Natural Features & Ecosystems

Great blue heron
Great blue herons visit several Cuyahoga Valley ecosystems.

NPS / Tim Fenner

The history of the Cuyahoga River has been dramatic in scope. Native Americans used the river as a trade route for thousands of years and referred to the river as the "Ka-ih-ogh-ha" or crooked river. Early settlers of the Western Reserve viewed the rapidly falling river as unsuitable for travel but harnessed it as a source to fill the Ohio & Erie Canal built in the early 1800s. The canal brought industrialization to Northeast Ohio but the rapidly developing industrialization came at a cost.

Today the health of the Cuyahoga River is a work in progress. There has been a strong effort to monitor water quality and key habitats. A focus of the ongoing surveys is to analyze wetlands and neighboring tributaries. These surveys provide valuable insights into the health of river-dwelling plant and animal communities, and those in surrounding areas.

Learn more about park ecosystems:

Last updated: November 9, 2021

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