Field Notes

The Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park Blog

Field Notes


August 17, 2017

The lazy days of August are upon us! Feeling sluggish? Perk up your outdoor adventures with the bright hues of late summer in the Cuyahoga Valley.

There are plenty of unique plants coming into bloom in our national park this month. The deep color of purple tall ironweed stands out in grasslands, while orange jewelweed sparkles in wetlands and marshes. 

Here are a five of our favorite late summer plants and where to find them in the national park: 

Orange Jewelweed

Photo: Fritz Geller-Grimm (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Orange jewelweed has brightly colored, earring-shaped flowers that show off a silvery color when wet. The most unusual thing about this species is its ability to forcefully project its seeds when lightly touched, giving it the nickname “touch-me-not.” Look for these blooms at the Beaver Marsh and adjacent wetlands. 

Purple Tall Ironweed

Photo: Ohio State University OARDC

Don’t miss this dazzling species in the meadows and grasslands along the Towpath Trail and other open areas of the park. It boasts a deep red stem with saucer-like clusters of purple blooms and can grow up to four feet tall! Its flowers and seeds will attract butterflies and birds all month long. 



Goldenrod is easy to spot in meadows and fields, as well as along roadsides and the edges of woodlands, such as south of the Boston Store Visitor Center. Its bright yellow color and high concentration of nectar attract butterflies and other insects throughout the fall. Contrary to popular belief, goldenrod is not the plant that causes fall allergies—that’s ragweed, a less showy plant that happens to bloom around the same time. 


Photo: NPS/John Catalano 

This water-loving plant goes by many names: spatterdock, yellow pond lily, cow lily. Whatever you call it, you can find it floating across the deep water of the Beaver Marsh this month. Look for yellow flowers that appear to be only half-opened. 

Staghorn Sumac

Staghorn sumac has large, red, cone-shaped seed clusters that can sometimes resemble cardinals perching on top of the plant. This shrub gets its name from the velvety texture and forking pattern of its branches, similar to antlers. Look for its red seed clusters this month and its bright foliage in the fall near the Beaver Marsh or other wetland and woodland edges. 

Do you have another favorite late summer plant native to CVNP? Have you snapped any great photos in the park? Send your stories and photos to—we’d love to hear from you! 




August 10, 2017

Imagine: You’re enjoying a hike through the woods and meadows of CVNP, basking in the sunshine, when all of a sudden, a loud buzzing fills your ears. Don’t swat! Chances are it’s one of our many local bees buzzing by.  

Despite many people’s fears about these flying insects, most native bees are relatively gentle unless provoked. As pollinators, they help move pollen among plants and play a critical role in fruit and seed production. Without bees, we wouldn't have foods like apples, peaches, potatoes, almonds, coffee, or chocolate!

You’ve probably heard of the honey bee, which is a very important pollinator but actually a non-native species in the United States. But are you familiar with native bee species in the Cuyahoga Valley? Here are a few to watch for around the national park. 

Leaf Cutting Bee

Photo: Katja Schulz (CC BY 2.0)

Leaf cutting bees use their mouths to cut circular pieces out of leaves, which can measure up to a half-inch across. They then transport these leaf circles to their nests and use them to line the inner walls. Nests are created using above-ground, pre-existing holes, such as those made by beetles tunneling into dead wood. 

You’re most likely to spot these industrious creatures in wooded areas with fallen or decomposing trees, such as on the Wetmore Trail system or the Towpath Trail near Beaver Marsh. 

Carpenter Bee

Photo: Daniel Schwen (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Carpenter bees construct their nests by tunneling into wood. They do not eat the wood, but instead discard it or re-use it to build partitions between "rooms" in the maze of the nest's wooden tunnels. During the cold winter months, carpenter bees hole up inside these cozy nests to stay warm. 

Watch for carpenter bees near manmade, wood shelters, such as the Ledges and Octagon Shelters or Happy Days Lodge.

Bumble Bee

Bumble bees are active in cool, cloudy weather when most other bees stay at home. You'll most likely hear a bumble bee before you see it, because they pollinate flowers by "buzz pollination." This means the bee uses a rapid vibrating motion to release large amounts of pollen from a flower at once. 

You can find bumble bees in most places in the park, but especially in meadows and open areas with wildflowers, such as the parking area near Brandywine Falls, in Howe Meadow, or around Indigo Lake. 

So what's NOT a bee? Wasps and hornets are sometimes confused for bees, but you can tell the difference primarily by the absence of fuzzy, pollen-carrying hairs on wasps and hornets. Bees are also typically much less aggressive than wasps and hornets and stick mostly to flowers. 

As you enjoy these final weeks of summer, keep an eye—and an ear!—out for our friendly local bees. 

Want to help Ohio bees as a citizen scientist? You can help monitor and record information about CVNP's bees through iNaturalist and the Ohio Bee Atlas project. Learn more & get involved >



August 3, 2017

It’s a hot summer day, and you’re out for a hike on your favorite CVNP trail. Just after a shallow stream crossing, you pause to drink from your water bottle and check out the gorgeous wildflowers nearby. Your ankle brushes a green, leafy plant trailing alongside the path—wait! Was that poison ivy? Do you know how to spot it? What do you do if you accidentally touch it? 

This week, we’ve compiled a short list of safety tips for when you’re out on the trails. Whether you’re new to hiking or a seasoned trail expert, these tips are important for everyone to remember. 

Top 5 Trail Safety Tips

1. Be prepared. 

It’s always a good idea to bring a few key items with you whenever you go hiking in a remote area. In particular, don’t forget to stay hydrated, even on cooler days! Here’s our list of hiking essentials: 

  • Water bottle
  • Trail map
  • Appropriate footwear and extra layers
  • A snack or two
  • Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  • Cell phone: Program CVNP Dispatch into your phone for emergencies (440-546-5945 or 800-433-1986). You might also consider packing a whistle in case you're out of cell phone range.
  • Mini first-aid kit (Band-Aids, antibiotic ointment, gauze, tape) 
  • Flashlight or headlamp, if you’re planning to hike in the evening
  • Emergency shelter, small repair kit & tools, waterproof matches 

2. Be aware of your surroundings. 

Photo: © Sara Guren 

Particularly if you’re hiking or running in a popular area, like the Towpath Trail, avoid wearing headphones and listening to loud music. Otherwise, you might not hear when someone tries to pass you on the trail or get your attention. Plus, you’ll miss out on all the birdsong and other nature sounds! In addition, make sure you know where you are on the trail system in case you need to call for help. 

3. Be extra careful after a heavy rain. 

Photo: Tom Jones

With the fairly wet summer this year, it’s more important than ever to watch out for rain-swollen stream crossings, flash flooding, and slippery wooden bridges or stairs. If you’re caught in a thunderstorm, find higher ground so you don't get washed away (although don't head to the top of a hill—middle ground is best) and find safe shelter as soon as you can. If you come to a deep, swift stream, it’s better to turn back than get swept away. Watch out for fast currents, even in shallow waters, and never attempt a stream crossing with small children. When in doubt, sit it out! 

4. Watch out for poison ivy. 

You’ve probably heard it a million times: Don’t step in poison ivy! Somehow, though, it’s always easy to forget when you’re out enjoying a hike. Look for bright green plants with three leaves, smooth edges, and a reddish center. If you do accidentally brush up against it, don’t panic—just jump in the shower when you get home and scrub with plenty of soap. Remember: Leaves of three, let it be! Learn more >

5. Plan ahead. 

Check out a map before you head out—or browse our Outdoor Adventures section for other tips. In particular, make sure you know how long your hike will take, especially if you’re starting later in the day and might bump up against sunset. (Check out sunrise/sunset times for the Akron area here.) Finally, make sure you tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return, especially if you’re hiking alone. 

We're tremendously grateful for the TRAILS FOREVER donors and volunteers who help keep CVNP trails in good shape. Without their support and the hard work of National Park Service trail crews, CVNP would not have the resources to fully maintain its 100+ miles of trails. 

Do you have additional tips for your fellow hikers? Let us know on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram. Now get out there and enjoy your national park trails! 



July 27, 2017

CVNP has more than 100 miles of trails, and they’re gorgeous in every season, especially during these sunny summer months. With so much mileage to explore, though, it can be hard to know where to begin—so we’re here to help you out.

This week, we’re highlighting one of the lesser-known trail systems in the national park: the Wetmore Trail system. Yes, it’s a horseback riding trail, but it’s also fantastic for hiking and trail running. Just be sure to yield to any horses you encounter along the way.

Wetmore Trail gets its name from Frederick and Emila Wetmore, landowners from the late 1800s. Prior to the area’s purchase by the National Park Service in 1984, the area was primarily used for breeding Morgan and thoroughbred horses. Today, the Wetmore Trail system follows old logging roads and horse paths through deep woodlands and pastures.

We took a trek on Wetmore Trail to check out some of its coolest features. Here’s what we found:

Burbling Streams

As you start off on the Wetmore Trail loop, heading counterclockwise, you’ll come upon a shallow stream on your left. This is Dickerson Run, which appears throughout the hike, meandering through the hillsides and woodlands.

You likely won’t encounter many other folks on this out-of-the-way section of CVNP, so enjoy the peacefulness of the clear-running stream. Don’t forget to wear a pair of old shoes on this trail, as you’ll encounter a few shallow crossings over Dickerson Run and muddy areas, especially after a heavy rain.

Towering Trees

Although there’s a variety of different terrain throughout the Wetmore Trail system, most of the trail loop is dominated by woodlands. After you climb up the steep slope out of the Dickerson Run valley, you’ll encounter stands of towering red maples and beech trees, rising vertically toward the sky.

Continuing along the high grounds of this portion of trail, you’ll come across pockets of evergreens, including red and white pines and spruces, that waft the sweet scent of pine needles in your direction.

The trail continues to take you through many different types of woodlands, including sunnier areas dominated by tulip trees, large old oaks, and buckeyes. Eastern peewees, black-capped chickadees, and white-breasted nuthatches abound—and you might even spy a pileated woodpecker, with his bright flash of red.

Open Meadows

On the southeastern stretch of Wetmore Trail, you’ll venture briefly into an open meadow, formerly a horse pasture. Grasses and prairie flowers appear here, including the monarch butterfly’s favorite plant: milkweed.

Prairie birds, like the chipper little American goldfinch, flit across the landscape—or you may see a great blue heron flying overhead, looking for a cool area to rest.

Without the hard work of TRAILS FOREVER donors and volunteers, including the Medina County chapter of the Ohio Horseman’s Council and the Cuyahoga Valley Trails Council, these trails simply wouldn’t exist. Thank you for your support—you’re helping us build a world-class trail system in northeast Ohio.


Learn more about the TRAILS FOREVER initiative for CVNP trails >



July 20, 2017

Fireflies: They’re essential to a perfect July evening here in Ohio. Their gentle flashing brings back memories of childhood adventures and signifies the arrival of midsummer. 

Fireflies, or lightning bugs, are more than just pretty lights, though. For instance, did you know that adult fireflies live for only a few weeks? Or that they have important implications for medicine and science? This week, we bring you 10 things you might not know about fireflies. 

1. There are over 2,000 species of fireflies in the world. Here in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, look for the common eastern firefly, or big dipper firefly, named for its tendency to fly in a J-shaped pattern. There are about two dozen species total in Ohio. 

2. Fireflies flash to attract mates. Three chemicals— luciferase, luciferin, and ATP—work together to produce the firefly’s characteristic glow. Each species has a unique flashing pattern, which the males use to advertise their availability to nearby females. When a female sees a mate she likes, she’ll flash in response, steadily guiding the male to her location. In some species, though, females mimic other species' flashing patterns to lure unsuspecting males and then eat them!

A big dipper firefly shows off its luminescent tail (Photo: Art Farmer, Evansville, IN)

3. Fireflies are super-efficient producers of light. Unlike incandescent bulbs, which give off heat in addition to light, fireflies produce “cold light.” That means they don’t produce any heat, and 100% of the energy is emitted as light. 

4. You’re most likely to see fireflies just after dusk. Head out to CVNP about 40 minutes after sunset, especially in the bottomland forests near the Cuyahoga River. Certain species have very specific locations or times of night when they flash. On warm nights, it’s possible to see fireflies flashing all night long.

5. Adult fireflies live for only a few weeks. The larvae live for about a year, but when they become true winged adults, they survive just long enough to mate and lay eggs for the next generation. Most adult fireflies don’t even eat, focusing all of their energy on finding a mate. 

Fireflies put on a show in this long-exposure shot (Photo: Mingming Lu, Your Take)

6. Fireflies aren’t very tasty. Fireflies contain bitter chemicals that make them unpleasant to eat or even poisonous to some animals. When threatened, they shed drops of blood to warn off predators, called “reflex bleeding.” 

7. You can find fireflies on almost every continent (except Antarctica). They love warm, humid habitat with plenty of woodlands and access to water—making CVNP a perfect home! 

8. Fireflies have many other names, including lightning bugs, golden sparklers, blinkies, and moon bugs. 

Fireflies make for a magical evening in the park (Photo: Jessica Lucia)

9. Fireflies are useful in medicine and science. When the chemicals found in a firefly’s tail are injected into diseased cells, they can detect cellular changes that can be used to study diseases like cancer. Firefly-specific chemicals have also been used to detect food spoilage, bacterial contamination, or even life in outer space. 

10. Fireflies may be disappearing. Light pollution near cities may play a role in decreasing firefly populations, as bright lights from buildings and cars confuse their mating rituals, which rely so heavily on light. Pesticides and habitat destruction may also play a role, as fireflies need plenty of marshy areas and standing water to survive. You can help by turning off outside lights, letting your grass grow a bit higher, and leaving logs on the ground. 

Interested in doing citizen science in the name of fireflies? Check out Firefly Watch, an ongoing firefly observation project managed by the Museum of Science in Boston. 





July 13, 2017

There’s no place like CVNP for towering trees and thick woodlands. Summer is a great time to learn to recognize Ohio’s native trees, when their leaves are out in full force. Here in the Cuyahoga Valley, we have a great mix of trees to get you started—from the sinewy hornbeam to the towering tulip poplar. 

Here are five of our favorite native trees in Cuyahoga Valley National Park: 

1. Yellow Birch

Yellow birch bark and leaf (Photos: ODNR)

Identification: Yellow birch leaves are finely serrated, two to five inches long, and alternate along the stem. The tree also has a distinctive yellow-bronze bark that flakes off in small, horizontal strips on mature trees. Yellow birches are best found in cooler woodland areas, such as at the Ritchie Ledges. 

Did you know? If you gently scrape the bark of the yellow birch tree, it smells like wintergreen! In fall, these trees show off bright yellow foliage—keep your eyes out this fall. 

2. Eastern Cottonwood

Triangular leaves on the eastern cottonwood (Photo: Paul Wray, ISU Forestry Extension)

Identification: One of the largest tree species in CVNP, the diameter of the eastern cottonwood can exceed four feet. Its leaves are large, shiny, and triangular. Each spring, it sheds thousands of fluffy seeds (hence the name "cottonwood"). Cottonwood trees are common along rivers and streams, such as along the length of the Towpath Trail near the Cuyahoga River.

Did you know? Cottonwood trees, like other members of the poplar family, have flat stems, which catch the wind and cause the leaves to "quake" more easily than in other trees. It's easy to pick out a cottonwood tree on a relatively calm day because its leaves will likely be moving, even in the smallest breeze.

3. Hornbeam

Sinewy trunk of a hornbeam tree (Photo: Rob Duval, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Identification: Hornbeams, also known as musclewood, have smooth, gray bark and a sinewy trunk. Their leaves are shaped like a long oval with a pointed tip, uneven base, and serrated edges. You can find them growing in thick, shady woodlands, such as near Haskell Run and Boston Run. 

Did you know? Seeds of the hornbeam tree are a key food source for some CVNP birds, including bobwhites and wild turkeys. In addition, many different kinds of mammals, from squirrels and rabbits to foxes and deer, browse its seeds, bark, wood, and twigs.

4. Tulip Tree

Tulip tree leaf and flower (Photo: ODNR)

Identification: The leaves of the tulip tree have four lobes, with the upper part of the leaf appearing rather square—almost like a tulip bloom! You can find these trees in areas with deep, rich, and moist soil, such as on the Buckeye Trail between Riverview Rd. and Blue Hen Falls or on Haskell Run Trail. 

Did you know? The tulip tree is one of the tallest native trees in the eastern United States. It's also sometimes called "canoewood," referring to its use by American Indians for dugout canoes.

5. Sassafras 

Three types of sassafras leaves (Photo: ODNR)

Identification: Sassafras trees produce three differently shaped leaves, frequently all on the same tree: a three-lobed leaf, a two-lobed leaf shaped like a mitten, and a simple, oval-shaped leaf with no lobes. Look for sassafras in open woodlands and along meadow edges, such as in the Wetmore Trail or Oak Hill Trail systems.

Did you know? Sassafras leaves smell like root beer when torn or crushed. Traditionally, its bark (rich in fragrant oils) was used for medicinal and culinary purposes.

Do you have a favorite tree in the Cuyahoga Valley? Send us a photo or share it with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #forcvnp. 




July 6, 2017

When you hear the word "buckeye," what do you think of? Whether you think of trees or sports teams, Ohio is home to many different types of buckeyes—from the familiar Ohio buckeye tree to the Buckeye Trail. 

For instance, have you ever stumbled across the bottlebrush buckeye shrub? Did you know that the last leg added to the Buckeye Trail is in CVNP? You might also be surprised to hear how the Ohio buckeye tree got its name. This week, we're exploring the many "buckeyes" of the Cuyahoga Valley. 

Bottlebrush Buckeye

Bottlebrush Buckeye

The leaves of the bottlebrush buckeye are very similar to the leaves of the familiar tree to which it is related: large, compound leaves, typically with five “leaflets.” However, the bottlebrush buckeye is a shrub, not a tree, so it grows a bit closer to the ground (although still reaching above your head as it matures) and spreads horizontally.

The flowers of the bottlebrush buckeye, which start blooming this first week of July, are its most striking feature. Tall, vertical stalks grow straight up from the plant, resembling the bottle brush after which it’s named. Small, white and pink petals hover delicately along the flower stalk, contrasting with the bold, dark green of the leaves.

We have a blooming bottlebrush buckeye at the Hines Hill administrative offices for the Conservancy, so stop by to check it out if you’re curious about this unusual shrub.

Buckeye Trail

The famous Buckeye Trail, shown here north of Jaite in CVNP (Photo: NPS/John Fitzpatrick)

The famous Buckeye Trail runs 1,444 miles throughout the entire state of Ohio, following the blue blazes from Cleveland to Cincinnati. The idea for the trail was originally conceived in 1958 by Merrill Gilfillan, who wrote a newspaper article advocating for a trail that would “serve as an encouragement to young people to slow down and learn about their native land.”

A year later, the Buckeye Trail Association dedicated the first 20 miles of the trail in Hocking County on September 19, 1959. Twenty years later, in 1980, the trail was completed near Dear Lick Cave in what was then called Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area—now part of the Brecksville Reservation in CVNP.

You can get on the Buckeye Trail in several different locations in the national park, including at Station Bridge Road, Everett Covered Bridge, and Boston Trailhead. Check out our Outdoor Adventures page for trailheads and information about the trail here in CVNP.

Ohio Buckeye

Buckeye tree
Ohio Buckeye photo: Isfisk, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Ohio buckeye is our state tree and a common sight throughout Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Look for the distinctive compound leaves and the unmistakable nuts.

The term “buckeye” may have come from the pioneers on the Ohio frontier, who were called “buckeyes” as a term of endearment. It’s thought that the buckeye tree was so named because it was the first tree to be felled by a “buckeye” settler west of the Ohio River.


Of course, the tree’s shiny brown nut also resembles the eye of a deer, which probably also played a role in its name. Buckeye nuts are highly poisonous raw, but American Indians learned to boil and leach them to remove their toxins and take advantage of this protein-rich food source.

Here at the Conservancy, part of our vision is to connect you to your national park—so we invite you to come visit CVNP this weekend and check out some of Ohio’s many buckeyes!

