahoga River Comeback, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the infamous fire on the water.

One lesser-known place to visit is Eldon Russell Park in Geauga County, tucked away near the edge of Burton and Troy Township. Once there, launch a kayak or canoe on the Cuyahoga River and cruise for birds.

Bald eagles were once almost wiped out of Ohio. Now, the state has more than 220 nesting pairs.
Jim Kaftan

A freight train chugs across a bridge high above as Cleveland Metroparks historian Karen Lakus begins a tour of what she calls the hidden valley. Not long ago, she says, this was a dump.

“It was trash and gravel, and it was completely overgrown,” she says.

Cleveland Public Theatre’s “Fire on the Water” reflects on the infamous Cuyahoga River fire and considers how people relate to the environment 50 years later.  

Through a series of short plays, “Fire on the Water” revisits the past, celebrates progress and explores present day issues. It is a refresh of a 2015 production, which was part of a cycle of plays aiming to change how people feel about the environment.

On June 22, 1969, a train passing over a trestle in Cleveland created a spark that caused a fire on the Cuyahoga River. That spark brought nationwide attention to the river 50 years ago, and it’s tainted Cleveland’s reputation for decades. Since then, fact and fiction have often mixed in the popular history of the fire.

Cleveland Metroparks historical interpreter Doug Kusak and Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan Adler provide some context to the myths surrounding the river’s story.

June 22, 2019, marks 50 years since the last time the Cuyahoga River burned. Throughout the year, regional and local events will celebrate the crooked river’s revitalization.

After taking place in August for the last three years, the Great Lakes Burning River music festival will celebrate its 18th year on June 22. River Rally, a national conference, will convene in downtown Cleveland the week of the anniversary. And stand-up paddleboarders will travel almost six miles along the Cuyahoga, marking the day the river burned.

Ohio EPA

The sun sparkles on the Cuyahoga River as it flows through the city of Munroe Falls, just upstream from Akron. The atmosphere is idyllic, apart from the occasional gunshot from a nearby police firing range.