Ohio Reunion Part II: Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Following my Rocky River Reservation run, I continued towards the northern terminus of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Since there was a rain storm the previous evening, I assumed the waterfalls would be roaring down the Cuyahoga River Valley, so visiting waterfalls was the focus of my park exploration. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is only a short distance from the urban areas of Cleveland to the north and Akron to the south. The park is a compartmentalized pseudo-oasis in a vast metropolis and suburban sprawl. The undefined boundary of the park travels in a north to south direction as it bookends the snaking Cuyahoga River.
The landscape consists of deciduous forest, undulating hillsides and farmland comprising 32,572 acres in its entirety. The park was formed in 1974 and protects 22 miles of the 100 mile Cuyahoga River, which was once so polluted that it caught fire 14 times, earning it the nickname of Burning River. The most notable fire occurred on June 22nd 1969, spurring the American environmental movement.
My first stop was the Great Falls of Tinker’s Creek on the Bedford Reservation. It was an incredible sight as water thundered off the 20 foot precipice spanning an 80 foot crest. The water hit with such force that a constant mist hung in the air around the falls. Upon leaving the Great Falls, the weather began to shift from rainy to sunny and humid as I made my way south to Bridal Veil Falls.
The Bridal Veil Falls area had a more natural feel than the Great Falls and the waterfall itself was more of a slanting cascade than a sheer drop off. The trail followed Deerlick Creek, which is home to Bridal Veil Falls. The creek meandered through a forest dominated by Hemlock and hardwoods. The trails were inviting and several offshoots looked inspiring, but I had limited time and energy remaining, so I was relegated to a short loop.
The third waterfall of my Cuyahoga Valley adventure was the famous Brandywine Falls of Brandywine Creek. The falls are 60 feet and the rock cliff is formed by Berea Sandstone along with Bedford and Cleveland shales. This was the most commercialized waterfall in the park complete with a large parking area, a wooden boardwalk, and a designated overlook. I completed the Brandywine Gorge Loop in order to fully experience the area and then continued on my southbound trajectory.
I arrived at the Boston Mill Visitor Center running quite low on energy, but still motivated to squeeze every last ounce of daylight out of August 24th. I wondered around the banks of the Cuyahoga River and then decided to take the trail to the fourth and final waterfall of the day – Blue Hen Falls. I took the Buckeye trail as it carved through the dense woods and reached what I believed to be the prettiest falls of the entire day. The water tumbled off of a 15 foot ledge into a small pool below which was bordered by a recessed shale cliff. When I arrived back to the car I made my way eastbound back to Tiffin and settled in for a nights sleep in the car.