For an extra delicious treat, stop by our Trail Mix Peninsula or Trail Mix Boston stores to pick up some chocolate-y, peanut butter-y goodness in the form of an edible buckeye. Conservancy members get an extra 15% discount! Store locations & hours >




By: Jesús Sánchez, Education Director
June 29, 2017

Picture this: It’s Maria’s first time visiting a national park. Last year, she was one of over 3,000 students to come to Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) as part of the Every Kid in a Park initiative.

“We got in our groups and got on the bus—I was so excited!” said Maria. “It was about a 40-minute drive, but sitting with my friends, this was a short drive. Then we went to meet our park ranger. He was really nice, and he told us that we all own this park. That felt really important to me personally.”

Maria, a fourth-grader student, wrote this reflection after her Every Kid in the Park field trip to CVNP. 

During the past 2016-2017 school year, Cuyahoga Valley National park was one of nine “focus sites” that received funding from the National Park Foundation to bring northeast Ohio fourth grade students to their national park. The Conservancy’s Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center (CVEEC) welcomed all these youth for adventures in the valley.

Thanks to the National Park Foundation’s grant—and the ongoing support of Conservancy members and donors—students like Maria were able to experience CVNP for the very first time, despite living only 40 minutes away. Every Kid in a Park gives children like Maria an opportunity to experience local culture and nature first-hand. 

“I didn’t really ever like nature, but after this, I changed my mind,” said Maria.

This is exactly the response and inspiration that Every Kid in Park is meant to instill. 

Being chosen as a focus site was a great opportunity to connect young people to their national park. As we continue this program into the next school year, many children will step off the bus and experience the wonder of a national park for the first time in their lives… just like Maria did.

Taking photos of the unique Ledges geology during an Every Kid in a Park day program (Photo: NPS/Ted Toth)

In addition, every fourth-grader participating in the park receives a free Every Kid in a Park pass, which enables free admission to all public lands for the students and their families for a full year. This program began in 2016 as part of the Centennial celebration of the National Park Service.

Here in CVNP, programs took place at various sites within the park, from the trails to the Canal Exploration Center and beyond. Schools even received transportation reimbursement for travel to the park, so it was a completely free field trip for schools and their fourth-grade students! 

Students show off their new Every Kid in a Park passes! (Photo: NPS/Ted Toth)

To participate, schools could select from a variety of the CVEEC’s single day programs. Programs like “Low Bridge, Everybody Down!” provided a glimpse into the history of CVNP’s canal system through a live demonstration at Lock 38 and a scavenger hunt through the Canal Exploration Center. “Rockin’ at the Run!” gave students a chance to explore the geological history of CVNP at the Ritchie Ledges—one of CVNP’s most popular and scenic places in the park.

Exploring the towering Ledges during “Rockin’ at the Run”

Both of these programs align with fourth grade science and social study academic standards. Because of this, many teachers requested that their classes partake in both programs. CVEEC staff took that feedback and worked with the National Park Service to create a new program that combines Ohio’s history with hands-on stations that reveal how the state’s landscape and geology influenced its human inhabitants. Now, “Changing Lands and Human Hands” exists as a regularly offered program through the CVEEC.

However, Every Kid in a Park isn’t just about delivering the program itself. One of our major focuses at the CVEEC this past year was reaching out to new schools in northeast Ohio and building new relationships to serve more youth. We also worked to identify “champions” within those schools to promote the opportunity and importance of place-based learning in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. 

We also made sure that we engaged with each participating class multiple times, including through pre- and post-visit activities conducted by NPS and CVEEC staff. If it was logistically too difficult for staff to meet students in person, we offered remote Skype sessions to introduce the students to what they would be experiencing prior to their field trip.

Students exploring the park during a day program this spring

As we prepare for the 2017-2018 school year and another year of Every Kid in a Park, we’re working on processing our lessons learned, identifying new ideas, and forming new strategies to make the program even more meaningful for fourth graders. We look forward to welcoming many schools back, and meeting new ones, next year! 

If you know any students or educators who would want to join us for a unique adventure in CVNP, we’d love to hear from you. Click here to learn more about our Every Kid in Park programs online, or you can contact me directly at or (330) 657-2796 ext. 160. 




By: Joanna Richards
June 22, 2017

This week: the third installment of our “Happy Accidents of Nature” series, exploring disturbed sites in CVNP where nature has found a way to thrive.

Of the three CVNP sites I visited with National Park Service biologists last winter, the third was in some ways the most interesting. It was certainly the most extreme in the way it encapsulated the complex interaction at these highly disturbed sites between human development activity and natural forces. 

Park Ecologist Chris Davis and I drive in his truck to Boston Township and pull over on the narrow shoulder of West Boston Mills Road, just south of Interstate 80. We scramble up a steep slope, heading west, and soon we’re standing on the Buckeye Trail. Through a thin wall of evergreens, the white winter sky is visible above golden grass. We walk to the edge of the forest and look out over the Boston Mills Borrow Pit. Or more flatly, The Borrow Pit. 

The Borrow Pit in January is remarkably beautiful

You wouldn’t think so from the name, but it’s beautiful. From a distance, it’s a serene sea of orangey-golden grass, almost thirteen uniform acres tucked cozily into a modest valley. The grass rustles softly in the cold breeze; it’s like listening to someone sweep the kitchen from the next room.

That’s if you live next to the Interstate. The whiny drone of turnpike traffic is impossible to ignore. It feels intrusive, and at first I let it irritate me. But in truth the highway bounding the Borrow Pit to the north – where, to my right in the distance, I watch semis scream by – is the catalyst that created this little patch of prairie, so named for the material taken from it to aid in road construction.

We hike down into it. The field swallows us up. But once we’re inside, it’s easy and airy and peaceful to walk; the grasses part and sway to let us through. The tallest rise to between five and seven feet, and the stalks are far enough apart so that I never lose my bearings or perspective. I can crane my neck and look out into the orangey-golden distance – or catch a blue semi cab speeding by.

Looking down around me, I take in a cross-section like a grassy layer cake: a dense lower layer of wide blades the color of corn silk; sparser middle layers in a more assertive gold. Rising to about my knees are dark, grey-brown pinstripes: thin, rigid stalks capped by delicate dried heads. A rust-colored fringe is the icing on the cake; that’s what gives the whole field its warm, sunset tinge.  

As you look out over The Borrow Pit, cars on the freeway zoom by in the background 

The colors strike me for a reason Davis soon points out. 

“You’re not going to see places just brown like this around here. They all should be – if you were here 300 years ago, all the grasslands would look like this [in the winter]. But there’s hardly any today.”

Davis explains that it’s common enough to find these native tallgrass prairie species – types of Indiangrass and switchgrass, sedges and asters – mixed into grasslands in Northeast Ohio. At Terra Vista, for example, a little patch of native broom sedge stands out as a smattering of dry stalks against green. 

“People like green,” he says. But “if you see a green grass this time of year, it’s probably a non-native.”

The Borrow Pit in January has an astonishing lack of garish green. This is what makes its subtle colors so apparent, and remarkable. 

My appreciation is less technical than Davis’s as I take in the beauty around us. 

“There are no non-native grasses in this patch,” he marvels. Just an acre like this would be an oddity, he says. The Borrow Pit’s thirteen are “totally unusual.” 

Native tallgrass prairie species, like broom sedge, are abundant at The Borrow Pit (Photo: Robert H. Mohlenbrock)

Somehow, in building an iconic sign of modernity – the interstate highway system – what should have been collateral damage to adjacent land instead became a magical prairie time machine, a window into what much North American grassland looked like before European colonization. Northeast Ohio would have had small patches like this, other parts of the state would have had more, and the prairie states to the west would have had thousands of acres like this.

As we walk, Davis tells me The Borrow Pit harbors other small wonders, too: some rare native wildflowers like ladies’ tresses and fringed gentian, a rare juniper, and a strong population of box turtles. 

Though no one anticipated the grassland birds would thrive at the Coliseum site, nor frogs at Terra Vista, it’s clear in retrospect what features attracted those particular wildlife populations. But as Davis leads me through The Borrow Pit, pointing out its charms with enthusiasm, he hasn’t offered an explanation for the relative purity of its native plants. So I ask him. 

He whispers back, conspiratorially: “I have no idea!” He says the Park Service spread an identical grass seed mix on about 40 disturbed sites in the park that had had their topsoil removed. Most quickly saw invasive species take hold. 

“This is the only one that is in this shape…This is just crazy! Yeah, I don’t know how this happened.”

Rare wildflowers like this fringed gentian have popped up at The Borrow Pit (Photo: Ed Toerek)

The Park Service is using prescribed burns here now, to prevent succession to forest and preserve this special grassland. Davis hopes recent interest in the park’s disturbed sites from some of the region’s university researchers might eventually help solve the The Borrow Pit’s mysteries. That could satisfy Davis’s curiosity, but also help the Park Service make future restoration efforts more effective. 

“If we knew what happened here to make this a success like this, I’d be replicating it on 1,000 acres right now,” Davis says. 

A region in microcosm

Despite this mystery, the NPS is already tailoring its restoration efforts at the Coliseum site, Terra Vista and The Borrow Pit, with sensitivity to each location’s specific vulnerabilities and potential. 

In parts of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, as on much of the planet, our impact has been so overwhelming that nature can’t heal itself. Polluted soil and water pose an ongoing threat; abandoned land is left vulnerable to invasive species. 

So the National Park Service’s restoration efforts at these three CVNP sites are aiming at a careful collaboration with certain natural forces, while intentionally halting others. Reversion to a pristine state is not the goal. Pruning here to cultivate there, NPS biologists are looking to the wisest stewardship, within the broader context of environmental conditions and conservation priorities. 

I like these sites already, though. I like their messy histories and their surprises. They put the lie to simplistic ideas about “Man versus Nature,” and reveal how complicated the web of interactions between people and the natural world can be. 

As Davis and I hike back up the side of The Borrow Pit toward the Buckeye Trail, I ponder what about this ambiguity so attracts me. These places are disfigured; their names suggest questionable histories. It’s not as if I enjoy the Borrow Pit’s freeway din, nor am I fond of invading flora. But the unusual life that’s come to thrive in them represents a kind of healthy scarring. Permanently altered, they can nonetheless start to heal.

Want to read more great stories about CVNP from the Conservancy? Sign up for our e-newsletter using the blue box above to get weekly updates in your inbox.



By: Joanna Richards
June 15, 2017

Plant ecologist Chris Davis turns his National Park Service truck off Tinker’s Creek Road in Valley View, and onto a wet, pitted drive at the base of a steep hill. He hops out to open a gate, and we start up an uneven road in what’s officially called the Terra Vista Natural Study Area. Most park users simply refer to it as Terra Vista. We’re going to check out a section of it, about 150 elevated acres of lumpy meadow surrounded by forest. This area was once farmland, but is named for the company that later strip-mined it, Terra Vista Sand & Gravel. 

Like its grandiose name, conjuring the romance of nature from crass commercialism, Terra Vista is a big, strange grey area ecologically, too. 

When Davis came to Cuyahoga Valley National Park eight years ago, “It was the most horrendous site I’d seen in my life,” he said bluntly. “Still, to this day, I’ve never seen another spot that’s as filled with invasive species as this.”

Plant ecologist Chris Davis at Terra Vista Natural Study Area earlier this year

Autumn olive, a woody shrub that can grow to fifteen feet high, choked over one hundred acres of the site. It took heavy equipment and thousands of hardworking volunteers several years to clear it. Last year, Davis tried a prescribed burn to give native plants some breathing room to return. (Usually natives come back first, then are overtaken within a few years by the more aggressive invaders, he explained).

Davis parks the truck at the top of the hill. As we walk, a couple charred branches left from the burn are the only evidence of it to my untrained eye. Patches of forest surround an uneven field. There’s an old cemetery in disrepair up here, traces of old access roads for the mining operation, a deer trail through waste-high grasses, and another trail used by park volunteers to monitor butterfly populations.
“After we cleared the invasive shrubs, stuff just came up. A lot of natives. This is mostly goldenrod…It’s not a super great diversity of stuff,” Davis explains. “If we walk away from this, ten years from now, this will be autumn olive shrub land again.” Prescribed burns every few years will be needed indefinitely in order to prevent that.

In other words, while Terra Vista has improved over time, its vegetation still shows major signs of damage. The topography does, too. After mining ceased, “It was kind of lunar – just pits everywhere,” Davis says. “So, like, this is just a weird example.” He gestures to a chunk of forest we’ve just come to, and I peer between the trees. The land dips suddenly into a trench. “There’s holes like this all around here. A lot of them hold water, and they’ve developed into this amphibian community.”

This is Terra Vista’s “happy accident” of nature. On a surface stripped by mining, where native plants are in a constant, losing battle with invasive species, frogs and salamanders are living the dream. 

Spring peepers and other frogs have “moved in” to the Terra Vista site

Davis leads me down an old access road to show me closer-up what he’s talking about. The ground gets increasingly muddy, and before we even get to where we’re headed, we stop at the edge of a puddle, square in the middle of the access road. 

“This looks like nothing,” Davis says – and he’s right – “but for frogs, that’s kind of like Mecca.” 

The puddle is about six feet long by four feet wide in the middle, no more than five inches deep, with green grass visible beneath the clear water. Davis introduces me to a vernal pool – the fancier, science-y name for a long-lived puddle, or an ephemeral pond. Vernal pools are seasonal. Because they are isolated from other bodies of water and dry up in the summer, they don’t contain fish, the main predator for frog and salamander eggs, and tadpoles. They’re ideal places for many amphibians to reproduce. 

Vernal pools like the one shown here are ideal places for amphibians to reproduce

The Park Service hasn’t yet formally surveyed the wildlife here, but Davis says a chorus of frogs in spring and summer likely comes from spring peepers, wood frogs, leopard frogs, and American toads. Visitors who look closely in springtime can find tadpoles swimming even in tiny pools like this one.

This is a humble example, but Davis wants to show me a more impressive one. Up ahead to the right of the access road, there’s another chunk of forest. We don’t walk far into it before the ground slopes sharply downward six to eight feet, and we climb down the muddy sides into what feels like a very different environment.

Fallen trees coated in moss crisscross a long, curved trench, maybe a hundred feet long and about fifteen feet across. The trench is filled with dead leaves and shallow water, about ten inches at its deepest. It feels like a special, intimate place, genuinely enchanting. 

Frogs and salamanders are now “living the dream” at Terra Vista (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Davis explains the dead leaves enrich the pool with nutrients. This is a more typical, shady vernal pool – though the trench it’s in is not typical, and most likely caused by mining.

“Another cool thing about vernal pools is that there’s not a lot of invasives…Like, out of all that hiking we just did, all those non-natives – as soon as we get down in here… it’s like a little native ecosystem.” Davis points out elms and cottonwoods and willows. 

“So: very weird, but also pretty cool.”

We’ll be sharing more of these “happy accidents of nature” on our Field Notes blog over the next couple weeks. Stay tuned and sign up for our e-newsletter using the blue box above for more stories from Cuyahoga Valley National Park!




By: Joanna Richards
June 8, 2017

Sports fans with a history in Northeast Ohio know the old Richfield Coliseum site, the arena between Cleveland and Akron that served as an early home for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Today, for anyone unfamiliar with the history, the site is easy to drive by without noticing: just another empty space where a building used to be.

But there’s much more going on in this apparent void, a 90-acre field now owned by the National Park Service. This site is one of many in Cuyahoga Valley National Park where a complex story has unfolded, of both tension and collaboration between human activity and nature – and some strange surprises, too.

Park Service biologists refer to past locations of industry as “disturbed,” and for good reason. Their topography may be strange and irregular, their old topsoil stripped away. They may be crowded with invasive species. To an urban dweller or layman, they may present a veneer of welcome nature, but to experts, they can look pretty ugly. 

Managing these damaged areas is a fact and sometimes a frustration for nature-loving scientists working in a National Park unusual in its history of heavy human use. But there are also rewards. At some of Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s most disturbed sites, pockets of unexpected life have taken hold. Park Service Biologist Meg Plona calls them “happy accidents.” 

On a cold afternoon last winter, she leads me into the Coliseum site’s frozen field to show me one. 

A Cozy Nest in the Weeds

Volunteers have worked in the past to remove autumn olive, an invasive species, from the former Coliseum site (Photo: Holly Glock)

Plona parks her official Park Service vehicle on the shoulder of Route 303 West in Richfield Township, just west of the Interstate 271 overpass. As we hike toward the center of the field, our boots crunch deeply into the thick, icy carpet of fallen grasses.

After the arena and parking lots were demolished in 1999, the Park Service spread a grass seed mix here to stabilize the soil. Over time, the thought was, the area would revert to forest. But in the short term, it quickly became a haven for invasive plants. 

“The Coliseum is a disaster as far as vegetation goes,” says Plona. “It’s totally dominated by non-native plants.” 

Still, the National Park Service has maintained this site as a grassland for almost two decades now, mowing areas in rotating sections each year. 

That’s because of what Dwight and Ann Chasar discovered here. Just a couple years after the buildings were demolished, the long-time birdwatchers and park volunteers wondered whether any ground-nesting birds might have discovered the site. These birds favor grassland and need big tracts of it to keep their chicks out of sight of hunting hawks perched in tree lines. This has made them sensitive to habitat destruction from development. 

Eastern meadowlarks and other native bird species have returned to nest at the old Richfield Coliseum site, much to the surprise of birdwatchers and NPS biologists

The nearest place the Chasars had seen these kinds of birds in significant numbers was on reclaimed strip-mines in Jefferson County, a couple hours’ drive away. In May of 2001, though, they walked into the field where the Richfield Coliseum used to be. It was still bald in places and patchy with weeds. They listened. 

“I’m-a-sah-VAAAAAN-ah,” Dwight sings, using a birdwatchers’ mnemonic to demonstrate what they heard (and sounding eerily bird-like himself).

“We said, ‘That’s a savannah sparrow singing!’ It was exciting for my wife and me, because we did not know other areas in the National Park where you could find those birds, and here they were, in a place that used to be the Coliseum!”

Soon Eastern meadowlarks, bobolinks, and grasshopper and Henslow’s sparrows had also been seen nesting amid the growing tangle of redtop grass, Fuller’s and cutleaf teasel, phragmites reed, Canada thistle – all invasive plants that make park biologists shudder. 

Meg Plona says when the Chasars approached the Park Service with their observations, “It was a great surprise...They certainly were the ones that alerted us to what was going on out here, because this was not an area where we would normally have monitored.”

A grasshopper sparrow sings his heart out (Photo: Dwight Chasar)

The Park Service ultimately agreed with the birders that the site should be maintained as a permanent grassland. In 2004, the Coliseum nesting ground helped earn the whole park designation as an Important Bird Area by the national wildlife conservation group Audubon.

The Chasars now lead bird walks every November to see other species, too; migrating Wilson’s snipes and short-eared owls have been recent visitors. Chasar says the population is always shifting. But one constant – and his favorite experience at the site – is the male bobolinks in spring. The striking black and white birds with beige-y head stripes swoop though the air, singing, to try to win mates. 

“Seeing them in the air, and hearing them vocalize, it makes your heart…bubble!” he says, searching for the right word to represent the joy this clearly gives him. “It’s fun to stand there and see it all and listen to it all and know that you had – I had – some part in bringing it there.” 

Male bobolinks are a striking sight in spring (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Standing in the frozen field in January, Plona reflects on the transformation. “It’s very unusual. I often say it’s a happy accident.” 

But while the birds’ initial appearance was a surprise, their flourishing here today, almost 20 years after they appeared, is no accident. It’s required active management by the Park Service – the mowing to keep the forest at bay, and volunteer work to remove larger invasive plants one by one. Now a plan is in the works to try a controlled burn, to see if it could help native grasses get a foothold. 

We’ll be sharing more of these “happy accidents of nature” on our Field Notes blog over the next few weeks. Stay tuned and sign up for our e-newsletter using the blue box above for more stories from Cuyahoga Valley National Park!


