2019 Cuyahoga River Celebration

Celebrate with us!

2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 burning of the Cuyahoga River. The Cuyahoga River had caught fire several times before, but on June 22, 1969, around noon, floating pieces of oil slicked debris were ignited on the river by sparks caused by a passing train. The fire was determined to have reached heights of over five stories and lasted between twenty and thirty minutes - there was reported to be around $50,000 worth of damages. Not the worst incident of the river catching fire, however this time was different. In December of 1969, a picture of the Cuyahoga River ablaze was published in the New York Times, and Cleveland became a symbol of environmental degradation. As the city looks ahead to the 50th anniversary of the fire next year, that infamous day is a not only an ancient memory -- it is also being celebrated as the beginning of a miraculous comeback for a river that has increasingly become a magnet for leisure and entertainment.

A Change of Narrative for Our Beloved River

Here are a couple of Conservancy events about the Cuyahoga River you can begin to mark on your calendar:

logo for cuyahoga 50

Celebrating Our River. Igniting Our Future.

Water is life. It sustains us, nourishes us, and drives our economy. By the time the Cuyahoga River caught fire for the last time on June 22, 1969, it had no visible life. Fifty years later the river is alive again, but clean water faces more threats than ever in Cleveland and around the world.

When we look back at the progress since 1969, we see determined local action supported by strong federal policy. Today’s major threats to the health of the river and the entire Great Lakes are different than when the river caught on fire, but no less severe. Industrial pollution has been largely overtaken by algal blooms, climate change, plastic pollution, invasive species, and other threats. The blame can no longer be placed on a handful of manufacturers. In many ways, the problem is us and what we consume, how we farm, and how we build cities. But the overarching recipe for progress is the same – local action supported by strong policy. Cuyahoga50 is about learning from the past to inform how to tackle today’s clean water challenges.

Learn more at the Cuyahoga 50 website >

Last updated: February 1, 2019

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15610 Vaughn Road
Brecksville, OH 44141


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