Thing to Do

Go Birding in the Cuyahoga Valley

Uniformed ranger points upward, standing with several people on a wooden boardwalk, trees behind.
A ranger leads a birding program at the Beaver Marsh.

© Sara Guren

Birding is a popular activity at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Thanks to the park’s wide variety of habitats, it is possible to observe more than 200 bird species throughout the year.

Birders find joy in the activity for a variety of reasons. Some get a thrill from observing the behavior of a bird as small as a ruby-throated hummingbird or as large as a great blue heron. Others get a kick out of seeing various species of birds in one location or from simply having a new experience.

You don’t have to be an expert to enjoy birding in the park. It helps if you have a field guide or can download a bird identification app onto a smartphone. Binoculars or a camera with a zoom give you a closer look. If those tools aren't available, start with wetland birds that are large and easier to spot. Below you’ll find some recommended birding locations in the national park. Each includes the local habitat type(s) and some information about the kinds of birds typically found there and when to look for them. Learn more about birds in the park and find expert bird photography tips on our birds page. Recent sightings and a full list of birding hotspots is available on eBird.

Beaver Marsh

Habitat type: mixed wetland
This is a good place to visit any time of the year. Less than 10 percent of Ohio’s original wetlands still exist, making this habitat in Cuyahoga Valley especially valuable to wildlife. Wetlands provide essential feeding and resting places for migrating birds. A walk along the boardwalk often provides great opportunities for close-up viewing. Look for waterfowl migrations in March and November. In the spring and summer birds are present in their peak breeding plumage. Look for hanging Baltimore oriole nests, watch for families of wood ducks in the water, observe tree swallows as they capture insects in mid-air, and listen for the single-pitched staccato trill of the swamp sparrow. This is the best place in the park to find Virginia rails and rare least bitterns.

The Beaver Marsh is accessible from the Towpath Trail between the Ira and Hunt House Trailheads.

The Ledges

Habitat type: hemlock and mixed ravine forest
The cool, moist hemlock and yellow birch forests along the towering sandstone ledges provide an opportunity to watch birds in an area more typical of the mixed evergreen forests of Canada. The Ledges are a micro-climate, a small area that creates its own environment. As water slowly flows through the sandstone, it keeps this place cooler during the summer than the surrounding areas, providing a specialized bird habitat.

Blue-headed vireos, winter wrens, hermit thrushes, and black-throated green warblers are frequently observed here during the late spring, when birding is best. A few of these more northern birds stay through the summer and nest here. The Ledges are located in the Virginia Kendall area of the national park. Parking is available at Happy Days Lodge, the Ledges Shelter, and the Octagon Shelter.

Horseshoe Pond

Habitat types: mixed evergreen forest and fields
A walk along the Tree Farm Trail takes you through a former Christmas tree farm, now rich with mixed conifer trees that provide great habitat for wintering birds. This is an especially good area to look for red-breasted nuthatches and golden-crowned kinglets from late October through early March. The large open areas surrounding the evergreen forests are excellent places to look for small flocks of eastern bluebirds most any time of the year. Relatively elusive barred owls can be found in the evergreens. Park at Horseshoe Pond on Major Road in Peninsula.

Station Road Bridge

Habitat types: floodplain and mixed swamp
Since 2007, a pair of adult bald eagles have been nesting in the Pinery Narrows area just north of the Station Road Bridge Trailhead. These eagles have successfully raised a number of eaglets over the years. Both adult and juvenile bald eagles can be seen flying overhead, fishing in the river, or perched in the nest area throughout the year.

It is best to visit the Pinery Narrows area in the early spring before the views become obscured by leaves. You can view the nesting area from the Towpath Trail by following the trail 1⁄2-mile north from the Station Road Bridge. On the west (river) side of the Towpath, watch for a small clearing just after the bridle trail junction. From there, look across the river and search for a large nest in the trees.

Birders also flock to the Station Road Bridge area to see and hear screech owls, yellow-throated warblers, and cerulean warblers.

Bath Road Heronry

Habitat types: floodplain and mixed swamp
From February until July, great blue herons nest in treetop colonies called heronries. The four-foot-tall herons with their seven-foot wingspans are most impressive during the breeding season when, in peak plumage, they perform their courtship displays. The Bath Road heronry can be observed throughout the entire breeding season from a pullout along Bath Road between Riverview and Akron Peninsula roads.

Former Coliseum Site

Habitat type: grassland
The demolition of the Richfield Coliseum in 1999 brought an unexpected benefit. Removal of the building and parking lot and subsequent site restoration created a new grassland. This restored area benefits many bird species, several of which have been in decline due to loss of habitat.

During the summer breeding season, four interesting species can be found here: eastern meadowlark, bobolink, savannah sparrow, and Henslow's sparrow. Because these birds nest on the ground, we ask visitors to stay on the edge of the grassland during nesting season (April to August). Disturbance of the nests could result in nest failure.

Migration brings other interesting species to the grasslands, including various hawks and shorebirds. On winter evenings at dusk, short-eared owls might be seen flying low over the dried grasses hunting for voles and other rodents.

To reach the former Coliseum site, park in an unmarked grassy lot along the north side of State Route 303, just west of the intersection of I-271. If conditions are wet, park carefully along the road just before it narrows.

Details

Leashed pets are permitted on park trails, but not in park buildings. Leashes must be 6 feet long or less.

Entrance fees may apply, see Fees & Passes information.

Some areas close at dusk. The remaining areas are open 24 hours. Visit our operating hours page for more information.

Accessibility Information

The Towpath Trail is wheelchair accessible, except during certain weather conditions. The park does not clear trails of snow and ice. Certain spots flood or become muddy after heavy rains, especially in the spring. Within the national park, the surface is mostly compacted crushed limestone. There are short paved sections and several wooden boardwalks and footbridges. The Towpath Trail has a few stone benches. Note that the Towpath Trail is a multi-use trail shared by people who are walking, running, bicycling, and (in some places) horsebacking riding. For your safety, follow the Towpath guidelines. Ledges and Tree Farm trails are not wheelchair accessible. They are hilly with unpaved surfaces that are rocky or muddy in places. Service animals and leashed comfort pets are welcome everywhere except the East Rim Mountain Bike Trails. See our Physical/Mobility disabilities page for information about Other Power Driven Mobility Devices. See our Blindness/Low Vision page for a list of audio described locations and tactile exhibits.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Last updated: February 15, 2022