June 1, 2017

Every step outside can reveal something magical in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Each week, children experience these magic moments at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center (CVEEC). During their time here, they’re immersed in the natural world for a four-day overnight adventure. 

This past school year, fourth-graders from Harvard Avenue Performance Academy in Cleveland came to the CVEEC to connect what they learn in the classroom—about science, technology, writing, and art—with hands-on outdoor experiences.

A CVEEC student spots a bird high in the trees!

During their trip to the CVEEC, students Izaiah and Amirah found plenty to investigate—down to the rocks on the trails where they’re hiking. It turns out the two friends are amateur geologists, both with carefully curated collections at home. 

On their CVEEC hike, they couldn’t contain their excitement. They could hardly finish a discussion of one rock before another caught their eyes. 

They pointed out each stone, picked them up, talked to each other, talked over each other, talked to kids and adults around them, and asked at least a hundred creative questions.

They also did their own bit of teaching. “So, a long time ago, water used to be bigger than the trees,” Amirah explained. “The rocks used to be buried under a whole lot of seashells, so this rock has a lot of spots. It has a lot of spots because it was buried under a lot of pressure under the water.”

“And heat!” Izaiah hastened to add. “Pressure and heat!”

Both explained that they’re paleontologists-in-training, though Amirah also anticipates a law career. It’s obvious Amirah and Izaiah showed up at the CVEEC primed to investigate, but their surroundings also clearly fueled their intellects and their imaginations. Their week-long immersion in Cuyahoga Valley National Park only made their passions burn brighter. 

Hands-On Learning

Students at the CVEEC get to experience nature first-hand (Photo: Melanie Nesteruk)

One of Conservancy’s goals at the CVEEC is to inspire lifelong learning about the natural world. Its flagship program, All the Rivers Run, is a four-day overnight learning experience for fourth through eighth graders. 

The CVEEC’s director, Katie Wright, says the program is designed to dovetail with students’ classroom learning. Students who have studied water quality in their classrooms, for example, get to take samples directly from the Cuyahoga River.

“They see what’s surrounding the river that could potentially impact the nitrate level, for instance, and then they test the water for themselves, and we see things start clicking,” Wright says. “‘All the things they’ve learned in the classroom, they now see in action.”

Identifying new plants and animals in the field

CVEEC programs are designed to use nature as a teaching tool. The Center’s setting in Cuyahoga Valley National Park takes advantage of a regional asset and connects students with its natural resources in the process. The Cuyahoga River watershed is a primary theme of All the Rivers Run, so students can make connections between their own actions and the impact they may have on local water sources.

Wright believes this kind of experiential learning is crucial. “There’s always a learning gap for things you haven’t experienced,” she says. “The more experiences we can give youth, the better they can understand the world they live in. They become better learners, they become better questioners, and they become more curious about the world.”

Outdoor Education for All

Having fun in Ohio’s national park (Photo: Melanie Nesteruk) 

An essential part of the Conservancy’s work is that all students who want to attend our programs and experience the national park can do so.
Each year, the CVEEC serves around 50 schools and nearly 2,500 students at All the Rivers Run. The Conservancy provides over $200,000 annually in scholarships and tuition assistance so students and teachers throughout northeast Ohio can attend this program.

Many students who come to All the Rivers Run have never been in a national park. Some children may have never gone on a hike. But hiking and exploring the national park is just one of the ways the CVEEC makes a difference in the lives of Ohio youth. 

Whether it’s nurturing a passion for geology, laying the foundation for a lifetime of outdoor adventures, or seeing the magic of an enormous night sky for the first time, outdoor education in Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a powerful tool for self-discovery and lifelong inspiration.

Each year, over 9,000 children attend programs at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center. The Conservancy raises funds year-round to provide scholarships for lower-income students to attend and experience their national park. We’re tremendously grateful to the generous donors and members who support outdoor learning in the Cuyahoga Valley. Learn more and donate > 





by Eric Sandy, Originally Published by Cleveland Scene Magazine
May 25, 2017

Part of the idea here — and in parks throughout the country — is that the natural world is in a fragile state now, in need of hands-on involvement. Human impact on our riverbeds, forests, fields, shorelines, etc., has irreversibly changed much of the environment. Here in Furnace Run, deforestation in the late 19th century led to decades of land-flattening farming; what’s left now is a sparsely populated watershed overrun with invasive species. (Some 20-25 percent of CVNP flora comprises invasive species these days.)

Today, the River Day crew is planting trees and shrubs: elderberries and dogwoods and several species of oak, for example. Plant ecologist Chris Davis says that the main goal is to establish a sort of safeguard against stormwater runoff (by seeding a broad root structure and enriching the soil) and provide a thicker habitat for the park’s breeding and migratory birds. It's all of a piece.

Plant ecologist Chris Davis walks volunteers through the ins and outs of tree-planting.

“Just walking away and letting nature takes its course — that’s not healing nature,” Chris Davis says. “That’s just letting nature unravel.” He points to a nearby multifora rose, whose species invaded the Cuyahoga River valley in the late 1800s; the U.S. government promoted it as a nice “natural fence”-type species, but now it’s overrunning natural habitats and outcompeting native saplings. That’s a problem for the ecosystem's balance. 

Our past impacts on nature have brought us to a place where we must manage the outside world. 

Similarly, there’s the problem of accelerated erosion along the edges of old farm fields, which look very pretty from the road. Upon closer inspection near the river, though, where there should be giant sycamores and broad root networks, one finds only bare dirt falling six or eight feet into the flowing water. That sediment ends up closer to Lake Erie, where a massively expensive dredging campaign has driven political tension and further environmental hazard.

This is the sort of stuff, anyway, that Davis and the CVNP’s corps of volunteers are thinking about when they’re in the park. It’s a narrative that too often rests just below the more general American sentiment of “let’s just enjoy nature.” Hence the whole River Day project. 

“The tangible thing is, yes, eventually this [tree-planting project] helps reduce the erosion that is costing literally millions and millions of dollars every year in Cleveland,” Davis says. “And Cleveland is not necessarily paying for it. It’s the U.S. Army Corps and sometimes the Port, but somebody is paying big bucks to dredge out the sediment that we should just be holding here, growing plants on.” 

As another bus arrives, Davis lays out the day’s work. Each volunteer grabs a shovel, and they congregate around a row of red osier dogwoods. Davis mowed down some paths through the nearby meadow, and he tells the volunteers to plant in the tread. It’s a simple enough task, but, of course, there are always a few people in each group who’ve never planted anything. (“The most important thing to remember is not to plant them too deep,” Davis tells them.) First-time volunteers are extremely welcome to all of these sorts of events. 

Other major volunteer opportunities in the park include National Trails Day (June 3), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 30) and Make A Difference Day (Oct. 28). Of course, other small-scale opportunities are available nearly every day. Just last year, the park system’s 6,300 volunteers clocked some 225,000 hours of conservancy work. Trail work, native species planting, invasive species removal and native seed collections take place across most of the park’s 33,000 acres, including right here, quite often, in the Furnace Run watershed. 

Caitlin and Devlin caught the national park volunteerism bug on Earth Day. Scene speaks with them as they’re planting their fourth sapling of the morning. “We had a lot of fun planting trees, so we came out again for River Day,” Devlin says. “It’s nice to wake up on a Saturday and get the day going by volunteering. You feel affirmed.” 

Read more about the park's volunteer program >
Read the article from Cleveland Scene >




May 18, 2017

In the middle of CVNP lies the village of Peninsula, a small town steeped in Cuyahoga Valley history. The village gets its name from the original shape the Cuyahoga River made as it cut through the area, creating several narrow fingers or peninsulas.

Because of its prime location halfway between Akron and Cleveland, Peninsula was historically a hub for canallers traveling through the area. During the mid-1800s, Peninsula was known for its boat building, boasting double the production of other towns. It also saw a number of other smaller industries, including flour milling along the Cuyahoga River.

This week, learn about a couple major industries Peninsula has hosted over the years.

Boat-Building Ventures

In 1863, Peninsula’s peak boat-building year, 33 boats moved from local yards for the Civil War trade. Imagine walking through the noisy, bustling boatyard in that era: you’d hear the clang of hammers and the persistent crunch of saws cutting through wood. The smell of wet wood and steam would fill the air, immersing you in the boat-making process.

A boat on the Ohio and Erie Canal (Photo: Ohio & Erie Canalway)

An old-time historian wrote, “A boatyard was not a spectacular place… It consisted merely of an open space with a partially completed boat or two ranged beside the canal bank. A stick of timber might be perched high on a couple of supports with two men whipsawing it into planks… Carpenters, calkers, painters would be busy about the hulls, depending on the stages of completion.”

“The yard would be littered with chips, shavings, and bits of wood and a few small board-laden saw horses,” he wrote. “It is said that the side panels were sawed from logs, hardwood pieces for frames and bottoms came from local saw mills, and the pine lumber for cabins and decks was boated out from Cleveland.”

The Peninsula boatyard; the water you see is the Cuyahoga River, just south of Riverview Road. (You would be standing in Fisher's lot to get this image back then.) The boatyard is on the other side of the river near the building with piers. (Photo: NPS Historic Photo)

Just south of Peninsula along the Ohio and Erie Canal was a dry-dock, where boats could be repaired. From there, travelers could continue toward Cleveland or Akron—nearly a full day’s journey in either direction. Imagine a time when it took a whole day just to get from the middle of the park to one of the major cities nearby! 

Peninsula Flour Mill

The Moody and Thomas flour mill in Peninsula (Illustration: John de Vries, More Cuyahoga Valley Tales)

Peninsula was also home to a flour mill built in the 1800s, producing flours such as Peerless Patent Flour. Its close proximity to the canal and valley railroad provided easy modes of transportation to neighboring cities.

The Cuyahoga River was also a helpful tool for the mill, as a dam diverted water to provide power need to grind the grain into flour. On the day after Christmas, 1931, however, the mill burned down, ending the era of flour product in Peninsula.

These days, Peninsula is filled with shops and restaurants for both locals and out-of-town visitors to the national park. It’s also home to one of the Conservancy’s shops, Trail Mix Peninsula. Particularly during the summer months, you can always see people exploring the streets of the bustling little town, continuing Peninsula's traditional role as a central hub for the people of the Cuyahoga Valley.

Content for this blog post adapted from More Cuyahoga ValleyTales by Margot Y. Jackson and Mary K. Newton




May 11, 2017

Every day, CVNP and Conservancy staff are working for you: to engage children with their national park and get the community active in preserving the Cuyahoga Valley.

That’s why we’re excited to share the news that five CVNP program leaders received awards from the National Park Service last month: for the park’s volunteer habitat restoration program, and for education programs at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center. The awards honor staff members from among the country’s 417 national park sites.

Below, see how CVNP and Conservancy staff are helping these areas, with your support!

Stewarding CVNP with the Community

The Conservancy’s vision is to connect people to their national park and preserve it for future generations. In partnership with the National Park Service—as well as with donors, members, volunteers, and advocates like YOU—we’re working toward that vision every day.

Recently, Park Ranger Josh Bates, Conservancy Director of Volunteer Services Jamie Walters, and Plant Biologist Chris Davis were honored with the Achieving Relevance in Public Engagement and Resource Stewardship Award for the Midwest Region of the NPS. 

This team of park and Conservancy staff work together to coordinate and host volunteer events where community members can plant native trees and remove invasive species to improve the natural habitat of the valley. Restoring this natural balance helps improve animal habitats, prevent flooding and erosion, and reduce the effects of climate change.

Park Ecologist Chris Davis shows volunteers how to plant trees at a Day of Service (Photo: Melanie Nesteruk)

Due to their dedication to habitat restoration and conservation awareness, this team was also selected as the national award winner, among all national park sites! The national winners will be recognized at a virtual awards ceremony the afternoon of Wednesday, April 26.

Jamie Walters (right) and several volunteers helping to restore native habitat in CVNP (Photo: NPS/D.J. Reiser)

Josh, Jamie, and Chris have created an extensive program that engages students, youth groups, and the general public. The program has grown in the past seven years to engage over 2,500 people in 2016, who helped remove invasive plants and plant native trees.

Ranger Josh Bates explains the day’s plan to Day of Service volunteers (Photo: Melanie Nesteruk)

Days of Service and Habitat Restoration Drop-ins are events where the public can join in on the effort. Habitat Restoration drop-in events will take place twice per month this summer. Learn more >

“This [program] is a testament to all of the volunteers,” says Ranger Josh. “This award is an honor to all of [the volunteers] that have helped us to do all the great work that we’ve been able to do so far.”

Educating Youth in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

In addition to get community volunteers engaged with habitat restoration, CVNP and the Conservancy are continually striving to connect youth with the national park and all its treasures. Donor and volunteer support help the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center serve over 9,000 youth each year.

Last month, Education Specialist Heather Berenson and CVEEC Program Manager Amanda Schuster were honored with the Achieving Relevance in Education Award for the Midwest Region. This award is given in recognition for their demonstrated passion for educating “at risk” high school students through environmental literacy and creating a strong bond between the park and community. 

Amanda Schuster on the CVEEC campus, where 9,000 youth experience CVNP each year

Each year, Heather and Amanda host the Summer Environmental Education Academy for students of Akron Public Schools and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Through this immersive academic program, rising ninth graders at risk of not graduating high school learn about the park’s natural resources and get a jump-start on high school science. Upon completion of the program, APS students earn 0.5 high school credits.

Heather Berenson shows CVEEC students how to use binoculars

We’re tremendously grateful to all our members, donors, volunteers, and park advocates who help make the Conservancy’s work possible for Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Thank you! We are so thankful for each and every one of you.

Learn more about the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center >
Learn more about volunteering in CVNP >



May 4, 2017
by Christine Hockman, Director of Resources, Marketing and Communications for Great Lakes Biomimicry 

Spring’s arrival in Ohio sparks a fresh, childlike wonder in many of us. Your senses heighten as plants sprout from the earth, an array of migrating birds land, and the mating chorus of frogs floats through the air. As you awaken with nature, now is the perfect time to add some biomimicry into your life.
Biomimicry is the practice of learning from nature and emulating its forms, processes and systems to solve human problems and drive innovation. People have been doing this for a long time: Leonardo da Vinci observed nature deeply, as reflected in his design drawings, and the Wright brothers studied bird wings to create flight.

Leonardo da Vinci’s early flight models drew from nature’s designs

Throughout the world and across industries, people are drawing from nature’s genius once again. A product inspired by sharkskin actually repels bacteria by design, not chemicals – perfect for use in medical settings. Japan’s bullet train was redesigned thanks to a birdwatcher and engineer who was inspired by the kingfisher’s seamless entry into water and the owl’s near silent flight. (The train is now quieter, 10% faster and uses 15% less electricity.) Velcro was inspired by burdock burrs, which easily stick to your clothes through a hook-and-loop design.

The kingfisher’s water dives helped inspire a new design for trains in Japan (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

The beauty of biomimicry is that by mimicking nature, we can create life-friendly products, buildings and cities. Teams can work together more intelligently when operating as a living system. Teachers can better engage students in STEM and connect them to nature. 

The “golden ratio” frequently appears in nature

As park users, we already know that nature is special and important. But what if you started looking at nature as a research and development lab with 3.8 billion years of knowledge? Now that takes wildlife watching to a whole new level! 

The next time you are in Cuyahoga Valley National Park – slow down, observe and wonder. When you encounter a problem or feel creativity building, go outside and ask, “What would nature do?

Great Lakes Biomimicry is a non-profit organization in Northeast Ohio that creates conditions for innovation using biomimicry. Our training programs help educators, business professionals and organizations grow using biomimicry. The Conservancy partners with Great Lakes Biomimicry to use Cuyahoga Valley National Park as a laboratory for learning. Learn more at




April 27, 2017

How often do you really look at the woodland floor in the Cuyahoga Valley? Mosses and lichens are some of the least conspicuous plants in our national park, but they’re just as fascinating as the showiest flower.

It’s easy to spot these bright plants this time of year, when the sun still reaches all the way to the woodland floor. Take a hike in the park this week to learn more about these tiny hidden treasures.


Mosses are some of the oldest plants in the park. They evolved even before vascular plants like ferns, trees, and flowers appeared—around 470 million years ago.

Found in damp, shady places, mosses grow in thick, green clumps or mats. They don’t produce flowers, and the individual plants are simple, one-cell thick leaves that absorb water and nutrients. Some types of moss can absorb 20 to 30 times their weight in water! 
True mosses can be divided into two major groups: tufted mosses, which form on trees and rocks, and carpet-type mosses, which grow on forest floors. 

Ohio haircap moss is a wiry, robust, cushion-y moss that’s widely distributed across the state of Ohio and the eastern U.S. You can spot it growing on forest floors by its distinctive “hairs” that stick straight up. (Photo: 

Entodon seductrix is a log moss with shiny, worm-like leaves. Look for it growing at the base of trees, on logs, or on rocks and ledges. (Photo:


Lichens are nearly as ancient as mosses, evolving somewhere around 400 million years ago. They’re also thought to be extremely long-lived, with lifespans measuring centuries or even thousands of years. 

It’s estimated that lichens cover about six percent of the Earth. These unique organisms—distinct from mosses—emerge from algae or certain types of bacteria among living fungi in a mutually beneficial relationship. They can have tiny, leafless branches, flat leaf-like structures, flakes that look like peeling paint, or other forms. 

Lichens grow in some of the most extreme conditions imaginable—even inside solid rocks, growing between the grains! Some never even grow on anything, simply blowing about in the wind. 

Many-forked Cladonia, a species of reindeer lichen, is grayish-green or brown and can be found growing on moss, soil, or rarely on rotted trees. (Photo: Ohio Moss & Lichen Association)

Net-marked parmelia, also known as shield lichen, is one of the most common lichens. You can see its light gray, broad growth growing on bark, twigs, and small trees. (Photo: Ray Shoman)

The cool, damp understory around the Ritchie Ledges or Brandywine Falls is a great place to see many different kinds of mosses and lichens. It’s also easier to see many of them as they spread out across the exposed rock walls in these areas. 

Let us know if you snap a great photo or have a great story to tell about your park adventure! 



April 20, 2017

You may regularly bike or walk by the Ohio & Erie Canal as you travel the Towpath, but do you know its rich history? This week, we’re revisiting the heyday of the Cuyahoga Valley's canal era in the 1800s. 

The Ohio & Erie Canal operated for nearly 90 years, only a couple decades shorter than the railroad era in the valley. It transported people and goods around northeast Ohio in canal boats pulled by mules along a towpath—the same Towpath Trail you know today.

Building the Ohio & Erie Canal

In 1825, the Ohio legislature authorized the construction of a canal linking Lake Erie and the Ohio River. The first section would run parallel to our own Cuyahoga River, passing through both Cleveland and Akron on its route. 

Mules pulling a canal boat along the Ohio & Erie Canal

Historian Harlan Hatcher documented the canal construction in his book The Western Reserve

“By Thanksgiving Day 1825, about 2,000 men were swarming in the Cuyahoga Valley. They looked like a colonial army assembled along a 38-mile front to throw up breastworks for an impending engagement.

“It was indeed a struggle for survival. Men and animals worked from sunup to sundown. … The terrain was uneven and this portion of the canal proved to be one of the most expensive and difficult in the entire state—though no other canal in America cost less to build than the Ohio-Erie. On the level stretches, it was largely a matter of digging a ditch and piling up dirt for the banks. But in some places, a way had to be blasted through rock, and in other places, the excavation was in muck and through water-covered land.

“It was painful, backbreaking, dangerous work. Most of the workers were the men and boys of the [Western] Reserve. …Their numbers and strength were augmented by Irish and German immigrant labor. Many had worked on the Erie canal and had moved west when it was completed. 

“At the beginning, wages were 30 cents a day plus board, a bunk in a dirty shanty, and a jigger of whiskey a day per man.” 

Open for Business

Washday on a canal boat (Photo: Ohio & Erie Canalway)

On July 3, 1827, the first canal boat made its way from Akron to Cleveland along the newly constructed Ohio & Erie Canal. With Governor Allen Trimble on board, the State of Ohio left Lock 1 for the journey northward. 

