Rivers and Streams

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A river flows between tree-lined shores, under a blue sky with white clouds.
The Cuyahoga River and its tributaries provide habitat for park wildlife.

© D.J. Reiser

The Cuyahoga River

The Cuyahoga River is the central natural feature of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. 22 of its 100 miles run the length of the park from south to north. The river is fed by more than 190 miles of perennial (permanent) and ephemeral (temporary) streams.

Known internationally as the "river that burned," the Cuyahoga River is on the rebound. Where at one time no living thing could survive, now there are spawning fish and rare insect species. Today the river looks like a river should; it no longer flows in colors of the rainbow. Instead, the river flows lazily past forests, fields, and towns, occasionally erupting in white riffles where rocks and pebbles interrupt its flow.

The Cuyahoga is not completely healed, however. Even today, combined sewer overflows, runoff from fields and parking lots, and sediments continue to impair the river’s water quality. Throughout Northeast Ohio people are looking out for the river, as government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and volunteers work together to return the Cuyahoga to an acceptable state.

Smaller Streams

Park streams, tributaries to the Cuyahoga, are diverse in character. Some are so small they flow only in times of heavy precipitation and remain unnamed to this day. Many are gently flowing streams wandering through forested ravines. Others are more assertive, flowing rapidly toward the Cuyahoga and sometimes dropping suddenly over scenic waterfalls. At over 28 miles, Tinkers Creek is the longest of the Cuyahoga River’s tributaries.

Where there is water, there is life. Streamsides are lush, with water-loving vegetation and colorful spring wildflowers surrounding flowing waters. These areas provide excellent habitat for park wildlife. Insects and amphibians thrive in moist, shaded conditions. Birds and mammals take advantage of easy access to food and water.

 

Visit the Cuyahoga River

Opportunities to canoe and kayak grow each year. The National Park Service is among the partners who manage the Cuyahoga River Water Trail along the length of the river. Visit our paddling page to learn more about recreating on the river.

The Towpath Trail and Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad run adjacent to the river and provide opportunities for viewing. Outdoor exhibits at Station Road Bridge Trailhead and the Village of Peninsula aid your views.

 
Person wearing an orange life vest sits in an orange kayak on the river, holding a paddle.

Paddling the River

Learn more about canoeing and kayaking on the Cuyahoga River.

Cuyahoga River Water Trail

Cuyahoga River Water Trail

Get involved in river-wide efforts to create and improve the Cuyahoga River Water Trail.

Water Quality

Water Quality

Cuyahoga River water quality is not always good. Check the current status to plan a safe visit.

The Towpath Trail

The Towpath Trail

Historically, the Ohio & Erie Canal drew water from the Cuyahoga River. Today, you can view the river from many locations along the trail.

 Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad runs adjacent to the river. Plan a trip aboard the train for views of the river from the window.

Fishing

Fishing

The Cuyahoga River and numerous park ponds are open for fishing.

 

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    Last updated: January 12, 2022

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