Crooked River tour
The Cuyahoga River is the celebrity river of Northeast Ohio. The fire in 1969 made it an international symbol of environmental pollution. The cleanup since then has inspired hope of restoration. Yet few people know the whole river and its diverse landscapes and stories. The slideshow below provides a glimpse.
Multiple personalities from country to city
The Cuyahoga is a river with many faces. Upstream of Lake Rockwell by Kent, the river flows lazily through agricultural countryside and pristine wetlands. The wetland areas, some protected as part of Akron’s water supply lands, are great places to watch wildlife from a canoe. Downstream by Cuyahoga Falls and Akron the river descends steeply through a gorge, and when the last dam is removed this will be a prime spot for whitewater kayaking. Then the river runs through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and is part of a natural and historic, canal landscape from the 19th century. Finally, the river flows through the industrial valley of Cleveland and reaches Lake Erie.
Since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, the Cuyahoga has been the focus of many environmental cleanup efforts. As a result, water quality and the diversity of aquatic life have been much improved. There’s still work to be done (especially work by the City of Akron and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District to reduce combined sewer overflows), but much of the worst industrial pollution has been curtailed. In the next few years, it might even be possible to remove the Cuyahoga from the list of the most polluted areas around the Great Lakes.
There’s more public access to the river all the time -- even rowing access in the lower navigation channel. It’s a great time to experience the amazing sights along this historic river.
For information about how to help restore the Cuyahoga and other streams in Northeast Ohio, see the river restoration section of our Clean Water Activities page.
- Length: 85 miles from confluence of East and West branches in Geauga County (each branch adds 15 miles)
- Area of watershed: 813 square miles
- Special designations: American Heritage River (one of 14 nationally), State Scenic River (upper 25 miles), Area of Concern (lower river, one of 43 water bodies around the Great Lakes listed for special remedial action)
The little river is still challenging men to works so vast that mile for mile it can’t be matched by any river I have ever heard of in the world.
— William Donohue Ellis, The Cuyahoga
A lot of Cleveland thinks that the Cuyahoga is a place that divides Cleveland. But rowers don't look at it that way. We see the Cuyahoga as a place we all come together, East Side, West Side. When we are on the Cuyahoga, we are all in the same boat, literally.
— Robert Valerian, Cleveland Rowing Foundation
10 best ecological restoration >
Cities are healthier as a whole when nature is invited in.
The best bike trails >
Find out where are the most interesting bike rides in Northeast Ohio
Ten water saving tips >
We're at the shore of Lake Erie, but we still have good reasons to conserve