Historian Karl Grismer tells the story: 

“As cannons boomed, the boat got underway, drawn by the sleek black horses of Job Harrington of Northampton. …At each lock, people were gathered to see the boat pass through. 

“Late that afternoon, the State of Ohio was joined at Boston by the Allen Trimble, likewise crowded with rejoicing and excited passengers. Old timers said no person aboard had a wink of sleep that night. 

“The governor’s party was met six miles up the canal from Cleveland by the Pioneer, loaded to its full capacity with Cleveland dignitaries. The boats exchanged cannon salutes, formed a procession, and amid loud cheers glided on to Cleveland.”

Changes in Northeast Ohio

The Canal Exploration Center was once a tavern, residence, and general store (Photo: NPS/Ted Toth)

The new canal brought big changes to the region. Northeast Ohio was suddenly connected to trade routes in the east, making faraway goods more readily available. 

As Karl Grismer writes, “The opening of the Ohio Canal was undoubtedly one of the most outstanding events in the state’s history. The effect upon this section of the Western Reserve was almost magical. 

“Wheat soared in price. Two years before it had brought only 15 cents a bushel, and that price was paid only on a barter basis. Now it leaped to a dollar a bushel—cash. Buyers came in from the East and purchased all the farmers brought to town. 

“Potatoes, which at times in the past had been left to rot in the fields, now brought 40 cents a bushel.” 

Ultimately, the rise of the railways pushed canals out of business, and the Ohio & Erie Canal closed in 1913 after a severe flood. Its effects upon the local economy and culture are hard to overstate, though. 

A park ranger swears in a Junior Ranger at the Canal Exploration Center (Photo: Sue Simenc)

Want to learn more about canal history and its impact upon the Cuyahoga Valley? Bring your family to visit the Canal Exploration Center on Canal Road in the northern part of the park! 

Source: Cuyahoga Valley Tales, James S. and Margot Y. Jackson, Cuyahoga Valley Association, 1985. 



April 13, 2017 | Photos by Melanie Nesteruk

The work of volunteers is visible in every corner of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Take a stroll along a park trail, and you’ll see where volunteers have repaired tread and trimmed branches. Attend a concert, and you might take your tickets from a volunteer. Explore the woodlands of CVNP, and you’ll see native trees and wildflowers that volunteers have planted. 

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a volunteer? Think maybe you can’t make a difference in just one day? This week, take a photo tour of one of our Days of Service from the eyes of a volunteer. 

Arrive around 10:00 a.m. and get ready for a great day! Find your name and mark what time you arrived—it’s important for us to track volunteer hours so we can recognize you for sharing your time and talents with the national park. 

Get your work gloves and safety glasses. Now you’ve got the volunteer look—and your eyes and hands are protected.

Learn how to plant a tree. NPS staff ecologists and park rangers will teach you the basics of planting native tree seedlings in the park—don’t worry, it’s easy. 

Grab a tree and a shovel, and hike out to the tree-planting site. It’s not very far, and it feels great to stretch your legs in the sunshine. 

Get that tree in the ground! Dig a shallow hole and transplant your native seedling—it’s as easy as that. Imagine how big it will grow in the years to come, providing shelter for birds and animals in the park!  

Protect and support the new tree by adding a reusable plastic sleeve. You’ll tie it to a stake that you pound into the ground right next to the seedling. This helps the tree grow straight and prevents deer from nibbling on the tender young buds. 

Meet new people and enjoy working outside! Bring your family and friends for a great afternoon in your national park. 

These photos are all from one of our past Days of Service, but there are plenty of opportunities for volunteers to make a difference. Thank you to all the dedicated park stewards who make a difference in the national park—we are truly grateful for your help! 

The Conservancy co-manages the CVNP volunteer program with the National Park Service. We hope to see you and your family at our next Day of Service on April 22! Learn more & sign up >

Many thanks to all our members and other donors who support Days of Service in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, including the Arconic Foundation.



April 6, 2017

It might look rainy and gloomy outside this week, but we promise that spring is on its way. You can spot signs all over the park, from the emergence of early wildflowers to the slowly greening landscape. 

For wildlife lovers, one of the most exciting parts of spring is the annual bird migration. Each year, birds follow the warmer weather north to our national park. Some stay all summer, while others simply pause for a few weeks before continuing north. Whether you’re a new or experienced birder, it’s a great time to see birds in their spring finery!

Here are some of our favorite birds to find at two popular birding locations in CVNP: 

Station Road Bridge Trailhead

A popular scenic destination in the park, Station Road Bridge Trailhead is a prime birding location. Walk either north or south along the Towpath from this trailhead to see a variety of species, from tiny, bright warblers to majestic eagles.

Yellow-throated Warbler: A strikingly-patterned bird with a bright yellow throat, black cheek, and white on the sides of the neck, this warbler likes to forage for insects by creeping along branches, especially in sycamore trees. (Photo: Ed Schneider)

Red-headed Woodpecker: You might catch a glimpse of these striking, uncommon woodpeckers crossing the Cuyahoga River if you head either north or south along the Towpath. (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Cerulean Warbler: Look for the blue or blue-green color on these small, long-winged warblers. The blue is brightest on the crown of adult males. (Photo: Bryan Hix)

Bald Eagle: Bald eagles are again nesting in CVNP this year. While areas near the nest are closed to prevent disturbing the eagles, you can see the nest if you walk a half-mile north on the Towpath, then follow the horse path toward the river. (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Beaver Marsh

This lush wetland is home to many different types of waterfowl and water-loving birds. Take a seat along the boardwalk, particularly in the early morning or evening, to see a spectacular avian show!

Green Heron: A shy, secretive little heron, this species prefers to perch in the shadows as it waits for fish to swim by. You might hear its nervous kuk-kuk-kuk if you get too close. (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Warbling Vireo: Look for a plain, pale, and grayish bird overall, with hints of olive or yellow on its back or flanks. (Photo: Daniel Behm)

Virginia Rail: This solitary, shy rail has a long bill and overall dark color, and frequently spends time in tall cattails or other reedy plants around the marsh. Go in early morning or evening to catch a glimpse. (Photo: Jim McCree)

Baltimore Oriole: A flash of bright orange likely signals a Baltimore Oriole is nearby. Keep an eye out for the white wing-bars, blueish bill, and mostly orange tail. (Photo: Ed Toerek)

Former Coliseum Site

The demolition of the Richfield Coliseum in 1999 brought an unexpected benefit. Restoration of the building site and parking lot created a new grassland habitat for many bird species, several of which have been in decline due to loss of habitat. During the breeding season (April-August), please stay on the edge of the grassland to avoid disturbing these ground-nesting birds. 

Eastern Meadowlark: Look for these bright birds singing from fence posts and telephone lines or stalking through grasslands as they hunt for insects. (Photo: Cleber Ferreira)

Grasshopper Sparrow: You’re more likely to hear than see this shy, modest-looking sparrow. Yes, they do eat grasshoppers, but they also get their name from their unique, buzzing song: tik-tik-tikeeeeeeee. (Photo: Brian Kushner)

Bobolink: These small songbirds have large, somewhat flat heads, short necks, and short tails. During the spring, males show off for potential mates by flying low over grasslands, fluttering their wings while singing. (Photo: Ed Toerek)

Remember to always observe birds in the park at a respectful distance. Do not disturb any nest you come across, and avoid confusing birds with recorded bird calls. For more information about birdwatching in the park, check out this CVNP bulletin > 

If you snap a great photo, we’d love to see it! Send it our way at You can also help scientists in the park by submitting photos and observations to, an online database where anyone can be a naturalist.




March 30, 2017
by Jennie Vasarhelyi, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Spring begins the “wildflower season” in Cuyahoga Valley National Park—a season that extends from spring to late fall. Watching the progression of wildflowers, from spring beauties to asters, can deepen your awareness of nature through the changing seasons. It’s also a wonderful window into the habitat diversity that enriches this area naturally.

Skunk cabbage is the first arrival. While it may appear during winter thaws, as it did this year, it starts to bloom more consistently in March. To find skunk cabbage, take trails into the valley's moist ravines such as Haskell Run Trail, a half-mile loop behind Happy Days Lodge. 

Skunk cabbage is one of the first spring wildflowers to appear (Photo: Claus Siebenhaar)

Look carefully to find skunk cabbage. Its large, green leaves grow after it blooms. What you might be tempted to call its flower is actually a spathe. It grows like a purple-and-brown hood over a small knob. The plant's flowers are small, yellow blooms that cover the knob. Bend down and look inside the spathe to discover the flowers.

Coltsfoot also makes its appearance in March. Its bright yellow flower is easy to confuse with a dandelion until you look at its scaly stalk. This is a non-native plant that grows where the ground has been disturbed. It is a common sight along the edges of the Towpath Trail.

As spring unfolds in April and May, return to ravine trails like Haskell Run to enjoy wildflowers. Plants grow in a hurry to soak up the sun before leaves close the forest canopy and darken the ground with shade. Flowers can become so numerous, they create a carpet of color on the forest floor. 

Bloodroot is named for its bright red sap or juice, especially in its roots (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Earlier flowers include spring beauty, hepatica, bloodroot, and cut-leafed toothwort. They are followed by bluets, adder's tongue, and Dutchman's breeches. By Mother's Day, some of the more brilliantly colored spring wildflowers join in, notably pink wild geraniums and blue-fading-into-pink Virginia bluebells. Later, as the canopy closes, some more subtle flowers enter the procession.

It isn't the intent of this post to describe or even list every flower. I listed some flower names hoping that their diversity would spark your curiosity. Taking the time to enjoy their varied colors, shapes, and textures is enough to inspire appreciation. Whether you are just looking or trying to identify them, we ask that you do not pick wildflowers. They are protected in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Virginia bluebells begin a bright purple-blue, then fade to pink (Photo © Sue Simenc)

It’s worth knowing some of the “pest” wildflowers. They can be some of the showiest flowers and are appealing based on looks alone. However, non-native invasive species crowd native plants and limit their growth. In spring, garlic mustard grows extensively in the forest when unchecked. It has small, white flowers with four petals and a garlicky smell when its leaves are crushed. Later in spring and into summer, dame's rocket—a four-petaled flower in shades of pink, white, and purple—grows extensively along the Towpath Trail. A rule that I've set for myself is to find out which plants cause ecological harm before I become attached to any for aesthetic reasons.

In summer, flowers become less common in the forests and more common in other habitats in the park. I find myself paying the most attention to wetland flowers. Joe-pye weed is a tall, rosy-pink flower that grows in wet areas. Spatterdock and sweet-scented lily float on the water's surface at the Beaver Marsh.

Sweet-scented lilies are a common sight at Beaver Marsh (Photo: Tom Jones)

In late summer and fall, old fields become the best place to seek wildflowers. A variety of asters and goldenrods dominate. Deep, rich purple ironweed adds to the color. Trails in the park that provide access to old fields include the Tree Farm and Cross Country trails.

As leaves fall and woodlands become seemingly dormant, one more plant extends the flower-watching year. Witch hazel is a small tree with oval, wavy-toothed leaves. Its inconspicuous, yellow flowers grow in small clusters. The surprise of finding them so late in the year provides a satisfying end to the wildflower season.

Try your hand at identifying spring wildflowers and find a CVNP adventure >




NPS Has a $12 Billion Backlog in Deferred & Overdue Maintenance, New Legislation Builds on NPS Centennial Act
March 29, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced the National Park Service Legacy Act, bipartisan legislation which would address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at the National Park Service (NPS). The bill has been endorsed by the National Parks Conservation Association, Pew Charitable Trusts, the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and many of Ohio’s leading chambers of commerce and tourism organizations.

“For more than a century, the National Park Service has been keeping America beautiful,” Portman said. “But in order to keep that work going, we need to ensure that they have the right resources. Last year President Obama signed into law my National Park Service Centennial Act, which created two new public-private partnerships that will partially reduce the National Park Service's $12 billion maintenance backlog. This bill will create the Legacy Restoration Fund to provide the National Park Service with funds for deferred maintenance projects, including $73 million of deferred maintenance at eight of Ohio’s national park sites. This legislation will set up the National Park Service for a second century of preserving American treasures like Cuyahoga Valley National Park."

“More than 100 years after the founding of the National Park Service, our park system remains in a critical state of disrepair. In fact, Virginia ranks 5th in the list of states with the greatest need for maintenance, with a backlog of nearly $1 billion,” said Sen. Warner. “While we’ve heard much talk here in Washington about infrastructure spending, a great way to begin this work is by helping in the revitalization of our public lands and the repair of critical roads and bridges, an investment which can generate $10 in economic activity for every public dollar invested. Our bipartisan legislation provides this needed investment by helping ensure that these historically diverse assets are preserved for future generations to enjoy. It also makes needed investments in NPS infrastructure, roads and bridges, like the Arlington Memorial Bridge, many of which are badly in need of repair.”

“Thanks to Senators Warner and Portman, we have a bill to address desperately needed repair projects in national parks from Yellowstone to Shenandoah to Cuyahoga Valley. The $12 billion maintenance backlog is an ever-growing challenge for our national parks, which welcomed a record-breaking 331 million visitors last year. This proposal will put our national parks on the right track. By investing in our national parks, we will not only start to tackle this backlog, but we will make our parks more resilient and prepared to continue welcoming visitors eager to explore our nation’s most important natural and historic places. Last year, the National Park Service celebrated its centennial. We can think of no better way for Congress to help our parks as they begin their second century than to approve this legislation,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO, National Parks Conservation Association.

“National parks continue to be our common ground. Senators Warner and Portman demonstrated leadership and foresight today by introducing legislation to ensure that our nation’s most significant historical and natural resources will be protected and that communities dependent on park tourism will continue to flourish,” said Marcia Argust, Director of Pew Charitable Trusts’ Restore America’s Parks project.

"Our national parks are highly valued by the American public and addressing their maintenance needs through this funding is important. The bill also supports the work of National Park Service friends groups by leveraging gifts from the public to accomplish even more improvements in parks. This investment in park infrastructure by the federal government and the public will make a difference in stewardship of park resources and in serving park visitors. I appreciate seeing the federal government fulfill its role as the owner of our national parks through the actions in this bill. It is also helpful to make it easier for the American public to support important projects in their national parks,” said Deb Yandala, Chief Executive Officer, Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

NOTE: The National Park Service Legacy Act would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” to reduce the maintenance backlog by allocating existing revenues the government receives for oil and natural gas royalties.

Some 2.6 million people visit Ohio’s national park service sites every year.  The $12 billion maintenance backlog includes $73 million for eight sites in Ohio.

Charles Young Buffalo Soldier National Monument (CHYO)

$ 1,958,949

Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CUVA)

$ 40,824,920

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park (DAAV)

$ 565,274

First Ladies National Historic Site (FILA)

$ 222,440

Hopewell Culture National Historical Park (HOCU)

$ 491,998

James A Garfield National Historic Site (JAGA)

$ 687,276

Perrys Victory and International Peace Memorial (PEVI)

$ 28,948,894

William Howard Taft National Historic Site (WIHO)

$ 113,669

Total ►

$ 73,813,420

In December, former President Obama signed into law Portman’s National Park Service Centennial Act – legislation that would provide the National Park Service with additional resources to help protect America’s national parks into its second century.  Portman’s work to preserve our national parks in the Senate continues his work as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, when he launched the National Parks Centennial Initiative in 2006. This initiative provided new public and private investment to prepare for the Centennial in 2016.

For his work to protect our national parks, Portman has received the 2012 NPCA Centennial Award and the 2015 Bruce F. Vento Public Service Award. Most recently, he received the National Parks Service Centennial Champion Award from Cuyahoga Valley National Park in July.


Make your voice heard! Contact your senators and local representatives to show your support for Ohio’s national parks:

Contact your local representative:

Live in a different district or not sure which is yours? Look up your representative by ZIP code >



March 23, 2017

On Monday, 150 students from Faircrest Memorial Middle School in Canton visited Cuyahoga Valley National Park to learn about the geology of the area through photography. The photos they took of the park’s geologic formations will be on display at an art studio in downtown Canton this spring. They’ll also be printed and used for future science classes at Faircrest Memorial.

Hiking to discover unique geology of the Cuyahoga Valley

Jen Kruger is the students’ eighth-grade science teacher. Last fall, she and art teacher Amy Eibel approached the CVEEC about bringing their students to the park. They wanted a program that would reinforce what students were learning in class, as well as incorporate art to engage student creativity.
“We were looking for a way to review all the Earth Science concepts for the American Institutes for Research assessment without giving kids more paper/pencil work,” said Ms. Kruger. “We thought a hands-on approach would be much more beneficial to get these concepts to ‘stick.’”

The students spent half their time in the park hiking the Ledges Trail to see its towering rock ledge formations. CVEEC instructors led students among the 300-million-year old rocks and taught them how the Ritchie Ledges were formed by ancient seas, glaciers, and erosion.

“This program touched on everything we needed to review and gave students ‘real-life’ experiences,” said Ms. Kruger. “Students saw erosion, deposition, glacial till, and creep, as well as rock formations, superposition, and intrusions. We can show them what they look like in our book, but now we can show them what it looks like in nature.” 

The other half of their day was spent taking photos. Two professional photographers guided the children as they explored the Ledges, looking for unique rock layers, areas of erosion and deposition, and other scenic features. When the students return to school, they’ll spend time editing the photos with the help of professional photographers to get them ready for display. 

Learning to photograph unique geological features at the Ledges Overlook

Art teacher Ms. Eibel was thrilled to combine hands-on art activities with the students’ schoolwork. “A lot of these students don’t usually get outside to any parks, much less a national park,” she said. The chance to get outside and take photos in Ohio’s national park was a first-time opportunity for many in the group.

The students’ trip to the Cuyahoga Valley tied together a popular creative pastime with concepts of earth science. The children had chance to connect their studies with the real world—and had fun doing it.

The program was led by the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center, which offers year-round day and overnight programming for Ohio youth. For more information about the CVEEC and its programs, including summer camp, click here > 




March 9, 2017

Wondering what’s going on with the East Rim Trail lately? This new mountain biking trail first opened about a year ago, and the park is now working to complete “Phase 2,” which will add over six more miles to the trail system. This week, we’re sharing construction and fundraising updates and showing you how to get more involved.

What’s Happening Now?

“Phase 2” of the East Rim Trail includes a new loop and inner line connector trail north of I-80. The new sections of trail will measure around 6.5 miles total when complete, bringing the entire trail system closer to ten miles.

The 4.5-mile outer loop of Phase 2 is currently under construction. The weather has been good the past few months, allowing park trail crews and volunteers to complete a "rough cut" of the outer loop and install most of the trail tread.

CVNP is working once again with designer Alex Stewart for the project, who designed the first phase of the trail and is nationally recognized as a mountain bike trail design expert.

A roughed-in section of Phase 2 (NPS Photo)

The entire trail will feature a sustainable design that reduces impact on local plants and animals. When it opens, you’ll be able to enjoy an incredible ride and feel good about protecting your national park.

The next steps of the project include creating the inner connector line of Phase 2, as well as a bouldering route off the existing trail. Pending funding being sought by the Conservancy and CAMBA, we anticipate to complete all of Phase 2 by 2018.

Trail Partnerships

The East Rim Trail project is another example of a strong partnership between the Conservancy, National Park Service (NPS), and community organizations. For this project, the Conservancy and NPS are working closely with the Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA) to create a world-class mountain bike trail for Ohio’s national park. Together, we’ve developed a strong partnership in the development and construction of the East Rim trail project.

We want to thank CAMBA volunteers for assisting with trail building and providing National Mountain Bike Patrol members who assist, educate, and inform all trail users to enhance their recreational and riding experience on the East Rim Trail. Learn more about CAMBA’s mission and activities>

Get Involved

The new East Rim mountain bike trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one of the best in the area. However, we’re still $10,000 short of our fundraising goal to complete Phase 2. 

We’ve raised most of the money needed for the project, but we need our community’s support for the “home stretch.” The remaining funds are needed to make the trail truly world-class, with all the finishing touches you’ve come to expect from a top-notch bike trail. 

