Cuyahoga Valley: The Park that says 'Yes!'

When you Google image search Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP), you won't find a picture of a huge geyser, a gaping canyon, or a magnificent mountain. The quaint trails, waterfalls, and quiet nights of CVNP provide for a park that offers you a plethora of activities to stay busy, active, and entertained.

Our trip to Cuyahoga Valley was brief but beautiful. We rolled in to our campground behind the Stanford House and set up quickly before meeting Emily, one of Darius' old resident life colleagues, for dinner at the Winking Lizard in nearby Peninsula, Ohio.

Emily gave us some of the history of CVNP, letting us know about the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. CVNP is an urban park with lots of visitors from Cleveland coming down to hike and ride bikes. Most people know Cuyahoga because of the infamous river fire of 1969. Unfortunately for the river, that photo is not a fake. Unfortunately for Cuyahoga, that photo was taken in 1952 and wasn't a photo of the 1969 river fire. When most people hear Cuyahoga they remember high school history and that iconic photo. We won't dive into it here, but the 1960's and 70's were a time of environmental legislation in the United States, and needless to say the river's quality is improved.

We stayed our first night in a field of waist-high grass with fireflies lighting the path back to our tent. While sleep came easy after driving through the night, it was punctuated with the croaking of frogs and the chirping of innumerable birds. We woke up early, saw a beaver in the first five minutes of our walk back to the car, and went to take sunrise photos on an unfortunately foggy morning.

Before we arrived in CVNP, we emailed with the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the park for future generations We met one of their employees, Maggie Olson, to learn more about the park.

Maggie was an invaluable resource. She took us on a hike to Blue Hen Falls, where we took our first waterfall shower, and then she took us to one of their stores, Trail Mix Boston, for lunch. Maggie gave us a lot of the background of CVNP. In 1974, it was established as a National Recreation Area and wasn't named as a National Park until 2000. The Conservancy works hard to create lifelong relationships with people. They offer educational opportunities for K-8 students to come to the park and learn about ecology, natural history and Ohio history, they host over 130 weddings per year in the park’s historic spaces, and they try to be the park that says yes!

While we were eating lunch, Maggie introduced us to John Debo. John was Superintendent of Cuyahoga Valley National Park for 22 years and one of the individuals integral to getting it renamed as a National Park. In 1974, Ohio Congressman Ralph Regula said “we could be the architects in preserving this heritage for future generations, it goes far beyond today in terms of the potential.” In 2000, both John Debo and Ralph Regula worked to establish Cuyahoga as a National Park.

The Conservancy for CVNP partners with the park to provide numerous opportunities for both visitors and locals to enjoy. You can take a 3-minute hike a waterfall, you can take a ride on the railroad and enjoy an hour-long bike ride down the Towpath Trail, you can visit the heronry and see a tree filled with 10-12 Great Blue Heron nests and just as many birds. The park is filled with activities and they are constantly finding new ways to attract and retain visitors. While we don't yet have kids, we will be returning when we do.