Oh another National Park visit. Ben and I love to visit the National Parks. Although this is a lot of mixed feelings about the department as a whole and exactly what they are doing with the lands they protect, I still love to support them because they are one of the largest group of lands that are protected and we need to protect our lands. That being said, in August Ben and I took the time to make a day stop at Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio.
Cuyahoga Valley is a gorgeous valley just south of Cleveland. It’s really an interesting location for a park. The surrounding areas are more industrial or at least developed in some way. You drive on the highway and then all of a sudden you’re on a bridge with a gorgeous view of a valley and after just a minute or two you are back into this developed area. The process of getting into the park involves two lane roads to go down into the valley and really see what it has to offer.
We only had one day to really see this park and unfortunately there was rain on the radar so we didn’t get a lot of time BUT rain also means less people so this introvert was stoked to have this day. We didn’t get up super early and go in because of a morning storm so we took our time to have a breakfast and figure out the few places we wanted to see before the afternoon storm came in.
First on the agenda of course is to see the park center. Ben gets his postcard and I get my magnet. The valley has a really interesting history because of the rail system that cuts through the center. This was a main route to get up to Cleveland decades ago before the National Park was established, in the valley the railroad was dotted with small towns. These towns are still there but now mostly part of the park as a way to see into some older American history which is a really fun aspect of this park. The other really cool part of this is the railroad is now used as a tourist train to see the whole park in a different way. This time around Ben and I decided not to take the train with Covid and since we only had a day but we know this would be something really fun for our nephews and we’ll have to bring them back here one day.
With postcard and magnet in hand, it was time to go to our second destination, Brandywine Falls. It reminded me a bit of New England with this park since we did a lot of exiting and reentering to get from one location to the next. The falls are a gorgeous 60-foot waterfall made from one of the smaller creeks that feed into the canal. Though fed by a creek the falls are wide and still have a lot of water rushing over, creating a really gorgeous view. Early settlers built a sawmill at the top of the falls but it has since been destroyed. You can still walk around the remaining stones and see what was once there. The sawmill led to a small village that was built around the area that is no longer that except one house built by a son of the original sawmill builder. This house has since been converted into a bed and breakfast and now I know exactly where I want to stay the next time I’m visiting.
After the falls, it was time for a little hike. Again back out of the park and then into it again to reach The Ledges. The Ledges is a small plateau that has gorgeous overlooks of the valley. It was protected early on when purchased by a wealthy industrialist and turned into a park before becoming park of the National Park. In the middle there is a large field that is vast and open, perfect for picnics and just lying in the sun. Then there is a trail you can follow around The Ledges so you can see the various rock formations and enjoy the more wooded area. This was probably my favorite area we got to visit since it was quiet and peaceful. There is also a bat cave on one side but while we were there it was closed off to prevent anyone from going near it and potentially bringing in diseases into the local bat population. I was a bit sad because I love caves and bats but I understand the situation and have been in many caves that require a lot of precautions. Bats are a huge beg predator and it’s important we protect their colonies. I’m already used to some cave closures here in the Saint Louis area in the name of protecting these bat colonies. While we were on the hike it did start to drizzle a little but not so much that we got soaked. This was a telling sign that we didn’t have much time in the park so we knew to finish it up soon.
The last stop we wanted to do was one of the locks on the canal. The valley was originally formed over millions of years and ancient rivers. In the early 1800’s, a canal was built to connect Lake Erie to the Ohio River. This led to a larger boom of transportation as well as more settlers and towns through the valley. Since it was a man-made canal, a lock system was built to move the boats up and down from Cleveland to Columbus and back. I’ve seen a couple locks before on other canals but I find it so interesting and just and incredible feat of mankind to do something like this to help with transportation. Especially since it was built in the 1800’s. Many immigrants fled to the area to dig the canal out of the ground. Unfortunately the lock we planned to visit was closed down for repairs and preservation so we could not even get close to it as the roads surrounding were all closed. Since it was the last stop we had planned we decided to just wander our way out of the park which was the best decision.
As we drove around and saw more of the lower end of the valley it was fascinating to see the local communities that exist. Of course a decent amount of farmland exists and this means small communities and homes throughout that tend to the lands. We passed a small farmers market stand that was a bit crowded for us but it’s still great to know that these small markets are here too benefiting the local economy. I knew we were getting out of the park as the roads started to climb up more and more and eventually we popped out and into the more developed area we were staying.
Overall I wish we had more time in the park but we can easily go back. I want to really visit Columbus someday and this park isn’t that far. It’s even close to Cleveland so if you’re ever in that area you should check out Cuyahoga National Park even just for a little day trip to get a hike in. It’s great to see these protected lands around the country and the various landscapes, ecosystems, geographical marvels, and of course the history of the Natives as well as settlers that have existed in these places for so long. It’s just another example of why we all should be visiting out National Parks and appreciating the work they do to preserve the land we have.