Photo of East Rim Trail by trail designer Alex Stewart

Here’s the great news: A local mountain biker has offered to match every gift we receive for the East Rim Trail before April 15. To take part in this exciting project, you can make a donation today, and your gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar. Learn more and donate >

We’re tremendously grateful for all our members, donors, volunteers, and advocates who are helping to make projects like the East Rim Trail possible in our national park. Thank you!

Get the latest updates about the East Rim Trail >
Donate to support East Rim Phase 2 >





March 5, 2017

It’s thanks to you that children can be inspired to careers in science, outdoor leadership, and environmental education. Just take Kelsey Lipp’s story. 

Fifteen years ago, fifth-grader Kelsey Lipp arrived at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center (CVEEC). She spent a week hiking, doing science experiments, and learning about nature in her national park. At the end of the program, Kelsey had discovered a new passion: environmental science.

Once a student at the CVEEC herself, intern Kelsey Lipp now hopes to inspire other children to careers in environmental science. Here, she takes a “selfie” with her students and a turtle they discovered.

A decade and a half later, Kelsey is a now field instructor intern at the CVEEC, which is operated by the Conservancy in partnership with the National Park Service. She attributes much of her interest in environmental issues to her fifth-grade trip in the national park.

“A lot of what I do stems from that experience,” she said. “It really stands out in my mind and sparked my interest in science.”

After returning from the CVEEC, Kelsey joined the science club at her school and eventually became a leader in the outdoor club, leading trips throughout high school and college at Colorado State University.

After college, Kelsey decided to join the staff of the CVEEC to inspire other children—just like the interns did for her more than a decade ago.

Kelsey Lipp ( far right) as a fifth-grader at the CVEEC—where her passion for science and environmental education began.

Today, Kelsey loves inspiring other children. “We plant a seed to think about the environment and why it’s important,” she said. “We help the kids develop a love for nature and build a connection with the earth.”

Kelsey tells a story about a Cleveland scholarship student who was intrigued by her job as a teaching intern. “He kept asking me about college and how to get a cool job like mine,” she remembers. “He was so curious about how to get into the environmental education field.”

During an especially memorable class about the history of the Cuyahoga River watershed, Kelsey’s students had a great discussion about environmental change in CVNP.

“They were making connections to today’s environment and how human industry has affected the watershed,” said Kelsey. “They talked a lot about sustainability. They even said ‘It’s up to us to change it!’”

Kelsey hopes to continue inspiring others as an environmental educator. Thank you for being a member of the Conservancy and paving the way for the next generation of park stewards!




March 2, 2017 

The legacy of legendary ocean explorer Jacques Yves Cousteau lives on—right here in northeast Ohio! EarthEcho International, a nonprofit founded by Cousteau’s grandchildren, is partnering with the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center (CVEEC) to equip Ohio youth to take action for global water health, starting with the Cuyahoga River.

This afternoon, EarthEcho staff visited the CVEEC to launch a partnership that will connect students to the EarthEcho Water Challenge, an annual program that gives youth a chance to help protect the water resources we depend on every day. As part of the Water Challenge, students test water quality in their local watersheds, then share their data through a global database. Through the project, Ohio youth can connect with a growing movement of citizens who are working to conserve and protect water resources around the world.

EarthEcho was founded in 2000, following the vision of Phillippe Cousteau Sr., son of the famous explorer, who envisioned “a world where every single child can breathe fresh air, drink clean water, and walk on green grass under a blue sky.” Its goal is to provide youth with the resources to solve environmental challenges in their own communities and connect to sustainability efforts worldwide.

EarthEcho’s goals are a perfect match with the mission of the CVEEC. Each year, the CVEEC introduces over 9,000 students to the wonders of nature through STEM learning (science, technology, engineering, and math). Instead of only reading about things like water health and sustainability in a book, children get a chance to test water quality, see salamanders, and get their hands dirty as they explore the national park.

Jim Trogdon is a teacher at Coventry Middle School in Akron and a member of EarthEcho’s Learning and Education Advisory Panel. Mr. Trogdon has been bringing students to the CVEEC for 20 years and recently brought forward the idea of connecting our work in the national park with EarthEcho.
The CVEEC is about building communities, making connections, and embracing a child’s innate sense of wonder for nature, in the ultimate learning environment—the outdoors!” says Mr. Trogdon. Working with EarthEcho was a natural connection. 

One of EarthEcho’s citizen science initiatives is to provide water testing kits to groups in over 140 countries around the world. As part of this World Water Monitoring Challenge, each group collects data about the health of their local watershed, then enters it in a global database where students and scientists can track world water health. The goal is to build public awareness and engagement in protecting water resources around the globe.

Through Mr. Trogdon’s connection, EarthEcho donated water testing equipment to the CVEEC, and students from Coventry Middle School began using it today as part of the CVEEC’s regular water testing curriculum. The students gathered valuable data near the Lock 29 trailhead about the health of the Cuyahoga River. Later, they’ll enter the data into EarthEcho’s international database, where than can connect their own observations with data about water quality across the entire world.
Through this exciting new partnership, the CVEEC and National Park Service will help youth connect local actions with global impact—connecting the health of the Cuyahoga River watershed and worldwide water health. 

The health of the Cuyahoga River watershed has an impact worldwide (Photo: D.J. Reiser)

This week’s students are spending several days at the CVEEC as part of its flagship residential program, All the Rivers Run. Coventry teacher Mr. Trogdon appreciates the chance for immersive outdoor learning just 30 minutes from the school. He says, “I want my students to experience connections,” he said. “Connections with their peers, teachers, and in the field with nature.”

His students will take the lessons they’ve learned at the CVEEC back to their classroom in the coming weeks. In addition to their water quality monitoring in the national park, they’re also raising rainbow trout in the classroom through a special program focused on connecting students to their local watersheds. They’ve also planted over 1,000 trees and other native plants locally, including in CVNP.

CVEEC students get a chance to explore the wonder of CVNP

Going forward, each residential class at the CVEEC will take part in the EarthEcho World Water Monitoring Challenge and send its observations to the global database. Students can see what’s happening around the world, sparking their curiosity and sense of connectedness. On March 22, the CVEEC will also take part in World Water Day to focus attention on the importance of freshwater.

Connecting students with real-world environmental issues (and solutions) is one of the primary goals of the CVEEC. The partnership with EarthEcho is one more way the CVEEC is providing top-notch environmental programming to the youth of northeast Ohio. Thank you to all our members, donors, and volunteers who support our work!

Learn more about the CVEEC’s programs > 




February 23, 2017 

If you drive through Cuyahoga Valley National Park frequently, you might sometime find yourself behind a charcoal grey Chrysler minivan with a very special license plate. Its dark blue characters are simply “CVNP,” and to the left is an artist’s image of Blue Hen falls in autumn. Brown text at the bottom tells you where to go find that waterfall in real life: “Cuyahoga Valley.”  

The minivan belongs to long-time park volunteer Gene Stepanik. To get a license plate that so perfectly expresses his passion for the park – and helps support it – required a year of work and an act of the Ohio General Assembly. 


Gene alone claimed the “CVNP” lettering, but thanks to his work, all Ohio drivers now have the option to purchase the CVNP-themed plate design. Drivers pay the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles $25 each year for the plate (along with regular registration fees), $15 of which goes to the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park. (There’s a small one-time charge for the new plate when you initially purchase it - $10 if that’s during your regular renewal period, a combination of small fees that add up to about $15 any other time. Ready to get yours? Learn more here).

Along with financial support, the plates will provide a profile boost for Cuyahoga Valley National Park everywhere these park fans go. 

“There have been discussions about creating a park license plate for 20 years,” said the Conservancy’s Chief Development Officer, John Debo. “Gene was the one who, after all these years of people talking about it, said, ‘Let’s get this done.’”


“I just wanted a personal vanity plate!” Gene said. Researching how to get “CVNP” on his license plate on the BMV’s website a few years ago, he came across all the specialty-interest designs, many of which support organizations. 

“I thought, ‘The Conservancy could do that,’” Gene said. “Every dollar counts, especially with a nonprofit.” About a year ago, he approached Conservancy leaders about the idea, offering to shoulder much of the work. They were excited.

Gene had to collect a hundreds of signatures from licensed Ohio drivers interested in buying a plate. John handled the politics – lobbying State Representative Kristina Roegner, a Republican from Hudson, to sponsor legislation. She gladly supported the effort, worked to get co-sponsors and ensure passage. Governor John Kasich signed the bill into law, and the license plate became available in October 2016. 

John and Gene snapped up what they believe were the first two plates (John’s personalized one reads “GO PARK”).  Both men also sport the official license plate frame, available from the Conservancy’s two Trail Mix stores, in Peninsula and Boston. It reads “Cuyahoga Valley National Park” across the top, and “Along the crooked river” across the bottom.

Blue Hen Falls photo: Claus Siebenhaar

The Blue Hen falls image might seem a surprising choice, since Brandywine Falls is more well-known. But John said that was intentional.

“We’ve got a lot of waterfalls in CVNP, and Blue Hen’s really a beautiful one. We wanted to encourage exploration beyond what people already know,” he said. Conservancy members voted on two seasonal artist renderings of the falls, and chose autumn.

Earlier this month, the Conservancy received its first quarterly reports on how many plates have sold: So far, the BMV has sold 86 Cuyahoga Valley plates! 

Get your Cuyahoga Valley license plate >



February 16, 2017

As we celebrate Black History Month here in CVNP, we’re taking time to reflect on how we can positively contribute to the conversation around diversity and national parks. This week, CEO Deb Yandala reflects on the first African American superintendent of a national park and a new Conservancy initiative to encourage diversity among our staff, volunteers, and park visitors. 

Message from the CEO

February marks Black History Month, when we celebrate the achievements of black Americans and recognize their role in U.S. history. In honor of this celebration, I wanted to write a bit about Charles Young, the first black superintendent of a national park.

Colonel Charles Young, c.1919 (Photo: NPS, courtesy of the National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center)

Charles Young was born into slavery in 1864 and grew up in Ripley, Ohio, after his father escaped slavery by crossing the Ohio River. He became the third African-American graduate of West Point and the first black man to achieve the rank of colonel in the U.S Army. 

Young had a distinguished military career, including 28 years with the 25th Infantry (also known as the Buffalo Soldiers). In 1903, back when the military supervised all national parks, he was appointed acting superintendent of Sequoia and General Grant national parks—the first African-American appointed in that position. Perhaps his greatest impact there was to improve visitor access to the underdeveloped park through construction of wagon roads.

The Buffalo Soldiers (Photo: NPS, courtesy of the Library of Congress)

In his later years, Young taught at Wilberforce College. His house just outside of Wilberforce, Ohio was designated as the 401st unit of the National Park System in 2013: the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument.There, the National Park Service honors his remarkable achievements in the face of countless obstacles.

Historic photo of Colonel Charles Young's house c.1910 (Photo: NPS, courtesy of the National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center)

In recent years, the National Park Service has striven to ensure that the lesser-known stories about underrepresented communities are lifted up in our national parks. One of the most important lasting initiatives of the NPS Centennial last year is to strive to diversify national park leaders, sites, and visitors.

To this end, the Conservancy has initiated a new Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee. This group of board members and senior leaders from both the Conservancy and the park recently met for the first time and has begun to set goals and a definition of success. The Conservancy will strive to work with partners and develop initiatives to diversify our staff, volunteers, park visitors, and program visitors. We want all to feel welcome in our park, and we want the park to be a resource for all surrounding communities.

Do you have thoughts and suggestions for us? Would you like to participate in our efforts? Send a message to 
with “Diversity” in the subject and let us know what you think.



February 9, 2017

Whether you take your sweetheart on a long hike or present her with the perfect stick for her nest… Love takes many different forms in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. As we celebrate Valentine’s Day next week, we’re sharing stories of love—including the singular story of great blue heron courtship, which usually begins around Valentine’s Day. 

“Date Days” in CVNP
by Amy & Julien

Hiking has been one of our favorite “date day” ideas for our entire four-year relationship. There’s something about the setting of a hike that engages meaningful conversation and one-on-one experiences that dinner and a movie can’t quite provide. We love our experiences in the park; everything from the mellow, short hikes to the adventures that require encouragement and motivation to get through at points. Getting outdoors has been the ultimate endorphin builder for both of us and overall has just helped us grow more as a couple. 

The fact that we have Cuyahoga Valley National Park so close to where we both live is the biggest blessing. Some of our very first dates were hikes in the park, so we have special memories here. We do like to travel and have gone on backpacking adventures in many places, but CVNP offers so many awesome experiences at a local level, and we are so grateful for that. CVNP truly is one of the assets in Northeast Ohio that keeps us loving Cleveland as much as we do. 

Having a shared sense of adventure has brought us memories that we will always cherish, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park will continue to be our go-to “date day” destination!

Love Is in the Air
featuring Great Blue Herons of CVNP

Carrying sticks back to the nest! (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Great blue herons have been nesting in the Cuyahoga Valley since around 1990. Their biggest nesting site is just off Bath Road, where thousands of young herons have fledged over the decades.

These enormous birds are monogamous throughout the season, but they choose new mates each year. Their courtship rituals are an early sign of spring in the Cuyahoga Valley.

In late winter, males gather nest material, including large sticks, and present them to a female. If she has accepted the male as her mate, she will take the stick and weave it into the nest. You might also see the pair perform other bonding rituals, such as preening, raising the plumes on top of their heads, or locking their bills. Watch a video >

Great blue herons have elaborate courtship displays that begin in February (Photo: Ed Toerek)

Traditionally, herons begin returning to the area around Valentine’s Day. They’ll begin to show up sporadically throughout the month to collect nest material and begin courtship rituals.

The best and easiest place to see great blue herons is in the southern end of the park at the Bath Road Heronry. There is also a smaller site north of the road, just barely visible in the winter before the trees leaf out. Look for herons flying overhead in the coming weeks as their mating season begins in earnest. 

A Park Proposal
by Jason and Stephanie

We met in the summer of 2011, on our first day of work as camp counselors at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center (CVEEC). The first day of work also happened to be Stephanie’s birthday.  

Jason had worked for the CVEEC before, so he helped train Stephanie on the no-food-waste challenges at meal times, on the songs such as The Funky Chicken, and on animal sounds for the night hikes. We loved teaching together!

Stephanie isn’t from Ohio, so on the weekends, Jason showed her the parts of the park that she hadn't been to for work. Her favorite place became Indigo Lake.

When the summer ended, we started dating. Jason went back to finish his master’s degree in Chicago, and Stephanie started her AmeriCorps service in Cleveland. When Jason visited from Chicago, we would drive to the park to hike and talk about our futures.

Jason moved to Cleveland after graduation. On Stephanie’s birthday, a year from the day they met, he proposed while we were on a picnic at Indigo Lake! We took our own engagement pictures that day around the lake.

We got married four months later at the Church in the Valley, next to the house Stephanie stayed in the summer we met. Our reception was at the November Lodge, on the campus of the CVEEC. We wrote hand-written letters as invitations to their wedding, inviting our guests to the place our story began.

After our reception, we took a walk with our family and friends to the Beaver Marsh. One of our favorite memories of our wedding day is sharing a box of pretzels, a wedding gift from Philadelphia, with park visitors in the parking lot after our walk. We love CVNP!

We want to hear from you! Share your stories of Cuyahoga Valley love with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #forCVNP.





January 30, 2017
Cleaning up the Krejci Dump in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

The sun rises over the Cuyahoga Valley, revealing a glowing landscape. On the eastern slope edge of the national park, birds announce the new day over a peaceful backdrop of wetlands and meadows. Native grasses and wildflowers sway in the breeze. 

Photo: Chris Davis

Difficult as it may be to believe, this serene landscape was once the site of the Krejci Dump, one of the most notorious contamination sites in national park history. 

Thirty years ago, this area was dominated by toxic waste, not black-eyed susans. Decades of unsophisticated waste management had turned wetlands and meadows into a sludgy, dangerous garbage dump. 

Ultimately, responsible parties paid more than $50 million for a decades-long cleanup effort. The remarkable transformation of the Krejci Dump site back to its natural state—and the legal battles associated with it—were landmarks of the environmental movement, with impacts that reached far beyond northeast Ohio. 

Decades of Dumping 

In the 1940s, the Krejci (pronounced Cretch-ee) family began operating a small dump on the eastern edge of the Cuyahoga Valley. By 1980, the site covered more than 200 acres on both sides of Hines Hill Road, with about 50 acres used for dumping. 

The dump started innocently enough: In a time before city-wide trash pickup, everyone was responsible for disposing of their own waste. The Krejci family simply offered an out-of-the-way place for “tipping” household trash. 

Photo: Shawn Mulligan

Over the decades, though, the dump grew bigger, ultimately evolving into full-fledged municipal and industrial dump and salvage yard. 
As solid and liquid waste arrived on the site from local towns and corporations near Cleveland and Akron, it was haphazardly sorted and stored on site. Some waste was burned, while other material was buried or stacked in loose piles. Unlike today, paper records were inconsistent, and in some cases, nearly nonexistent. 

“There wasn’t a lot of paper regarding site operations in this case,” said Shawn Mulligan, the National Park Service (NPS) attorney who led the Krejci enforcement effort. “A lot of [the information] was anecdotal. Krejci had a journal, or notebook, which was helpful, but the best documentation was invoices from a particular stamping plant where they painted and constructed doors.” 

The invoices were for a tar-like material called “dumdum”—yes, really—that was used to give weight and sturdiness to doors. The Krejci family accepted shipments of this dumdum material for many years, disposing of it on site and leaving a trail of invoices that would be key to the NPS case for cleanup. 

The dumdum waste itself was nothing to laugh at. In its liquid form, it was highly flammable. “They would often dump it on the ground, then light it on fire to create a road,” said Mulligan. Years later, John Krejci, the son of the original owner, described an instance when a fire at the dump caused a barrel of dumdum to rocket 300 feet into the air. 

The Krejci Dump operated until 1980. Over just a few decades, the site had accumulated a host of toxic materials, including many carcinogens and environmental dangers. By the time the NPS acquired the land and realized what was on their hands in the mid-1980s, the site was a disaster waiting to happen.
An Unpleasant Discovery 

In 1974, President Gerald Ford signed the bill designating Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, later to become Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP). 

When creating the park, Congress intentionally drew the park boundaries to include the Krejci Dump, assuming it could be easily cleaned up. In late 1985, the park took control of the dump site without knowing the true extent of the contamination. 

As the story goes, soon after the park took control, a visitor was out picking up bottles but was overcome by fumes and became ill. Park rangers also began reporting headaches and rashes. 

Worried about hazardous substances, the park brought in the Ohio and U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA) for a thorough investigation. Their discoveries weren’t what the park was hoping to hear.

Photo: Shawn Mulligan

“There were a lot of scary things out there,” said Veronica Dickerson, current NPS project manager for the site.

The site was chock full of toxic waste, much of it posing a serious threat to human health and the surrounding environment.  An alphabet soup of chemicals followed: polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), arsenic, dioxin, heavy metals, and thousands of drums leaking industrial waste like paint, ink, herbicides, and pesticides.

Needless to say, in 1986, the Krejci Dump site was closed to the public. Because of the degree of risk to human and environmental health, the EPA performed an emergency cleanup under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), more commonly known as the Superfund.

In the years to follow, the park site would undergo extensive cleanup, including removal of the hazardous waste, safe disposal of polluted soils, and revegetation of the land. Initially, the NPS and United States EPA managed the project, removing leaking barrels and consolidating solid waste.

Soon, though, it became clear that the NPS could not—and should not—bear the cleanup costs alone. Somewhere, someone had to be held responsible. 

In the Courts

During the first phase of the project in the late 1980s, the NPS spent millions of dollars on cleanup. Soon, though, it became obvious that simply removing the standing waste wouldn’t be enough, and the cleanup would require more sophistication, work, and money than anticipated. 

Under the Superfund law, parties can be held financially responsible for environmental contamination that they caused, even if the actions were legal at the time. The trouble in the Krejci case was first identifying those responsible parties, and then finding enough evidence to build a case against them. 

