Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facts! In this article, we provide you with 10 amazing facts about one of America’s most magnificent national parks.
More Than Just Parks is your one-stop-shop when it comes to learning everything you’ll need to know about America’s national parks. We’ve got expert guides, beautiful photos, helpful tips, breathtaking films and so much more.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind some of these natural wonders. Then I got to see them firsthand.
And now I’m sharing some of the incredible stories about these beautiful places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
More Than Just Parks takes a deeper dive with its national park facts. We’ve done our homework so that you’ll get more than you bargained for.
To get you excited about planning your next visit, in this article we’re covering 10 fascinating facts about Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Table Of Contents: Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facts
Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facts
- 1. Some Basic Facts About Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facts
- Top 5 Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facts
- 2. Native Americans Were The First Known Inhabitants Of The Cuyahoga Valley
- 3. The Hopewell Culture Built Long-Term Villages In The Cuyahoga Valley
- 4. Western Reserve Pioneers Made The Cuyahoga Valley Their Home
- 5. A Pioneering Archaeologist Unlocked The Past At Cuyahoga Valley
- 6. Cuyahoga Valley Has A Railroad Running Through It
- Top 10 Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facts
- 7. Ohio’s Tallest Waterfall Is Located Within Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- 8. The Park Features Reconstructed Locks Once Used On The Ohio & Erie Canal
- 9. Cuyahoga Valley Includes 125 Miles Of Hiking Trails
- 10. A Documentary Highlights The Beauty Of Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- 11. There Are Almost 1,000 Species Of Plants In The Park
- About The People Behind More Than Just Parks
- Related Links: National Park Facts Series
- Top 5 Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facts
Facts About Cuyahoga Valley National Park
1. Some Basic Facts About Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a short distance from the urban areas of Cleveland and Akron. It seems worlds away however.
The park is a refuge for native plants and wildlife and provides routes of discovery for visitors. The winding Cuyahoga River gives way to deep forests, rolling hills, and open farmlands. A truly magical place awaits you there.
While you may have driven, fished, hiked, rode horseback, skied or swam in a national park, did you ever travel through it by train? All Aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad!
Visitors to this national park can experience its natural wonders onboard a train as it winds its way through the Cuyahoga Valley and along the Cuyahoga River. It’s an incredibly scenic tour and well worth it.
The trip by train provides passengers the opportunity to possibly spot eagles, deer, beavers, and herons in their natural habitat. Is there a better way to travel? I don’t think so.
Here Are Some Basic Facts About Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- Location: Ohio
- Acreage: 32,570 acres
- Visitation: Cuyahoga Valley National Park generally receives more than 2.2 million recreational visits each year, making it one of the most-visited national parks in the United States.
- Highest Elevation: 1170+ feet
- Lowest Elevation: 590 feet at Cuyahoga River
- When Did It Become A National Park? Cuyahoga National Park, established as a national recreation area in 1974 and re-designated as a national park in 2000.
CHECK OUT: 10 EPIC Ohio National Parks Worth Visiting
Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facts
Top 5 Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facts
2. Native Americans Were The First Known Inhabitants Of The Cuyahoga Valley
As a retired history teacher, I always like to begin with a look back at the history of the place.
If you’re interested in origin stories then one of the most interesting Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facts is that history runs deep with over 13,000 years of human occupation.
According to the National Park Service, Paleoindian hunters armed with spears likely followed the caribou and other Ice Age mammals into the Cuyahoga Valley about 13,000 years ago thereby becoming its first occupants.
These early inhabitants of the Cuyahoga Valley didn’t live in permanent villages. They moved around, following game and gathering whatever food was in season.
The Paleoindians probably lived in movable shelters that could be packed-up after days, weeks, or months in a particular camp. These tents may have been constructed of tree branches covered in animal hides.
Later Archaic people lived in structures made of wooden posts.
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3. The Hopewell Culture Built Long-Term Villages In The Cuyahoga Valley
For me, one of the most intriguing of the Capitol Reef National Park Facts involves that fact that the earliest peoples to inhabit the Cuyahoga Valley were not a part of any settled civilization. More recent Native American cultures in the Cuyahoga Valley, however, did build long-term villages—and much more.
