Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ohio and Erie Canal

Cleveland Metropark's Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation
View northward along Towpath Trail flanked by the 
Cuyahoga River (left) and Ohio and Erie Canal (right)

During our visit to northeast Ohio last week, we took a late afternoon walk in the Cleveland Metroparks' Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation, which is a northern extension of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  Eventually, the reservation will extend from the northern boundary of the national park to Cleveland's Lake Erie lakefront, but today it only extends to the southern edge of Cleveland's most heavily industrialized neighborhoods along the Cuyahoga River.

Nevertheless, the park district has done its best to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.  The canal, for example, is still watered and flowing through the reservation because it formerly served as a source of water for Jones and Laughlin's steel mill; other sections of the canal further south in the national park are dry.

In addition, the park district has embraced the area's industrial heritage, and has bestowed upon it the moniker "Hidden Valley" because the heavily industrialized section of the Cuyahoga and canal formerly was off limits to the public and accessible only to the workers in the heavy industries lining the river.
The scenery's not all pretty.  In the image above, photographed in low, late-afternoon sunlight at a bad angle for photography, a building material recycling facility presses up against the riverbank, and the lone surviving tree is shrouded in non-native vines.  Kali remarked, "Doesn't that just say it all?"
Yours truly
But other sections have been reclaimed and the park district has created series of nice viewing decks overlooking the Cuyahoga River.
And, perhaps most exciting of all--wildlife has returned.  Or maybe it's been hanging on there all along, but now it's just more visible.  We were fortunate to spot this beaver swimming in the canal just before we left.  The naturalist at the Visitor Center was surprised that we'd seen the beaver, which had only been reported sporadically earlier in the year.  This is within the city limits of Cleveland!
Ohio and Erie Canal Visitor Center,
a beautiful new facility

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