The process of bringing the case to the courts was difficult. In 1991, the Department of the Interior Office of the Solicitor submitted a referral to the Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of the NPS, requesting to file suit under the Superfund.  The DOJ declined to file, saying the case needed to be further developed before any action could be taken.

John Debo, superintendent of the park at the time, provided NPS oversight and leadership to the cleanup effort throughout his 21-year tenure with the national park. After the DOJ declined to file suit, he brought the issue to Ohio Congressman Ralph Regula, who had been instrumental in the creation of CVNP and who championed continued funding for the development of the park. 

That connection brought in some annual federal funding so the NPS could continue its research efforts, but the project still wasn’t picking up much speed. 

Photo: Chris Davis

In the early ‘90s, the NPS engaged Shawn Mulligan, the NPS attorney who would take the Krejci case to its finish. They asked him to help find the responsible parties and build a strong case for the national park. 

The project was outside of his regular scope of work, but Mulligan knew he had to take it on. 

“It was unfair to the American public to bear all these costs,” he said. “The National Park Service should not contain sacrifice zones. Every parcel of property is held in the public trust, and we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect and preserve that resource.” 

Because of the magnitude of the project, which he said included “almost every legal and technical issue that you can have,” Mulligan, a former Assistant Attorney General for the State of Colorado, was very interested in building the legal action. In 1994, the Office of the Solicitor gave him the authority to act, and the NPS began legal enforcement. 

Based on the sparse Krejci records that the NPS could find, more than 100 potentially responsible parties were identified. 

Ultimately, this list would be whittled down to just a handful of corporations: Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, 3M, and Chevron, with others added in later years. In 1997, the DOJ filed the NPS suit, and legal battles began in earnest. 

By this point, the DOJ had been approached again and had taken the case, but was doubtful of its success. “They told me we’d be lucky to get 10 cents on the dollar,” Mulligan laughed. 

The opposition to the NPS suit was nothing to scoff at. As some of the most influential corporations in the country, the defendants had formed a powerful joint defense group. 

The NPS case was strong, though. Even with the sparse paperwork from the dump, they steadily built their case based around the dum-dum invoices, business records, site interviews, information requests, and liability analyses. It was looking more and more like a messy court fight would follow. 

A critical breakpoint came in the late 90s. The NPS team had flown to Chicago to meet with the joint defense group. Before meeting with the entire group, Ford privately took the NPS team aside and proposed a quicker fix: They would step up to pay for the entire cleanup themselves. 

It was an ideal solution. With close ties to landfills and other resources, Ford could pay for the cleanup at a lower cost than the NPS could do itself. Mulligan seized upon the unexpected offer, and a deal was struck: Ford would cover the dump cleanup costs, with financial help from General Motors. 

In June of 2000, all but 3M settled with the NPS. 3M was taken to trial but was defeated the next year. Ultimately, the park recovered over $50 million from responsible parties and 100 percent of project costs—a far cry from the pessimistic “10 cents on the dollar” estimate from the DOJ during the case’s early stages.

Photo: Shawn Mulligan

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” said Shawn Mulligan. “This particular case represented an exceptional combination of team players. …It was probably the best team I’ve ever been associated with.”

From here, though, the work of removing the contaminated materials and restoring the park land was just beginning. The next decade would hold many challenges and rewards as the recovery project began in earnest. 

A Long-Awaited Restoration

When Ford took over the cleanup in 2002, the Krejci site was still immensely contaminated with dangerous chemicals. Many of the waste containers and other large debris on the surface had been removed, but there was no telling what was under the surface. 

The main issue was the impact to the environment of the Cuyahoga Valley, including the health of visitors, park staff, plants, and animals. Of particular concern was the spread of toxins through surface water, debris, and stream sediment.

That meant that the contaminated soil and debris had to go.

Ford hired contractors to start digging. They expected to skim off the top layer of debris, hoping it was only a foot or two deep. As with so many other pieces of this story, they made an unpleasant discovery: the debris went much deeper than they thought, as did the contaminated soils beneath. 

In some areas, they had to dig 25 feet to remove all of the buried barrels, trash, and polluted soil. Just when they thought they had finished, another barrel would poke through, or more contaminants would be discovered in the soil. 

Photo: Chris Davis

By the end of the cleanup, 375,000 tons of contaminated soils and debris were removed. Everything was trucked offsite to regulated hazardous waste disposal sites for environmentally protective disposal. 

After the contamination cleanup was complete, the entire area was re-graded to match the original contours of the land, and several areas of wetlands were recreated. In 2012, revegetation of the 40-acre site began, with a variety of native plants planted across the landscape.

Impossible as it had seemed decades earlier, the site was on the road to recovery. 

Krejci Today—and Tomorrow

If you go by the Krejci Dump site today, you’ll see quite a different scene from the one that appeared there 30 years ago. 

During the summer, the meadows sway with native grasses, and small mammals hunt for nuts under the oak trees. In the fall, the wetlands will host migrating waterfowl, while the hillsides blaze with bright yellow flowers. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any evidence that a toxic dump once sat in this spot.

Going forward, the NPS and Ford are in “maintenance mode” for the project to make sure the new vegetation is taking hold, soil erosion is minimized, and the wetlands mature. Each week during the summer, Project Manager Veronica Dickerson joins Ford contractors to walk the entire site, looking for non-native species, and making other observations about soil erosion and other site conditions. 

The site ultimately must adhere to the ecological standards set for national parks by the NPS. These standards are very strict—even higher than the regular EPA standards, according to Dickerson. 

“[The Krejci site] is now as clean as any natural area in the park,” she said. That’s something remarkable, considering what it was in 1985. 

Beyond the immediate benefit to CVNP, the Krejci case has had a lasting impact throughout the National Park System. 

The Krejci Dump was the first NPS contamination case to be litigated in federal court. As other national parks around the country have faced similar situations, the lessons from Krejci have been invaluable. In particular, the case set helpful precedents supporting aggressive clean-up standards and cost recovery when addressing environmental threats on national parks and other federal land.

It also transformed the way that the NPS acquires land for national parks, setting the stage for more careful environmental investigation. 

Photo: Chris Davis

Finally, the challenges of the Krejci site emerged at a time in our country’s history when environmental concerns were just beginning to be taken seriously. Along with other Cleveland-area issues like the infamous burning of the Cuyahoga River, the Krejci case stoked the fires of a nationwide environmental movement that continues today. 

“Ohio was ground zero for a lot of the Superfund litigation in the 80s,” remarked Shawn Mulligan. “Now, the Department of the Interior has a very robust Superfund enforcement program based, in some significant part, on the successes we had in the Krejci litigation.” 

For those who remember its past degradation, the transformation of the Krejci Dump seems almost a miracle. Its restoration is emblematic of our country’s environmental awakening during the last century, and it stands as a fitting tribute to the citizens, legislators, and NPS employees who have worked so hard to protect Cuyahoga Valley National Park. 

The next time you drive along Hines Hill Road near the Krejci Dump site, take a moment to reflect on its past—and its future. Breathe in the fresh air, admire the wildflowers, and listen to the birds singing as the sun sets over a restored landscape. Today, its turbulent history is nothing more than a memory and a triumphant page in CVNP’s rich story.  


1940s: Krejci family begins operating dump

1974: Congress establishes Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area (CVNRA)

1980: Krejci Dump stops its operation

1985: CVNRA expands to include the area of the Krejci Dump

1986: Krejci Dump declared a Superfund site and closed to the public

1987: U.S. EPA initiatives emergency cleanup action

1988: NPS assumes management of the Krejci Dump cleanup

1991: NPS submits first referral to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting suit against parties responsible for site contamination

1994: NPS retains legal counsel to find responsible parties and lead legal enforcement effort; referral successfully submitted to DOJ

1997: U.S. files NPS suit against responsible parties

2000: Most responsible parties settle

2001: 3M defeated in court

2002: Cleanup by Ford (with financial support from GM) begins

2012: Soil removal and grading is completed; revegetation begins

2014: Revegetation completed

2015+: Site vegetation and wetlands monitoring continues





February 2, 2017
By Conservancy member Julie Shuler

My 10-year-old is all about the questions. This morning’s is an easy one: “Mom, of all the national parks we’ve been to, what’s your favorite?”

I know why he’s asking.

For the holidays, some friends gave us a National Park Service Centennial poster and poster pins to mark our journeys.

Thus far we’ve used 27.

Every year, we organize our family vacation around a national park along with hitting any nearby Monuments and/or Historic Sites.

Some kids go to Disney World; mine go to Antietam.

My children are young – 10 & 8 – so we’ve hit six national parks, and we’re still working on a BIG trip out West. Yet, from Acadia to the Rockies to Yosemite – the park in my own backyard is still my favorite.

We are so lucky to have Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Every year we seem to discover something new.

Riding the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad when my children were little was a given. And when we have out-of-town visitors.

Oh, how nice it was to have three hours of peace and quiet.

Walking the Towpath Trail. Sure.  

Then my husband discovered Questing, and we had a new reason to explore. The Ledges made us feel like we’d stepped into a different environment. It’s amazing what nature can do.

Most common question for this Facebook post: “Where on earth are you guys?”

Cuyahoga Valley National Park can teach us so much.

One spring day we were driving on Bath road and noticed dozens of cars – and even more birds atop the trees. A Heron Rookery! How had we never found this before?

Last summer, my son and I had the day to ourselves. We did the Ledges Trail (his favorite) then decided to pull out the “Official Park Map” and go to a few places we’d never been.

Here is what I learned: This park is huge. You can easily spend all day here and not explore everything. It’s not just the outdoorsy Towpath, which gets a lot of the glory. There are buildings to go in, and wayfinding signs to read, and Rangers to talk to, and programs to do.

It’s such an amazing resource.

I realized also that I sometimes take for granted the things in my own backyard. Every year we plan and strategize where to go and what to do. Yet sometimes you don’t have to go far to discover something you’ve never seen.



January 26, 2017
By Joanna Richards, Staff Writer, Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Ranger Pam has a following. On an unusually warm January morning, 55 people head into the woods just a few minutes after 9 am. They’re all trailing CVNP Park Ranger Pam Machuga, a 25-year National Park Service veteran who will wear you out before noon on a Sunday, and make you sweat no matter the temperature.

National Park Service Ranger Pam Machuga’s athletic group hikes reflect a personal passion that extends beyond work hours. “To me hiking is like breathing,” she says. “It allows me to process the world. I always feel better after I hike.” She estimates her miles last year at 860 – most of those in CVNP! Photo taken Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. 

About twice a month during usually cold, snowy Northeast Ohio winters, Ranger Pam, as her fans know her, leads hikes she calls Winter Warm-Ups. They’re hilly, fast, and usually between six and eight miles long. Today’s is about seven miles, and begins on the beautiful Ledges Trail, moves to Haskell Run’s shortloop, and incorporates Boston Run, before returning along the Ledges Trail back to the shelter.

Pam halts everyone for a few short breaks – during which she orders us to hydrate – but aside from that, we book it. Part way through, she announces our pace at around 18 minutes per mile.

“I try to put together a series each quarter for the folks who like to really hike,” Ranger Pam explains to me back at the Ledges Shelter parking lot, three hours and all those muddy miles later. In that time, it has become much clearer to me what Pam and her followers mean by “really hike.” I feel great – but I’m also starving, and need a nap.

You might be surprised that park rangers do this – I was, when a friend first took me to check out a Ranger Pam winter hike a couple years ago. When I thought of the National Park Service then, what came to mind were land stewardship and education. I had seen park staff interact with the public mostly in interpretive roles – showing school children how the canal locks worked, or talking to people about wildlife or invasive species. I expected any hike a park ranger would lead would be more about nature education: fascinating but slow, with lots of stops and discussion.

And of course the park service does offer those kinds of programs – and they’re great! But Pam Machuga’s brisk, challenging hikes regularly bring out 50 to 80 people, eager for serious exercise.

“There’s a real niche for recreation hikes,” she says. “I think people sometimes don’t want to go slow and look at everything. They want to get out and move! It’s good for their heart, it’s good to be outside, and it’s a nice social thing.

“A lot of the folks here become friends – I mean, some of my best friends are my hikers!”

Hiking is what brought together Aurora Cooney, of Fairlawn, and Mickey LaRosa, of Independence. They met through a different hiking club, but Mickey invited Aurora to try a more rigorous Winter Warm-Up. He’s been hiking with Ranger Pam for about 17 years.

Aurora Cooney and Mickey LaRosa met through a different hikers group, but came for a more challenging Winter Warm-Up hike at CVNP. Mickey has been hiking with “Ranger Pam” for about 17 years. Photo taken Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017.

Even after all that time, “It’s always different,” he says. “The weather’s different, the seasons are different. I’ve done this hike a dozen times, maybe 20. The Ledges is one of the most beautiful places. But here we are in January, on a beautiful warm day – it’s just fantastic.”

At the end of her first Ranger Pam experience, Aurora says she appreciated the fast pace. She also explains why she got interested in group hikes: “They go places I would never know to go! There are so many trails in Ohio, but a lot of them I’m not familiar with, and I have gotten lost by myself. So I feel a little bit safer going with a group.”

Aurora is one of many hikers who by the time they hit the parking lot are showing bare arms, their legs happily splattered with mud. The temperature has risen to the upper 50s.

This is my second Winter Warm-Up, and though the weather today is a luxury, I’m a little sad there’s no snow. My first outing with Ranger Pam in more typical winter weather taught me a valuable survival skill. If you like the outdoors, and you live in Northeast Ohio, the best way to get out for much of the year involves generating your own heat. Never a winter hiker before, I’m a habitual one now.

In the spring, I opt more for swimming and paddling and cycling. Pam Machuga adapts to the seasons, too. In March,her Winter Warm-Ups become the “Extreme Spring” series. She keeps hiking.


Want to join Ranger Pam for a hike this winter? Check CVNP’s Winter 2016-2017 Schedule.



January 19, 2017

Sometimes, magic happens in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Several years ago, visiting instructor Diane Kendig taught creative writing for six weeks at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center (CVEEC), one of the Conservancy’s programs. In addition to science, math, and environmental studies, creative arts help children learn and make lasting memories in their national park.

Portions of Diane’s journal were published in About Place Journal, including remarkable poetry from her students and stories of discovery. We’ve excerpted some of those stories here—enjoy!

My Life in the Woods with the Kids
By Diane Kendig, excerpted from About Place Journal (III.II. Section 2)

Students explore CVNP using science, math, social studies, and art to learn about their place in the natural world. (Photo: Melanie Nesteruk)


I was scheduled to meet seventh graders in one of the small bay-window areas of November Lodge. When I did my shtick, they said they knew all about metaphors from their English teacher, who truly must love metaphor because metaphors flowed out of their pens like gold ink:

Leaves which run on branches [thick as] cars on [city] streets –Greg
Old and brittle as an old man/ yet smart/ knowing his surroundings –Tim
…the pain like that of thinking too hard/to write an ode –Matt
Sky is the hole that never ends…filled with translucent marshmallows –Andrew

Assigned to “write about one of the organisms here” Becka sighed, “I want to write on the deer, but I haven’t seen one yet.” I replied, “Well, write an ode to the deer you haven’t seen yet.” As we finished up that session, I read aloud what she had written:
O, I’m wishing, hoping
        waiting to see
the light, soft deer.
I’m wanting, needing
        waiting to spot
the sweet cute face.
I’m thinking, imaginating
        waiting to see
    the furry doe
as cute as a teddy bear
O, I’m wishing, hoping
        waiting to spot
the deer in the forest.
Then, and I swear, this knocked me out, someone shouted, “Look at the deer!” and five deer came walking across the clearing. One stayed off to the left with his butt to us the whole time (lesson on the white tail of the white-tailed deer), and the other four, for all the world as though their stage directions said, “Enter left, stand center-stage for 10 minutes,” stood in the middle of the window, chewing and staring as the kids darted quietly with their cameras.
Then deer and students left, and another group came and we did it again, without the miracle of the deer but with other miraculous odes.


Many students who visit the CVEEC have never been to a national park and arrive on scholarship, supported by your donations.

Friday, we had incredible spring weather, highs of 70, so warm the staff meeting was outdoors. Then yesterday, there was what Thoreau calls a “spitting snow” by afternoon. This morning, when I got up and opened the curtains, I laughed: fat white flakes coming down. None have settled, but it is chilly. We walked for an hour and a half, my nose running like a broken faucet the whole time.

As usual, the best part involves the students I work with and the interns who work with them. I began some new exercises with new students. Tom stunned his teacher with this:

Cattails, cattails, cattails,
all in one pond,
you look in the water
and what do you see?
Not your reflection
or things behind you
but in its innerself
you see another world.
In this world you see
only the coolest animals you can be:
newts and salamanders,
fishes or frogs.
Oh how we love this pond,
Oh how we love this pond.
The “other world” in the pond’s “innerself” is so very Transcendental. Everyone asks me if I edit the students’ poems, but I barely touch them, they arrive so whole.


Students at the CVEEC meet new friends, connect with adult mentors, and come out of their comfort zone. (Photo: Melanie Nesteruk)

Today students wrote persona poems imagining themselves as some organism. I liked this tiny quatrain:
HERON (Nick)
I am usually lonely
stalking my prey.
Sometimes I can stay
here all day.
Another group read John Haines’s “If the Owl Calls My Name” and imagined what they would do if an animal here called to them. One student wrote this:
at sunrise
from his web
I’ll wait for the sun to rise
then climb up his web
to meet him.
We’ll talk a lot
and eat pizza.
We’ll sit on the couch
and watch T.V.
with weird
reality shows.
As the sun begins to
set, I’ll depart,
filled with happiness.


Do you (or your child) have a poem or memory about the Cuyahoga Valley you want to share? Send it to us at—we’d love to hear from you!



January 12, 2017

Yes, we know it’s chilly and wet outside, but that’s no reason to huddle indoors all day! Get started on those New Year’s resolutions and get your blood pumping with a hike through CVNP—there’s still plenty to see in winter. 

For example, think it’s too difficult to learn your Ohio trees without their leaves? Fear no more: This week, we’ll teach you how to identify trees by their bark and other clues. Take our quiz to see where you stand, then check out our tips and put your skills to the test in the park this week. 

Test Your Knowledge

Take a look at the images below, and see if you can guess what trees they are. We’ll go over the answers below—no peeking! 

Tree #1:  

Photo: Steve Nix

Tree #2:  

Tree #3:  

Winter Identification Basics

When you start learning your trees, you usually start with the leaves: those bright bursts of color, full of sunshine and warmth. But here in the winter, there aren’t many green leaves, so you have to look a bit closer. Here are some of the most important clues to look for: 

  • Twigs. The twigs of a tree are your first clue to identifying it. For example, do the twigs branch directly opposite each other, or do they alternate? Hint: The only tree species with twigs opposite each other are maple, ash, dogwood, and buckeye (remember "MAD BUCK"). You can also look for unusually-shaped leaf scars where the leaves used to be attached.
  • Buds. Buds indicate where flowers and eventually leaves will grow. The number and placement of the buds, as well as their texture, can help you identify certain species of trees.  
  • Bark. The outer bark of each tree species has a unique texture, color, thickness, and pattern. While the bark of individual trees can vary by climate or growing conditions, it’s generally one of the best ways to identify a tree without its leaves. Learn to use all of your senses to examine the bark—even by smelling! Some tree species can be identified by gently scratching the bark and seeing what scent it gives off—but please don’t try to nibble on CVNP’s trees. 

Native Trees to Spot in CVNP

Now that you’ve learned the basics of winter tree identification, take a look at some examples of native trees you might spot in the Cuyahoga Valley. 

Yellow Birch: These trees have smooth, yellow-bronze bark that flakes off in horizontal strips. The bark also sometimes has small black marks, and the leaf scars and buds are alternate. Yellow birches also smell like wintergreen if you gently scrape the outer bark of their twigs. 