One such people was the Hopewell culture which is famous for its mound building. Hopewell culture reached Northeast Ohio about 2,100 years ago. They lived in scattered small villages in the valley’s fertile floodplains.
According to the National Park Service, the Hopewell weren’t a tribe or a group of people who lived in the same place. Hopewell was a culture, like how Western culture is today.
A Hopewell culture settlement typically consisted of one or a few families living in rectangular houses with a nearby garden. These people were hunters, fishers, and gatherers of wild plant foods, but they also grew a number of domesticated plants in their gardens, including sunflower, squash, goosefoot, and maygrass.
Archaeologists refer to this set of plants as the Eastern Agricultural Complex. (Source: Ohio History Central)
4. Western Reserve Pioneers Made The Cuyahoga Valley Their Home
Another great Cuyahoga Valley National Park fact involves one of my favorite periods of American history. It was the Westward Migration. Did you know that when Horace Greeley uttered his famous phrase, “Go West, young man,” some historians actually believe that he was actually referring to Ohio.
The phrase came to symbolize the idea that agriculture could solve many of the nation’s problems of poverty and unemployment characteristic of the big cities of the East.
Before Greeley uttered his famous phrase, in the late 1700s, families from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and other New England states had begun moving westward.
Many moved to a place known as the Western Reserve, which included land around the Cuyahoga River. Northeastern Ohio was then America’s frontier.
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Early Pioneer Communities Consisted Of Scattered Cabins In The Forest
The early pioneer communities were not much more than groups of scattered cabins in patches of cleared forest.
Doctors or medicines were scarce and living conditions often unhealthy. Mosquito-carried diseases were common, as were fleas and bedbugs. Even a bout of flu could cause many deaths.
Families depended on themselves to survive and everyone worked, including children. Days were filled with chopping wood for cook fires and heat, tending to the animals and gardens that fed the family and hauling water from a spring or creek.
Frontier families often built their own furniture, spun yarn and wove cloth to sew clothes, made candles, and collected syrup from sugar maple trees. What pioneers couldn’t make or grow themselves they had to trade for or buy.
Necessities like tools, salt, and gunpowder cost money. Many earned cash by raising pigs and growing rye, wheat, and corn and selling them to newer settlers or local soldiers. (Source: NPS)
5. A Pioneering Archaeologist Unlocked The Past At Cuyahoga Valley
One of the children of the Western Reserve was a man by the name of Charles Whittlesey.
According to the National Park Service, he studied natural sciences at the West Point Military Academy in New York. After graduating in 1831, he was assigned to Fort Howard in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
While fighting in the Black Hawk War against the Sauk and Fox Indians, Whittlesey saw the copper region of Michigan and Wisconsin for the first time. The following year he resigned his army commission and returned to Cleveland.
Whittlesey had his own brush with history in 1861. That year he enlisted in the Union Army.
He served as an escort for the President-elect Abraham Lincoln, was the assistant quartermaster general for Ohio troops, engineered the defenses for Cincinnati, and fought at the Battles of Shiloh and Fort Donelson.
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Charles Whittlesey Unlocks The Past At Cuyahoga
Whittlesey became a geologist responsible for topography and mathematics. For over twenty years he was able to explore Ohio’s landforms and conclude that some were made by prehistoric people.
He was the first to scientifically document American Indian sites in Cuyahoga Valley.
During his prolific career he wrote 200 books and articles. Whittlesey also established the Western Reserve Historic Society.
As a consequence of his pioneering geology, the precursor of Lake Erie was named Glacial Lake Whittlesey. And, as a consequence of his pioneering archeology, the last pre-contact people in northeast Ohio were named the Whittlesey Tradition.
The Whittlesey culture, which shaped the lives of Native Americans in the Cuyahoga Valley between the years 1000 and 1600, is named for Charles Whittlesey. What a legacy!
CHECK OUT: 5 MUST-SEE Historic Sites In Ohio
6. Cuyahoga Valley Has A Railroad Running Through It
Just when you thought we couldn’t come up with any more unbelievable Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facts we’ve come up with another one.
As mentioned in the introduction, Cuyahoga Valley National Park has a railroad running through it. Visitors can actually hop aboard an old-fashioned steam engine for a grand tour.
