Canoeing and Kayaking

NPS /D.J. REISER
A group of kayaks passing a rocky beach on the Cuyahoga River in summer.

NPS/ D.J. Reiser

People who want to canoe or kayak the Cuyahoga River in Cuyahoga Valley National Park need to bring their own equipment and have experience to manage the safety risks posed by the river. The National Park Service does not maintain the river for recreational use. Canoeing and kayaking the river can be dangerous. Water quality, low head dams, and debris in the river all pose hazards.

Paddle at your own risk. You are responsible for your own safety. Always be aware of your surroundings, weather and water level. Know your equipment, limits and skills. Don't paddle alone, and let someone know your plans and when you expect to return.

 
riveraccess_19
Map showing Cuyahoga River access points

Accessing the River

Four temporary access sites are currently available for paddlers. Locations include:

  • Village of Peninsula: Access the river from the Lock 29 Trailhead parking lot.

  • Village of Boston: A path to the river is located along the entrance drive to the Boston Store Visitor Center parking lot. Please drop off your boats and park in the large vehicle lot or overflow lot.

  • Vaughn Road: Access the river from the south side of the Vaughn Road bridge over the Cuyahoga River. This bridge is located near Red Lock Trailhead.

  • Station Road Bridge Trailhead (take out only): A mowed path leads from the southeast corner of the trailhead parking to the river. Station Road Bridge Trailhead is not a put-in location due to a dangerous low head dam immediately downstream.


Commercial use of the Cuyahoga River is not being authorized at this time. For more information visit our permits page.

Ponds within the park are open to paddlers. All boats must be properly registered. Motorized canoes and boats are not permitted on ponds.

 

Safety


The park does not maintain the river channel on a regular basis, and stream conditions are ever changing. Paddlers must assume complete responsibility for their own safety.

Low head dams at Peninsula and Station Road require portage. DO NOT attempt to paddle over the dams. Dams are extremely dangerous, and drowning can occur in the hydraulic that forms below the dam.

Swift currents, log jams, and strainers are common and serious hazards on the river. Strainers are downed branches or trees that allow water to pass through. Currents can pull boats into the strainer, trapping the paddler and creating a potential drowning situation. Paddlers should portage around obvious hazards or areas of uncertainty.

After it rains, the water may contain bacteria from combined sewer overflows and storm water runoff. A high level of bacteria in the water can be a health hazard. Check the latest water quality information at Ohio NowCast. Advisories are posted by approximately 9:15 a.m. daily from May through October.

River water temperature and flow are recorded by the United States Geological Survey. The three nearest gages are: USGS Old Portage Gage, USGS Jaite Gage, or USGS Independence Gage.

Make sure you are aware of your location on the river in case of emergency. In the event of an emergency call the park's Communication Center at 440-546-5945 or dial 911.

Rules & Regulations

All paddlers on the Cuyahoga River should be familiar with Federal, State, and Park regulations that apply to the river. Ohio boating laws apply to all paddlers in Ohio, including visitors from other states. The National Park Service does not allow any alcohol to be consumed on Cuyahoga Valley National Park property without a permit.

  • ORC 1547.54 All boats--including canoes, kayaks, motorboats, and most inflatable boats-- must be registered. Ohio law requires that a boat's registration be carried onboard the boat. Bring proof of residency if you are visiting from a state that does not require canoes or kayaks to be registered.
  • ORC 1547.25 U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets are required for every person onboard. They must be in serviceable condition and correctly sized for the wearer.
  • ORC 1547.24 Children under the age of 10 are required to wear a properly fitted, US Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times while on a boat under 18 feet in length.
  • ORC 1547.11 Operating any boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is prohibited. Ohio's limit for impairment is 0.08 blood alcohol content level for persons who are of legal drinking age. It's 0.02 for anyone who is under 21. (Alcohol is not permitted on the river or in the national park.)
  • ORC 1531.29 Disposing of any item considered to be litter in any ditch, stream, river, lake, pond, or other waterway is illegal.
  • Children under the age of 12 who are operating a manually propelled boat must be directly supervised by an adult.
  • Respect the rights of landowners. Be aware that some of the land along the river is privately owned. Seek the owner's permission before using any private property.

Paddling Opportunities Outside the Park

Visit the Cuyahoga River Water Trail website for more information about paddling outside the park.

Opportunities are growing. The list below may not be comprehensive.

Last updated: March 28, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

15610 Vaughn Road
Brecksville, OH 44141

Phone:

(330) 657-2752

Contact Us