Before moving to the Midwest I admittedly didn’t really know much about it. I knew that it was a center for agriculture and was at the forefront of the industrialization in the US, but I didn’t really think that there would be a lot of natural beauty. Having been settled during a time when preserving the natural beauty of the country wasn’t even a tertiary concern, I guess I just assumed that it had mostly been bulldozed and the way made for factory farms and other industrial pursuits. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were still a few bastions of beauty, Cuyahoga National Park is one of them.
A Little History:
Cuyahoga is one of the newest national parks having been incorporated in the system just 13 years ago in 2000. Most national parks are found out west and were named national parks well before people were settling that part of the country. As a consequence, those parks encompass several thousands miles and are largely untouched by modernity (for example: the Grand Canyon is nearly 2000 sq. miles). Not so for Cuyahoga, because of its late arrival to the national park registry it actually has several townships with all of the accompanying commerce and lifestyle developments necessary for modern life within its boundaries. There are people that can actually claim to live and work within the national park, a rarity!
It’s late arrival to the national park registry is due to its history as a dumping ground for industrial waste. At one point it was one of the most polluted areas in the region. It was known to catch fire on a regular basis, yes, the water caught fire! Though it is much cleaner today, the park service still advises against swimming, fishing or boating in the local river (3-eyed fish fry anyone?), though I saw on TV that some parts of the river are used for commercial fishing. I don’t know how that works…
One of the main attractions at the park are the Brandywine Falls. I was fully expecting to have to hike through a barely discernible trail to find them. Not only could I practically drive up to the falls, there were also these super amazing walkways conveniently located from the parking lot to the Falls. Don’t get me wrong I love a good hike, but this was the last stop on a long day and I REALLY appreciated the convenience of these walkways.
Fun Fact: The Blossom Music Center is located within the borders of Cuyahoga. This is the summer home of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. Listeners sit on the lawn in the natural bowl to hear the performance! I like the symphony, but somehow going to a national park and hearing such beautiful music puts me in the mind of having an aria sung while I am exploring. It would be like a movie! When something truly beautiful is being witnessed and the soft music swells to envelop the experience…beautiful.
Hmm….The word Cuyahoga is a Native American word meaning “crooked”, due to the meandering nature of the river that runs through the national park. Is it just me, or does it seem ironic that Americans were extremely fond of giving things Native American names, but then equally fond of kicking the very same people off of their traditional lands and herding them into reservations? Maybe a post for a different day…
I wish that I had budgeted more time in the park. I would have loved to explore the natural beauty and see more of the towns. If you are in the area it is definitely at least worth one day of your travels.