Getting to know Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Hi all, my name is Claire Molina, and I am the current LHIP intern at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I recently graduated from Scripps College with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and a minor in Spanish language and Spanish, Latin American, and Caribbean Literatures and Cultures. I was originally born a Buckeye in Columbus, Ohio, but grew up primarily in Seattle, Washington which is where I first started spending time outdoors. I am excited to start my journey as the Natural Resources and Science Communication intern here!

In my short time here, I have already concluded that Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a very special place. It is located in the Northeastern corner of Ohio and sits in the middle of two populated cities, Cleveland and Akron. It’s proximity to these urban areas allows for a constant stream of locals that use the park for their daily or weekend recreation. Established in 1974, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park celebrates its 50-year anniversary this year! The park is most known for the Cuyahoga River which runs through the entirety of the park and deposits into Lake Eerie. While most bike or walk the trails, some opt to kayak up and down the river.

A few of the most popular trails include Ledges trail, Brandywine falls and the Towpath. The ledges are a cool geologic feature of the park; they were carved thousands of years ago by glaciers, In some areas they stand so tall that it feels like hiking through a canyon. The Towpath is my favorite trail at this point and seems to be other peoples as well because it is one of the most trafficked trails in the park. While the Towpath trail runs 101 miles in total, 20 of those miles are within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Originally created so that boats could be pulled up the canal, the Towpath can be found quickly no matter where one is in the park and from its trail, one can see streams, fields, marshes, fungi, birds, and historical markers. It is a goal of mine to hike the towpath within the park (in small chunks) within the first month or so and I’m halfway there!

The park is made up of forest ecosystems that host a flourishing canopy of deciduous trees including oaks, maples and of course the Ohio Buckeye. Within the branches, one can see flashes of red and yellow, most likely they are either a Cardinal or a Yellow warbler passing through. The Great Blue Heron “heronry” is a popular attraction that can be seen along the river; their large nests and nesting activity attract crowds of visitors to snap photos or simply admire its beauty. The birds are only one part of the fauna here. Amphibians can be easily found on the rainier days relaxing in pools of water and snakes come out of their hidey holes to bask in the sun. Beavers and river otters can be found in the wetlands underneath the Spatterdock and lily pads.

With the variety of plants and animals here in the park, there are many different research projects going on. Resource Management works on various projects including bird banding to monitor bird migration patterns, butterfly surveys to explore population changes and mussel reintroduction into the Cuyahoga River. I will be working with Resource Management this summer, so follow along with my blog to learn more about the research being done within Cuyahoga Valley National Park!


Photo Captions: 

1. The Cuyahoga river covered In beautiful green shadows, off the side of the Towpath trail. 

2. One of my coworkers and I clearing some vegetation for our mist net lines. 

3. A photo of me!

4. Golden Oysters an edible, invasive mushroom that I found on the Towpath trail.

5. A photo of the Ledges. 

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