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Cuyahoga Valley

National Park


cover of park brochure

park geology subheading
Photo of river in Cuyahoga Valley
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Where the Sidewalk Ends
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park preserves 12,950 hectares (32,000 acres) of pastoral valley along 35 kilometers (22 miles) of the Cuyahoga River between the cities of Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. Rather than a distant and forbidding wilderness, this park is nearby, welcoming, and comfortably familiar, sort of "just down the street and around the block, where the sidewalk ends" for millions of urban Americans. It is easily accessible, yet offers a sharp contrast to its urban surroundings.

In a gradually changing environment where fewer and fewer places allow us time and space to rediscover the beauty and meaning of nature, the peace of the countryside, or the substance of our past, the need to protect landscapes that refresh the spirit and restore our perceptions has become one of the most basic requirements of environmental and recreational planning. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park preserves such a place, a landscape where recreation can be a process of perceiving and appreciating the roots of our contemporary existence. It is also a place of active recreation where you can refresh body and spirit. It is an educational place, where nature and history study opportunities abound. And it is a place of settings—for artistic events, social gatherings, solitude and creativity. As urban growth continues, as gasoline prices rise, and as living density increases around it, Cuyahoga Valley NP will grow in importance and service to people of all cultures and backgrounds.

Sculpted by glaciers, streams, and the persistent forces of weather, the Cuyahoga River Valley landscape is an enchanting diversity of river floodplain, steep and gentle valley walls forested by deciduous and evergreen woods, numerous tributaries and their ravines, and upland plateaus. It is home to a wide variety of wildlife and plants, amazingly numerous given their close proximity to major metropolitan and industrial areas. The big animals—the bear, the wolf, the puma—are no longer here. Nor are the vast virgin forests once so characteristic of this region. The Cuyahoga Valley is now a harmonious blend of human and natural history. The bison have been replaced by cows and horses. Forests have been broken up by rolling farmland. Freshwater ponds dot the landscape, and pastures and meadows in various stages of succession are interwoven with wooded hills. Remains of the old Ohio and Erie Canal, replaced by railroad and highway, blend into the river and valley scene.

The central and dominant feature of the valley is the Cuyahoga River, named centuries ago by the Indians whose word for it was "ka-ih-ogh-ha", meaning crooked. And crooked it is, throughout its 145 kilometers (90 miles). It rises in Geauga County just 48 kilometers (30 miles) east of its mouth in Cleveland. It flows in a great U, the base being the escarpment on which sits the city of Akron, Ohio. And as it flows, it twists and turns. Not long, nor wide, nor deep, the Cuyahoga has a history that makes it important beyond its size.

For centuries the river and its valley have provided a vital transportation route, home, and livelihood for wildlife and man. Prehistoric peoples left behind a legacy of archeological sites throughout the valley. It was neutral ground to many historic Indian tribes, so that all might travel on it from the cold waters of the Great Lakes to the short portage across the watershed divide to reach the Tuscarawas River, connecting to the waters of the Ohio River and the warm South. The river was labeled on New World maps of the 17th century. The Moravian village of Pilgerruh, the first but short-lived white settlement in the valley, was located near the confluence of Tinkers Creek and the river in 1786 just 10 years before Moses Cleaveland and surveyors from Connecticut laid out the Western Reserve for settlement. By treaty between the young United States and Indian tribes, land west of the river was Indian territory until 1805. Early traders and settlers found the river as important as the Indians before them had. Farmers down to the present day have found the valley soil productive and easy to work, and the upper slopes good for orchards. Now the Cuyahoga Valley NP preserves farmlands where people can buy corn, pumpkins, and other fresh produce, and where they can watch cattle grazing or sheep being sheared.

In 1827, the Ohio and Erie Canal was opened between Cleveland and Akron. It paralleled and was partly watered by the river. It replaced the Cuyahoga as the major transportation artery and opened up Ohio and the Midwest to commerce and industrialization. The city of Akron was a product of the canal. In 1880, the railroad replaced the canal as the major transportation route for commerce, industry, and travel. Running through the valley, it led to the eventual demise of the canal but caused the growth of the cities.

As the cities grew, the Cuyahoga Valley began taking on a different kind of significance, a place to escape from the less beneficial aspects of the urban environment. Both Cleveland and Akron established metropolitan parks in the valley. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and inner city organizations established camps here. The Cleveland Symphony Orchestra eventually came to create a summer home at Blossom Music Center.

Continuing urbanization, spreading development, population growth, highway improvements and migration to the suburbs became increasing threats to the greenscape, history, and recreational opportunities of the valley. Efforts by private citizens and local and state government to save it grew and gained momentum in the 1960s and early 1970s. These efforts finally crossed paths with major, new National Park Service directions to bring parks to the people by establishing urban recreation areas. In December 1974, Congress created the Cuyahoga Valley National Park as an urban park of the National Park System. Here the National Park Service is preserving inherent values, retrieving natural landscapes and processes, and restoring historic sites throughout the park where commercialism and development have already intruded. Perhaps one of its most important values is as a symbol and signal of a new relationship between man and his environment.

park maps subheading

The General park map handed out at the visitor center is available on the park's map webpage.

For information about topographic maps, geologic maps, and geologic data sets, please see the geologic maps page.

photo album subheading

A geology photo album for this park can be found here.

For information on other photo collections featuring National Park geology, please see the Image Sources page.

books, videos, cds subheading

Currently, we do not have a listing for a park-specific geoscience book. The park's geology may be described in regional or state geology texts.

Please visit the Geology Books and Media webpage for additional sources such as text books, theme books, CD ROMs, and technical reports.

Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments & Seashores.
Lillie, Robert J., 2005.
W.W. Norton and Company.
ISBN 0-393-92407-6
9" x 10.75", paperback, 550 pages, full color throughout

The spectacular geology in our national parks provides the answers to many questions about the Earth. The answers can be appreciated through plate tectonics, an exciting way to understand the ongoing natural processes that sculpt our landscape. Parks and Plates is a visual and scientific voyage of discovery!

Ordering from your National Park Cooperative Associations' bookstores helps to support programs in the parks. Please visit the bookstore locator for park books and much more.

geologic research subheading

Information about the park's research program is available on the park's research webpage.

For information about permits that are required for conducting geologic research activities in National Parks, see the Permits Information page.

The NPS maintains a searchable data base of research needs that have been identified by parks.

A bibliography of geologic references is being prepared for each park through the Geologic Resources Evaluation Program (GRE). Please see the GRE website for more information and contacts.

selected links subheading

NPS Geology and Soils Partners

NRCS logoAssociation of American State Geologists
NRCS logoGeological Society of America
NRCS logoNatural Resource Conservation Service - Soils
USGS logo U.S. Geological Survey

teacher feature subheading

General information about the park's education and intrepretive programs is available on the park's education webpage.

For resources and information on teaching geology using National Park examples, see the Students & Teachers pages.
updated on 01/04/2005  I   http://www.nature.nps.gov/geology/parks/cuva/index.cfm   I  Email: Webmaster
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