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

The primary waterway within Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the Cuyahoga River. We are presently developing strategies to protect and enhance river values, including adequate and safe approaches for recreational river use. We do allow kayaking and canoeing in all of our ponds in the park, but motorized boats are not permitted on the lakes and ponds. Learn more about the history of the river here.

While use of the river is not prohibited, there are several concerns that should be taken into consideration.

Canoeing and kayaking the river can be dangerous and the park does not maintain the river for paddling.

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.

Update on Cuyahoga River Use:

NPS staff recently completed three temporary, primitive access sites for paddlers at the Boston Store Visitor Center, Red Lock, and Station Road Bridge Trailhead as part of a study to look at recreational use on this stretch of the Cuyahoga River. This area is open to public river use but the park does NOT clear hazards within the river. A dangerous low-head dam is present at Station Road that requires a portage. Paddlers must be experienced and paddle at their own risk. Remember to review Nowcast in advance of any river use.

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

Safety

Two low-head dams exist within the river at Peninsula and
Station Road Trailhead that require a short portage.

Do not attempt to paddle over low-head dams.They are extremely dangerous and drowning occurs in the hydraulic that forms below the dam. Exit the river before the dams.

Avoid strainers, which are downed trees/debris in the river.
They are more dangerous than they look, and paddlers can get stuck in them and drown.

Be aware of changing water quality.
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.

Things to Remember

  • Alcohol is prohibited in the national park and on the river
  • All boats must be registered and follow required Ohio Boating Laws
  • All paddlers must wear a Personal Flotation Device
  • 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

Ohio boating laws apply to all paddlers in Ohio including visitors from other states. Following the laws and adhering to boater responsibility allow for a safe and pleasant trip on Ohio's streams.

  • 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. Wearable life jackets are required for each person, must be in serviceable condition, and must be 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 .08 blood alcohol content level for persons who are of legal drinking age. It's .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. Almost all stream bed and land adjacent to Ohio's streams is privately owned. Seek the owner's permission before using any property.

Paddling Opportunities

The Cuyahoga River is 100 miles long and offers diverse experiences. If you would like to paddle, please consider all of the following opportunities:

  • The Cuyahoga River can be paddled in many different areas there are a few liveries outside of the park.
  • Ponds within the park are open to paddlers, all boats must be properly registered. Motorized canoes and boats are not permitted on the ponds.
  • CVNP provides some primitive access areas along the river in the park.
  • Cleveland Metroparks offers guided paddling programs in the flats/shipping channel area of downtown Cleveland at their Rivergate Park. Visit http://www.clevelandmetroparks.com/Main/Recreation/Boating-1.aspx for more information.

Crooked River Adventures

  • River trips include three destinations along the Cuyahoga River, all with easy-to-navigate routes and beautiful views. All river trips begin at Tannery Park in Kent, Ohio and ends at Middlebury Bridge, Brust Park or Waterworks Park, and return transportation is provided.
Contact

Tannery Park at 100 Stow Street, Kent, OH 44240. Look for our blue and gold trailer.
Phone: 330-541-7467

https://www.kent.edu/recservices/crooked-river-adventures

Camp HI

  • Camp Hi offers a variety of River Trips along 25 miles of the the Upper Cuyahoga River designated as both an American Heritage and State Scenic River.The water is excellent quality for swimming or fishing. Enjoy our beautiful grounds & pavilions for picnic use before or after your trip.

Contact
Email: kendrab@camphicanoe.com
camphicanoe.com

Friends of the Crooked River

Contact

Email:info@cuyahogariver.net
cuyahogariver.net/

 
Sunset on the Cuyahoga River
Sunset on the Cuyahoga River

NPS / Robert George

Cuyahoga River Water Trail Partners

Mission
Our mission is to improve and promote public access to and use of the Cuyahoga River Water Trail as a valuable resource for low-impact recreation. economic development, and tourism; and to support and enhance river appreciation, conservation, and stewardship.

Our Vision

  • Create a network of water trails along the river, accessible to our community, with common standard for safety, physical amenities, operation protocol and user etiquette as well as a common brand identity.

  • Restore and enhance the water quality, ecological function, and beauty of the river through expanded environmental stewardship grounded in tangible, place-based paddling experience.

  • Synergize the quality of life and economic development of the region through increased activity.

Call for Support
Organizations and agencies within the watershed have been meeting since February 2011 to develop the concept of a Cuyahoga River Water Trail. With much accomplished, and yet more to be completed, we are looking for partners to join us on the pathway towards designation and celebration.

Contact
Andrea Irland
National Park Service
Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program

Email: andrea_irland@nps.gov
Phone: 440-717-3775

Last updated: August 13, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

15610 Vaughn Road
Brecksville, OH 44141

Phone:

(330) 657-2752

Contact Us