You’ll ride through marshlands, floodplains, and steep valley walls. You’ll also get to see some amazing wildlife including beavers, muskrats and minks.
As a matter of fact, you can even dine aboard the train.
Top 10 Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facts
7. Ohio’s Tallest Waterfall Is Located Within Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Perhaps the least known of our Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facts is that Brandywine Falls is Ohio’s tallest waterfall. How tall you might ask? Try 60 feet.
This 60-foot waterfall, located within Cuyahoga Valley National Park, is accessed via a partially accessible boardwalk.
If you’re planning to visit then I recommend taking the 1.5-mile Brandywine Gorge Loop. It lets you explore beyond the waterfall.
It starts near the bed & breakfast and follows the edge of the gorge, eventually taking you down to creek level.
The trail is worth revisiting in the spring to view vernal pools that temporarily fill with water, attracting breeding salamanders. Along the way, there are also views of the creek and the layers of rock it has exposed. (Source: NPS)
8. The Park Features Reconstructed Locks Once Used On The Ohio & Erie Canal
According to the National Park Service, the Ohio & Erie Canal traveled through the Cuyahoga Valley on its way to connecting the Ohio River with Lake Erie.
Wherever this man-made ditch went, change followed: change for the Cuyahoga Valley, the region, and the nation.
In the wake of the canal came prosperity, a national transportation system and a national market economy.
You can travel the historic route of the Ohio & Erie Canal on the same path that mules walked to tow canal boats loaded with goods and passengers. From the trail, you can make connections to many natural and historic sites.
Along the way, you’ll see reconstructed locks that were once used on the canal.
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9. Cuyahoga Valley Includes 125 Miles Of Hiking Trails
Now here’s one of those Cuyahoga Valley National Parks facts that hikers will love. You’ll be pleased to learn that Cuyahoga Valley National Park includes 125 miles of hiking trails for your enjoyment.
These trails range from nearly level to somewhat challenging. They pass through various habitats including woodlands, wetlands, and old fields.
Some trails require you to cross streams with stepping stones or log bridges, while others, including the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, are nearly level and are accessible to all visitors.
A portion of Ohio’s Buckeye Trail also passes through the park.
Some Of My Favorite Hiking Trails
With 125 miles of hiking trails, you may not be able to do all of them.
Here are two of my favorites:
- The Ledges Trail which circles a plateau of striking rock formations and provides stunning views along the way. Learn more about hiking this popular trail.
- The Brandywine Gorge Loop which circles a deep ravine carved by Brandywine Creek, and provides stunning views of Brandywine Falls along the way.
10. A Documentary Highlights The Beauty Of Cuyahoga Valley National Park
As the father of two filmmakers, one of my favorite Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facts involves a film.
Generations is the first full-length broadcast documentary about 34-year-old Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It was a made-for-television film which aired in 2009.
It showcases the park’s 33,000 acres through archival video footage, filming of the park’s better known locales, recent interviews, oral histories and memorabilia provided by park visitors.
11. There Are Almost 1,000 Species Of Plants In The Park
There are a known 943 species of plants in the park.
The park’s most common plant community is forest, with many different tree types dominating different areas. Oaks, maples, hickory, beech, pine, and spruce are all quite common.
Other areas include grassy meadows and wetlands.
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Map Of Cuyahoga Valley National Park
List Of Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facts
- Native Americans Were The First Known Inhabitants Of The Cuyahoga Valley
- The Hopewell Culture Built Long-Term Villages In The Cuyahoga Valley
- Western Reserve Pioneers Made The Cuyahoga Valley Their Home
- A Pioneering Archaeologist Unlocked The Past At Cuyahoga Valley
- Cuyahoga Valley Has A Railroad Running Through It
- Ohio’s Tallest Waterfall Is Located Within Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- The Park Features Reconstructed Locks Once Used On The Ohio & Erie Canal
- Cuyahoga Valley Includes 125 Miles Of Hiking Trails
- A Documentary Highlights The Beauty Of Cuyahoga Valley National Park
- There Are Almost 1,000 Species Of Plants In The Park
About The People Behind More Than Just Parks
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. My sons have spent their entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
As for me, I’m a retired lifelong educator and proud dad of these two guys hopelessly obsessed with the national parks.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested joining the adventure, sign up below!
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