Photo: Joseph O'Brien

Silver Maple: The buds are the easiest way to identify silver maples, because they’re usually shades of red or reddish-brown with a distinctive, pointy shape. Buds are opposite, and twigs have V-shaped leaf scars. The bark is gray with a scaly appearance in mature trees.

Photo: ISU Forestry Extension 

Musclewood: Also known as hornbeams or ironwoods, musclewood trees have greenish-gray bark with shallow fissures that make the trunks look a bit like flexed muscles—hence the name. Leaf scars and buds are alternate. 

Photo: Rob Duval

Ohio Buckeye: Look for the dark brown, dry, and scaly buds of the Ohio buckeye tree. They are arranged in pairs, opposite each other, with a larger, single bud at the ends of the twigs. You can also look for fallen buckeye nuts on the ground surrounding the tree for an easy hint.

Photo: Ohio DNR

Quiz Answers

Check your quiz answers here: 

  1. Flowering Dogwood: The compressed, oval shape of this tree’s buds give it away. When mature, these trees are often wider than they are tall.
  2. Shagbark Hickory: No surprise about how this tree got its name—just check out that shaggy bark! Note that young shagbark hickories have much smoother bark.  
  3. White Oak: Look for light gray bark that peels just a bit from the top, bottom, or sides of the trunk. About halfway up the tree, the bark tends to form overlapping scales.

How’d you do? Let us know or send photos of cool trees you find to

Want to join a park ranger on a hike? Check out the CVNP’s winter hiking schedule in the Winter Schedule of Events.



January 5, 2017 
by Jennie Vasarhelyi, Chief of Interpretation, Education, & Visitor Services

One of nature’s dramas occurs in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) during winter. It is courtship and nest-building season for bald eagles. You have a chance to witness their aerial display: Bald eagle pairs lock talons and plunge into a free fall, breaking apart just before it looks as though the pairs will crash to the ground.

Bald eagle on nest in CVNP (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Birds provide a window to the beauty and diversity of nature in every season. However, bird watching becomes easier in winter. With leaves gone from trees, birds have fewer places to hide, and their colors stand out against drab winter vegetation. The drama of eagle courtship is just one reward of winter bird watching.

If you miss eagle courtship, you may still be able to observe their nest. Since 2006, a pair of eagles has nested along the Cuyahoga River near the Station Road Bridge Trailhead (13513 Riverview Road). You can view the nest from the Towpath Trail about 1/2 mile north of the trailhead. Look across the river from the spot where a horse trail first diverges from the Towpath Trail. If courtship is successful, the eagles will again lay eggs by mid-February.

Great horned owl (Photo: NPS/Jim Peaco)

Great horned owls also lay eggs in winter. When you visit woodlands between dusk and midnight or just before dawn, listen for males and females hooting to each other.

Another winter drama is led by a much smaller bird, the black-capped chickadee. This tiny bird is identified by its black cap, black chin and distinctive “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call. In winter, other types of birds flock around chickadees. Scientists believe this provides for safety in numbers and/or feeding efficiency by increasing the chance of finding a location rich with food.

Black-capped chickadee (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Encounters with mixed flocks are common along woodland trails. With just a little effort, you can learn to identify some of the common birds in the flocks. For instance, tufted titmice are predominately gray with a crest and blackish marking just above their bill. Nuthatches forage on tree trunks, seeking insects and larvae. The more common white-breasted nuthatch has a black cap and white face and breast.

You might also be rewarded with a rarer find. Brown creepers, like nuthatches, forage for insects and larvae hiding in tree bark. However, they move around the trunk in a distinctive pattern, starting low and spiraling up until flying to a low spot on the next tree. They are mottled brown and have a stiff tail that props them against the tree.

Tufted titmouse (Photo: Ed Toerek)

The birds described so far are year-round residents. Others arrive from Canada, treating the valley as a southern destination. Dark-eyed juncos are common winter visitors. They are small gray-black birds with a white belly and outer tail feathers. Less common is the northern shrike. This black-masked bird hunts from perches, swooping down to stun or kill insects, rodents and small birds with its powerful, hooked bill. Northern shrikes lack talons but may impale their prey on thorns to eat or store for later.

CVNP offers bird-watching activities at least monthly during the winter. The next is this Saturday, January 7, where you can hike with Volunteer Naturalist Dwight Chasar to see wintering birds such as purple finches, red-breasted nuthatches, and white-throated sparrows (Oak Hill Trailhead, 8:30 – 10:30 AM).

White-throated sparrow (Photo: Ed Toerek)

Other bird-watching programs reveal the changes in nature that occur as winter progresses, including the early start to spring migration when diverse ducks pass through the valley. See upcoming programs on our online calendar or in the quarterly Schedule of Events (also available at the Boston Store Visitor Center).






December 29, 2016

2017 is going to be a busy, exciting year for the Conservancy and Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Plans are officially underway for a brand-new park visitor center, the expansion of the East Rim mountain biking trail, new musical styles in our concert series, and exciting new member benefits (stay tuned!). 

Are you ready?! Here’s what coming to CVNP in 2017: 

A New Visitor Center for CVNP

Earlier this month, the Conservancy board approved plans to move forward with a new Visitor Center in Cuyahoga Valley National Park! The Conservancy has been steadily raising funds for this project for the past year, but we are now to the point where everything will start to move ahead in earnest. 

Starting in January, we’ll be working with a team of Ohio designers and architects to get the design and construction planning rolling. We’ll be initially focusing on final fundraising and exhibit/building design. We expect to break ground in 2018, with a planned opening date in May of 2019, when the Conservancy will turn over the visitor center in its entirety to the National Park Service. 

This project is one of the biggest the Conservancy has ever undertaken—and we are so excited to have you on board with us as we move ahead. We’ll keep you updated about this exciting project as the year progresses. Read more from >

East Rim Trail Expansion

Attention mountain bikers: The Conservancy has received funding to help complete Phase 2 of the East Rim Trail! In the late summer and fall of 2016, trail crews roughed out 4.5 miles of the second phase of this trail, but there are still finishing features to be added that will create that special, top-notch experience you’ve grown to expect on the first section of the trail. With help from a grant secured from the S.L. Gimbel Fund of The Community Foundation, the park can move toward completing the loop and additional features, including a 2+ mile connector section on Phase 2.  

The park will once again be contracting with Alex Stewart, a world-class mountain bike trail designer, to make sure these new sections on the East Rim Trail meet your expectations for a fantastic riding experience. Keep up-to-date on the latest updates on East Rim >

New Musical Styles at CVNP Concerts

The Conservancy recently secured funding from the Ohio Arts Council to bring in several new, unique artists to our winter CVNP concert series. We’re aiming to introduce new audiences to the park by presenting concerts in musical styles that appeal to younger and more diverse audiences.

Peter Mawanga & The Amaravi Movement

Upcoming artists include Alarm Will Sounds, Harpeth Rising, and Peter Mawanga & the Amaravi Movement. We’ll still have old favorites like Mountain Heart and Solas as well. We hope to see you at a concert soon!  See concert schedule >

Every Kid in a Park—continued! 

As we wrote a few weeks ago, Cleveland has been designated a “focus city” for the Every Kid in a Park program this school year. This national initiative aims to give fourth graders free access to public lands and waters. Last year, we brought over 1,300 Cleveland and Akron students to the park as part of this program, and we’re looking at a dramatic expansion in 2016-2017. 

Here in CVNP, the National Park Foundation has given $210,000 to bring Cleveland youth to our national park. In the coming year, the Conservancy will strive to bring 8,000 Cleveland-area students to CVNP as part of Every Kid in a Park—above and beyond the 9,000 students we serve annually. Learn more about Every Kid in a Park >

New Member Benefits 

We want to make sure you have an amazing experience as a member of the Conservancy. Members already get discounts on event tickets and at Trail Mix, but we’re looking into offering fun, new member benefits where you can experience a behind-the-scenes look at the national park. We’ll let you know about these new opportunities as they come up, so stay tuned! 

Photo: Melanie Nesteruk

We are immensely grateful to the Conservancy members, donors, volunteers, and advocates who make all of these projects possible. If you haven’t yet given a gift to support our work in 2017, we hope you’ll consider one today

From all of us here at the Conservancy, we wish you a very happy, safe, and adventurous start to the year! 

Donate to support 2017 Conservancy projects like these >




December 22, 2016

Each year, our members, donors, volunteers, and advocates help the Conservancy accomplish BIG things for Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This past year has been a full one as we celebrated the National Park Service Centennial. We want to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for showing your support for Ohio’s national park this year. 

As we enter the next century for national parks, we feel lucky to have such a strong community with us. Take a moment to read up on our 2016 successes and see the impact your support has in CVNP below. 

We’re #forCVNP: Fiscal Year 2016 Successes

Click to see everywhere your support has an impact in CVNP >

With your generosity, the Conservancy’s mission comes alive: 

Engaging public support for key national park programs…. 

TAUGHT 10,392 children and adults about nature, sustainability, science, and more at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center (CVEEC). 

Photo: Melanie Nesteruk 

PARTNERED with NPS staff to welcome 6,300 volunteers to the park for habitat restoration, trail monitoring and maintenance, visitor services, and much more.  

GAVE 2,243 scholarships to CVEEC students so they could see, hear, smell, and touch their national park—maybe for the first time. 

EDUCATED 2,174 students at All the Rivers Run, the CVEEC’s flagship residential program for fourth through eighth graders. 

Photo: Melanie Nesteruk

WELCOMED 1,300 Cleveland and Akron students to their national park through Every Kid in a Park, a national initiative to bring fourth graders to public lands for free. 

PLANTED 900 native trees and 3,800 native wildflowers with volunteers. 

JUMP-STARTED 50 high school careers at the Summer Environmental Education Academy for rising ninth graders.                 

…and providing services to enhance public use and enjoyment of the park. 

WELCOMED 62,095 visitors to Trail Mix stores for park information, snacks, and more.

CONNECTED 13,655 music-lovers with concerts in CVNP, including the Heritage Series, House Concert series, and Music in the Meadow.

EDUCATED 1,026 adult learners at Cuyahoga Valley Institute programs, including Lyceum lectures. 

FEASTED on fresh, local food with 646 foodies at Dinner in the Valley events. 

PROVIDED a quiet space to think for 142 meetings and retreats. 

HOSTED 100 weddings in historic park spaces. 

CELEBRATED the National Park Service Centennial with nearly 15,000 visitors at special centennial events, including BioBlitz and Celebrate100!

A BIG thanks to all who helped make these programs possible. Our successes are shared among all of you who have given your time, talent, and treasure to the Conservancy. Truly, we couldn’t do it without you. 

Want to support more projects like these? Make a special year-end donation to protect and preserve your national park for future generations >



by guest author Jennifer Wenger | December 15, 2016

Rena Hatch Fiedler likes to reminisce about her time spent as a child in the Stanford House, a Greek Revival structure just north of the village of Boston in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP). Every memory is a good one—the farm animals she played with; the abundance of food, expertly prepared by her grandmother; and, perhaps most enjoyable of all, her grandfather, an affable man who joked with her relentlessly. She was welcomed into this world in the front, ground-floor bedroom in 1926, and 20 years later, she and her husband traded wedding vows in the living room, just across the hallway.

Stanford House, c. 1800s

That’s a lot of history for one building to lay claim to. For roughly 135 years, the Stanford House and its surrounding farmland played the role of strong, silent provider to the people who lived there, keeping them nourished, grounded, and—for the most part—safe from harm. After the National Park Service purchased the property in 1978, the Stanford House would receive new life, offering a peaceful retreat for travelers, students, and others who wished to develop a more personal bond with the region and its beginnings. 

The story of the Stanford House can be pieced together with help from books on the early years of Summit County, oral histories, and historic structure summaries, among other resources. It begins with James Stanford, one of the original settlers to the Cuyahoga Valley. James, who was born in Ireland in 1775, was living in Trumbull County, Ohio, in 1805, the year he signed on with the Connecticut Land Company to help survey a portion of the Connecticut Western Reserve. The following year, he returned to the newly charted territory with his wife and growing family to establish their lifelong home.

Stanford House today offers a cozy retreat for park visitors 

Two tales about James Stanford bear retelling. First, he’s credited with giving Boston Township its name by resolving a minor power struggle between two fellow settlers. Whereas Alfred Wolcott liked the sound of Wolcottsburg and Samuel Ewart preferred Ewartsville, Stanford proposed the name of Boston, giving homage to the town in Massachusetts that was so pivotal to America’s roots. (Some historians, after discovering that the Irish township in which James was born was also named Boston, wonder if he might have been secretly honoring his own roots as well.) 

The second tale has to do with his sheer luck. Originally, the Stanford property had been located on a swath of high ground in the northeast part of the township, while Alfred Wolcott’s property was located in the valley, on the east side of the Cuyahoga River. When Wolcott’s new bride told her husband that she feared the vapors given off by a nearby swamp were unhealthy and she wished to move, Wolcott asked Stanford to swap properties, and he agreed. 

Historic illustration of Stanford House

Stanford’s new property proved wonderfully fertile for growing wheat, hay, and other crops, and, as a bonus, it possessed a natural spring. Furthermore, James had no way of knowing then that, in two decades, the Ohio and Erie Canal would be constructed alongside the river, connecting Boston Township to markets in Cleveland, Akron, and points beyond. His neighborly gesture ensured that the Stanfords would become one of the more prosperous families in the region. 

James Stanford died at the age of 52 in 1827, the same year in which the first section of the canal opened, and he willed the farm to his eldest son, George. Sixteen years later, in roughly 1843, George would build the stately home on Stanford Road. Over time, he would add several outbuildings, including a barn, smokehouse, springhouse, and granary. 

George and Catherine Stanford

George and his wife Catherine had eight children, though sadly, only one—George Carter (George C.)—outlived his parents. According to Rebecca Jones Macko, a ranger and cultural resources expert in CVNP’s Division of Interpretation, Education and Visitor Services, one son died near the end of the Civil War in Andersonville Prison, Georgia. As for the others, no one knows the causes, although it’s conceivable that disease brought on by the canal could have played a role.

Born in 1839, George C. Stanford is one of the best known of the early Stanfords, thanks to the diary he kept for most of his adult years. George C.’s day-to-day entries offer a glimpse into the life of a farmer-businessman at a time when he and his fellow Bostonians were transitioning from horses and canal boats to the trains that would begin rumbling through the area in 1880. He dabbled in a little bit of everything—from lumber to dairy to hay and corn, to apple cider, and even lightning rods. 

George C. was a “less is more” type of journal writer, describing actions over feelings and sometimes leaving out the most important parts. 
“At some point, (George) loses a hand to a hay knife in chopping silage for his cattle,” says Jones Macko. “Loses his hand. He continues to keep the diary, but he never mentions losing the hand.” 

At age 30, George C. married Lida Wetmore, and together they had three children: Ellen, Perkins, and Clayton. Although Perkins and Clayton would inherit other property, Ellen was the heir of the Stanford House and part of its acreage. (Clayton and his family moved into the granary, which had been converted into a house and pulled—by horses—up the hill next door.) After her father died in 1921, Ellen decided to give the house and land to Earnest Dickinson, a farmer who lived on Stanford Road and whose grandfather was Lida’s brother. Ellen told Dickinson that the property could be his as long as he and his wife Mary would allow Lida and Ellen to live there and be cared for, and they dutifully complied.

Modern living room in the Stanford House today (NPS photo)

Earnest and Mary Dickinson were Rena Fiedler’s grandparents on her mother’s side. In 1954, they sold the property to Roy H. Clark, who sold it to the National Park Service in 1978. From the late 1980s until 2008, the Stanford House was operated as a youth hostel, providing low-cost accommodations to area visitors. After receiving a $300,000 facelift, funded by Conservancy donors and the National Park Service, the Stanford House was reopened in 2011 and is now available for rental by environmental education classes as well as for family reunions, business retreats, and other uses. 

Even now, the stories live on.

“To step into the Stanford House is to step back in history,” says Jones Macko. “Yes, the furniture is a little more modern and there’s a modern feel to it. And yet walking through, you can almost hear the echoes of the farm that was there in the past.” 

She adds, “George C. lived through tumultuous times. And yet, you can’t see that looking at the house. The house still stands. Things will last long beyond us. Listen to the stories.” 


In 2011, the Conservancy led a campaign to restore the Stanford House in keeping with its historic roots. The project funded structural rehabilitation, new furnishings and lighting, fire safety features, and a renovated kitchen. All told, the Conservancy raised $192,500 from 68 generous donors to ensure future generations could experience the history of the Stanford House in their national park. 

Today, the Conservancy operates the Stanford House as a rental and educational facility. The historic home and its location along the Towpath and Stanford trails offer a unique “home base” for groups hoping to make an excursion in the national park. Youth groups, photo clubs, school children, or other community groups can rent the entire house year-round.  

Learn more about visiting or renting the Stanford House for yourself or a group >




December 1, 2016

We’re excited to announce that Cleveland has been designated a “focus city” for the Every Kid in a Park program this school year! This national initiative aims to give fourth graders free access to public lands and waters. Here in CVNP, the National Park Foundation has given $210,000 to bring Cleveland youth to our national park. In the coming year, the Conservancy will strive to bring 8,000 Cleveland-area students to CVNP as part of Every Kid in a Park—above and beyond the 9,000 students we serve annually.

Cleveland is one of only nine focus cities chosen throughout the country, so we are greatly honored to be part of this program. The field trip grant, part of the Foundation’s Open OutDoors for Kids program, will support transportation for fourth grade classes in the Cleveland area to visit the Cuyahoga Valley. 

Come One, Come All

The Every Kid in a Park initiative began on September 1, 2015. Its vision is to give every fourth grader in the country free access to public lands and waters. 

When they receive their park pass, current fourth graders and their families have free access to more than 2,000 federally managed lands and waters across the country. From national parks like the Cuyahoga Valley to national historic sites, forests, and wildlife refuges, America’s youth have an opportunity to explore the wonders of nature.

Connecting youth to the outdoors is now more important than ever, with over 80 percent of our population living in cities and kids spending more and more time looking at screens. Particularly for youth who may have never experienced the magic of the Cuyahoga Valley or similar areas, an outdoor adventure can be life-changing.

Kids in the Cuyahoga Valley

Here in CVNP, the Conservancy has partnered with the National Park Service to bring fourth graders from the Cleveland-Akron area to the park. 

“Every Kid in a Park is a tremendous opportunity to introduce children to the outdoors, especially those who live in urban areas and may rarely travel outside the city,” said Deb Yandala, CEO of the Conservancy. “It’s a chance for everyone to experience something new.”

During the 2015-2016 school year, the Conservancy’s Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center (CVEEC) welcomed 1,300 fourth graders to the park for Every Kid in a Park programs. 

From Cleveland Metropolitan School District, students attended Low Bridge, Everybody Down at the Canal Exploration Center, where they learned about the history and importance of the Ohio & Erie Canal. They helped operate a working lock, explored interpretive exhibits, and took a short hike on the Towpath Trail. They also talked about the canal’s impact on the country’s trade, travel, and daily life.

“Many of the Hispanic and African American students add rich layers of discussion when we visit the exhibits about immigration and travel,” said one of the programs instructors. “Trying on clothes from the past is also a huge hit!”

Similarly, Akron Public Schools students attended the Rockin’ at the Run day program from the CVEEC. During the program, they hiked trails in the park to learn about the geology of the valley, including different types of bedrock, geologic time scales, and microclimates. They also learned how rocks were created, reaching millions of years back in time, and talked about how humans have influenced the landscape.

Beyond the academic aspect of both programs, children get a chance to experience their national park firsthand. They hold ancient rocks in their hands, see a working lock in action, and stretch their legs on trails that early settlers once walked. By creating a physical connection with the national park—perhaps for the first time—they can begin to understand its value.

After each program, students receive their official Every Kid in a Park pass. Although access to CVNP is already free, they can now visit any other national parks or public lands/waters without paying for admission.

The Next Generation of National Park Stewards

In the coming year, the Conservancy will aim to bring 8,000 Cleveland-area students to CVNP as part of Every Kid in a Park. Many of these students may have never visited a national park. 

By introducing children to outdoor adventures at a young age, the Conservancy and our national park aim to spark a lifelong love for wild places—and their history and preservation.

“Now that they know so much about the park, they can return with family and friends and show itoff themselves,” said a CVEEC instructor. “They’re empowered to show their new knowledge, and excited to use their park passes to explore more.”

Being in the park gives children a chance to step away from their phones and social media apps. They see, touch, hear, taste, and smell the real world: its animals, trees, and stones. They form a connection to a physical place.

We're grateful to all of the donors, volunteers, and advocates who are helping create the next generation of national park stewards.


In Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Every Kid in a Park initiative is possible only because of outside funding. Thank you to all of the donors who so generously contributed to cover program fees, transportation, and other expenses for Cleveland and Akron students during the program’s initial year in 2015-2016: 

  • The Abington Foundation
  • Akron General Medical Center
  • The Andrews Foundation
  • ArcelorMittal
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • Kelvin & Eleanor Smith Foundation
  • National Park Foundation

Learn more about Every Kid in a Park in CVNP >

All photos by NPS/Ted Toth



Guest post by Jennie Vasarhelyi, NPS | November 17, 2016

Throughout the year, the Beaver Marsh in Cuyahoga Valley National Park teems with life. Depending on the month, you may be serenaded by frogs, watch turtles swim among lily pads, glimpse a beaver nibbling on a willow branch, or hear northern cardinals call from snowy trees.

Let the opportunities to make new discoveries lure you back to the Beaver Marsh each month. November should not be an exception.

Beavers in Late Fall

North American beaver (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

November is an active month for beavers as they prepare for winter. They are primarily nocturnal, but are frequently observed at dawn or dusk.

You may see them collecting softwood branches, such as willow and aspen, which they store in under-water caches in front of their lodge as a winter food supply. You can also view one of their lodges from a pullout along the boardwalk. This gives them a wider area to swim and minimizes dangers from predators on land.

Once the marsh freezes, their world becomes constricted. They no longer have open water to swim easily around their marsh. They will spend more time in their lodge, using the underwater entrance and exit to access their stored food cache. 

River otters can also be found at Beaver Marsh! (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

To delay freezing, beavers will break up the ice. Look for spots where beavers have used their heads to break up ice from below its surface.

November Birding at Beaver Marsh

The Audubon Society of Ohio has named the Beaver Marsh as an Important Bird Area. November bird sightings helped earn this designation. Some of these sightings are rare, so consider return trips throughout the month to look for new sightings.

Insect populations, which have diminished in the surrounding uplands, linger into November. Birds that feed on insects are drawn to the marsh. Search for eastern bluebirds and cedar waxwings, two of the more beautiful valley species.

Eastern bluebird (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Eastern bluebirds have a vivid blue color that contrasts with their rusty breast. 

Cedar waxwing (Photo: Brandon Wiese)

Cedar waxwings are a blend of brown, gray, and yellow that contrasts with their black mask. Cedar waxwings travel in groups; the group chatter can help you find them. Their numbers start to peak in late October and continue into November.

While wood ducks are summer residents, their numbers increase during fall migration. Sometimes you can spot more than 20 wood ducks within the marsh. Males are ornate, with a glossy green head and back, brown breast, and tan sides—all highlighted with white striping. These graceful ducks are easy to identify by their chocolate head with a white marking up the back of their necks.

Tundra swans may also stop by. This native swan has a predominately black bill, unlike the red bill of the non-native mute swan.

Towpath Trail boardwalk at Beaver Marsh (Photo: Sue Simenc) 

Some year-round residents may also make surprising appearances at the Beaver Marsh in November. A visit to the marsh near dawn may be rewarded with the sounds of great horned owls calling from nearby woodlands. On warmer days, you still may see turtles sunning themselves on logs. 

Abundant nature viewing opportunities occur because the Beaver Marsh is among the most diverse natural communities in the park. It is also one of the valley’s most inspiring places.

Scientists believe that a wetland existed in the area before settlement. Starting in the 19th century, land development drained this original wetland. By the time the National Park Service purchased the land, it had become home for an auto repair shop.

Overlooking the Beaver Marsh (Photo: Sue Simenc)

Efforts by humans and beavers transformed this site back into a wetland. In 1984, the Portage Trail Group of the Sierra Club organized a site clean-up. Around the same time, beavers started returning to the valley after over a century absence. By flooding the area, beavers awakened long-dormant seeds of wetland plants.

The 70-acre Beaver Marsh is significant because of its size, rich seed bed, complex water chemistry, and plant diversity. This plant diversity, in turn, meets the habitat needs of a diverse wildlife. This salvage-yard-turned-magnificent wetland shows the potential for nature to recover when we give it a chance.



November 10, 2016

Here’s something to impress your friends: In Cuyahoga Valley National Park, you can see rocks that are older than the dinosaurs

Around 400 million years ago, CVNP was covered by an ancient saltwater sea, full of enormous fish and sharks.  In the millions of years since, the forces of nature have shaped the landscape into the green valley you know today. In some places, though, there are lingering reminders of older times.  

An Ancient Sea

The bedrock of the Cuyahoga Valley originated from the Paleozoic Era (roughly 540 to 250 million years ago), when fish, amphibians, and reptiles first appeared. As sediment settled to the bottom of the sea or washed up along riverbanks and shorelines, it slowly compacted into a type of rock called sedimentary rock. 

Shale is the oldest type of sedimentary bedrock in the park. It’s formed from silt and clay and creates thin layers of rock that split apart easily. 

Brandywine Falls and the surrounding trails are a scenic spot to see all three types of CVNP’s shale (Photo: Rick Walker)

Geologists have divided CVNP’s shale into three major areas, based on natural stream divisions: Chagrin Shale, Cleveland Shale, and Bedford Shale. (In case you’re curious, these are not the natural gas-producing shale that has been in the news so much lately.) 

You can see all three types of shale at Brandywine Falls. In particular, look for the unique greenish-gray color of the Chagrin Shale as you follow Brandywine Gorge Trail along the north side of the creek. 

Glaciers Roll Through

Sandstone layers at the Ritchie Ledges (Photo: NPS)

About two million years ago, the Ice Age began, bulldozing the Cuyahoga Valley at least four times. As they moved into Ohio from the north, the glaciers completely buried the Cuyahoga Valley with silt, sand, and clay. 

Then, about 10,000 years ago, the climate began to warm once again, and the glaciers melted. They left behind many lakes and rivers, including Lake Erie to the north and our very own Cuyahoga River. Throughout the valley, you can see also enormous granite boulders that were left behind in odd places as the glaciers melted. Even the town of Peninsula was once a glacial lake about 50,000 years ago! 

Water coursing over the bedrock of the Cuyahoga Valley shaped it into what we know today (Photo of Brandywine Falls: Claus Siebenhaar)

Finally, the Cuyahoga River re-carved the original valley into what we know today, washing away the sediment and carving down to the ancient bedrock. 

Best Places to Explore CVNP’s Geology

Sun shines through the landscape of the Ritchie Ledges (Photo: Tom Jones)

Here are our favorite places to see the ancient geology of the Cuyahoga Valley:

  • The Ritchie Ledges. The Ledges showcase a remarkable display of Sharon Conglomerate, another type of bedrock and a pebbly mixture of sand and quartz. In areas where the softer rock has washed away, you can see a “honeycomb” effect. 
  • Brandywine Falls. We already mentioned that you can see three different types of shale here, but you can also see the harder Berea Sandstone at the top of the falls. Berea Sandstone is primarily quartz mixed with other minerals and rock fragments.
  • Blue Hen Falls. For a beautiful example of shale layering, check out the overhanging plate of sandstone at Blue Hen Falls, which drops water 15 feet onto the underlying shale. Because shale is softer than sandstone, the water has eroded it away faster, leaving behind the rounded shape of the pool that you can see today.

Late fall is a good time to take a hike to see the original bedrock after most of the leaves have fallen. Come check it out with your family this week! Check out our Outdoor Adventures guide to explore hiking trails & more >



November 3, 2016

No, we’re not talking about your Thanksgiving turkey.

CVNP currently protects a healthy population of wild turkeys, who are very active during the month of November. You can spot these recognizable birds in winter flocks along Riverview Road near Deep Lock Quarry and along Hines Hill Road in the eastern edge of the park.

However, turkeys weren’t always so plentiful in the Cuyahoga Valley. Centuries ago, 95 percent of Ohio was covered by forests, the wild turkey’s native habitat. By the early 1900s, only seven percent remained forested. In fact, by 1904, wild turkeys had completely disappeared from Ohio due to deforestation and hunting.

Bringing Back the Wild Turkey

Before wild turkeys could go extinct, state wildlife officials spearheaded a conservation effort to bring them back. In the mid-1950s, as many as 4,000 wild turkeys were transplanted from other states and released in southeast Ohio, where forest habitats were beginning to recover.

Scientists also discovered that turkeys don’t necessarily need deep forests to survive, but can live in “edge habitats” surrounded by farms and fields. During the fall, turkeys even learned to hang out near farm fields where they could feast on corn and other produce left over from the harvest.

Photo: Ohio DNR

As their population began to take root once again, turkeys were brought farther north to expand in CVNP and the rest of northeast Ohio. A single female turkey can lay as many as a dozen eggs, so it didn’t take long for the turkeys’ numbers to improve.

Today, there are wild turkeys found in 80 of Ohio’s 88 counties! In 1985, the population was estimated at 22,000 wild turkeys. In 2008, the population was around 203,000, and the transplant program was ended due to its great success.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) continues to monitor the wild turkey population to ensure it remains healthy and stable. During three annual surveys, scientists and volunteers measure spring gobbling counts (which involves literally counting the number of “gobbles” you hear in a given area), hunting figures, and observation reports.

Turkeys and Thanksgiving

Photo: Ohio DNR

Here’s what CVNP’s chief of interpretation, Jennie Vasarhelyi, had to say about turkeys and Thanksgiving in a 2008 article for the West Side Leader:

“Today’s emphasis on turkey gives the impression that it was on the Thanksgiving menu from the beginning, but as wild rather than farm-raised turkey. This might or might not have been true. ‘Wild fowl’ was served at the 1621 harvest meal shared by American Indians and Pilgrims that is often considered the first Thanksgiving. However, it could have been duck or goose rather than wild turkey. If turkey were served, it would have shared the table with other meats such as cod, lobster, eel, and venison.

“Whatever happened early on, turkeys did become part of Thanksgiving. But the turkeys served, while farm-raised, were different from what we mostly eat today. Earlier domestic turkeys are now known as heritage turkeys.”

Wild Turkey as U.S. National Bird?

1962 cover of the New Yorker, imagining the wild turkey on the U.S.’s Great Seal (Image: New Yorker cover archive, Anatole Kovarsky)

You know that story about Benjamin Franklin wanting a turkey to be on the seal of the President of the United States instead of a bald eagle? It’s probably not true, but Franklin did have some great things to say about turkeys, which may be the basis for the myth:

“The Turkey is in Comparison [to a Bald Eagle] a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

Nice description, Mr. Franklin! We agree that turkeys are quite respectable—and fun to watch. Enjoy this month of transitions, and keep your eyes open for wild turkeys in your national park. If you take any great photos—or turkey videos—send ‘em our way at



October 27, 2016 (originally published Oct. 2, 2014)
By Jim Roetzel, Cuyahoga Valley Photographic Society 

Fall probably brings more photographers to the Cuyahoga Valley than any other season. The woods draped in the colors of fall are just beautiful. 

However, many photographers fall into a couple traps. They don’t give their fall photos the priority it demands. Some shoot their photos too quickly or at wrong times of the day or from a safe distance. 

To be an effective nature photographer you have to learn to slow down, appreciate the quality of light, and record a variety of expression of fall color with your camera.

This time of year, there are colors of fall in the trees and shrubs, and the last of the summer wildflowers have arrived. As the trees begin to turn and the colors move from green to yellow to red, start by shooting in open meadows and areas near the ponds and Towpath Trail. 

As fall approaches its peak in a couple weeks, everywhere is great! These are the days to visit larger overlooks, such as the Ledges Overlook. As the calendar moves past peak, I recommend photographing the moving water areas like Blue Hen Falls and or the lower Brandywine area, where you can make exceptional photographs by shooting small areas in the stream. 

“When” is much more important than "where." In Ohio, fall color typically peaks around mid- to late October, but a more important "when" is the time of day. So, keep an eye on the weather forecast and plan your photography around it.

If it is a sunny day, get out early or late—before 10:00 a.m. or after 4:00 p.m. If the sky is overcast, it’s just the opposite.

Get close to your subject. Effective working distances are 1 to 15 feet.  And only take on the sweeping scenes when everything from the foreground to distant clouds are all “working” in your photograph. Look for patterns, reflections, environmental conditions like fog, and people interacting with the season.  Try to be creative with different angles and perspectives.

Aim for a variety of fall scenes.  Think small and build from there.  Begin by photographing a single leaf, then move on to a small groups of leaves, an entire tree, then a group of trees, fall foliage near water, fall color lining a park road, the progression of seasons, man interacting with nature, or “Halloween” things like pumpkins. Consider taking your camera to the Szalay’s store in the valley for some fun shots. 

Set your camera’s ISO to a lower ISO- 100 to 250. Set your lens aperture to F/8 or F/11.  Meter a medium tone; most of fall foliage is medium! Set your shutter speed accordingly. 

Avoid shutter speeds below 1/60th– increase your ISO or use a tripod. When reviewing your images, keep an eye on your histogram—try to keep it in the middle (or just slightly to the right).

Of all the park’s environmental conditions, the most challenging is wind. Photographers love overcast light because the fall colors will be deeply saturated, but that typically means slower shutter speeds. As you use slower shutter speeds, steadying the camera and the wind become issues.

You can easily keep the camera steady by using a tripod and electronic shutter release. But the wind you can’t change. You just have to wait it out. You can always increase the ISO of your digital camera, but there are trade-offs in image quality. 

Hint: My favorite time to photograph fall color is shortly after a gentle rain using a tripod. I use a small hand towel to keep things dry.

Enjoy the beautiful fall color in Cuyahoga Valley National Park! 

All photos courtesy of Jim Roetzel. For more information about the Cuyahoga Valley Photographic Society, visit the Conservancy’s website



October 13, 2016

If you’ve visited the Conservancy’s administrative offices at Hines Hill Center, you’ve probably noticed them: large, stone faces glaring down at you from the tops of buildings, elaborate stone walls, or stained-glass windows peeking around corners. 

What’s the story behind these unusual pieces of decoration? The answer involves a demolitions contractor, a psychiatric building, and a Cleveland school. 

The Beginning

The Hines Hill property was originally built in 1904 as a summer home for the Jaite family, who owned the Jaite Packaging mill just down the road. During the summer months, they enjoyed a spacious house (now the home of our administrative offices), as well as a barn (now the Hines Hill Conference Center) and a chicken coop (now the Stone Cottage). 

Imagine yourself walking across the grounds in summer, maybe stopping to pull weeds in the vegetable garden outside the chicken coop, or listening to the chickadees singing in the treetops. It must’ve been a perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the paper mill!

Patching Together Hines Hill

The Jaite family eventually sold the house, and it passed to several owners in the years following, including the president of Northern Ohio Bank. The most recent owners were Robert and Phyllis Gioia (pronounced “joy-a”), who purchased the house in 1975 and played a big role in shaping the look of the buildings today. 

Robert Gioia was a demolitions contractor with a passion for funky pieces of art and architecture. In his work, he was constantly on the lookout for new pieces to salvage and add to his home in the Cuyahoga Valley, many of which you can still see. 

Here are a few of our favorite salvaged treasures at Hines Hill Center and their origins: 

  • Stone face medallions on Hines Hill Conference Center and Stone Cottage: These large carvings of a baker, tailor, and scholar stare down at you from the outside walls of the Conference Center. They were originally part of the old University School building, where the faces represented trades and philosophers that the school's founders respected, valued, and promoted in the late 1800s. They were created by a father of an early alumni of University School and mounted on the walls of the old school building before making their way to Hines Hill. 

  • Stained glass windows (throughout property): Stained-glass windows around the Hines Hill House and a few other locations on the property likely came from an unknown psychiatric building in the area. The copper cupola on the building also comes from the same place.

  • Stone fireplace in Hines Hill House: The fireplace in our administrative office came from Case Western Reserve University. 
  • Woodwork and sliding glass doors in the Stone Cottage: These gorgeous features also came from Case Western Reserve University, when the college’s old infirmary was demolished. 
  • Flat tops of stone walls: These come from Van Aken Rapid Station near Shaker Heights. Additional stone pieces on the outside of the buildings come from the old post office in downtown Cleveland. 

There are still some mysteries about the origins of many pieces, including several pieces of intricate woodwork, leaded-glass windows, and French doors. Part of the fun of exploring is wondering about the past lives of these unique pieces! 

Hines Hill Today

The national park purchased the Hines Hill property in 1988, and the Conservancy moved in on November 15, 2004. Today, you can find Conservancy staff and park volunteers here on a daily basis—as well as a variety of wildlife, including pileated woodpeckers, red-tailed and Cooper’s hawks, red foxes, wood ducks, and deer. 

Hines Hill House is now also home to the John F. Seiberling Gallery, which hosts rotating exhibits of park art and photography. Currently, we're hosting a photo exhibit featuring national parks around the country, "Amazing Places!" We’d love to see you here—come visit us to explore the grounds and this unique piece of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The Seiberling Gallery is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you want to hang out a bit longer, you might consider renting one of our spaces for a birthday party, business meeting, or wedding



October 6, 2016
By Dwight and Ann Chasar, CVNP Volunteers

Looking for and identifying songbirds during the annual fall migration in CVNP can be more challenging than you might expect. Each fall, migrants from Canada arrive and mix with our "local" migrants. Young birds from both groups increase this mix—so birds should be easy to find in the CVNP, right? Well, it can be trickier than you think! 

Challenges of Fall Birding

Neotropical migrants arriving from Canada and further north must wing their way non-stop across Lake Erie, ultimately heading for warmer climes in Central and South America. After arriving at the southern edge of Lake Erie, they drop, rest, and begin to fuel up for the next leg of their journey. Then, they disperse at a more leisurely pace, mostly skipping the urban areas, to find suitable habitat to refuel. 

But songbirds that arrive in the CVNP may not be so easy to find. They’re often well-camouflaged behind lush foliage that’s peppered with yellow and orange. This is in sharp contrast to the spring migration, when birds start arriving from the south before the leaves are fully out. 

If only there were fewer leaves… But be careful what you wish for! As fall progresses, leaves start dropping from the trees—so are those leaves falling or birds moving? Momentarily confused, it’s easy to lose the bird you’re focused on. To compensate, some birders only look at upward movement. 

Gray Catbird (Photo: Bob Boltz) 

During the spring migration, as hormones flow through their bodies telling them it's time to reproduce, birds burst into song to attract mates and defend territory. These unique songs tell us which species are present. In the fall, however, there’s little need for all this communication; hormone levels have diminished, and the desire to mate is over until next year. 

At best, birding by ear in the fall means catching a call note or two. Thus, seeing the bird becomes much more important for identification—but that can be tricky, as we’ve already discussed. 

Visual Clues

Guest what? You’ve finally spotted a bird well enough—but you still can't identify it! A number of species in the fall don't look like they did in the spring. Earlier in the year, the male is generally more colorful and flashy in order to attract a female—kind of like he’s wearing courting clothes. This breeding plumage makes it easier to find and identify the bird. In the fall, however, the males have either molted to basic or winter plumage, or they’re just much duller. 

In fact, males can look similar to those females we tend to overlook in the spring. For some birds, feathers haven’t been replaced, so they look worn and faded. First-year birds—those born this summer—may not have developed their full adult plumage. So some birds just don't "look" right and can make them difficult to identify. 

A male Blackpoll Warbler, after hatch year (Photo: Sandy Teliak, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)

Well, if all that isn’t challenging enough for you, there are species that look so similar to one another in the fall that identification is nearly impossible. In the spring, the Pine Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, and Bay-breasted Warbler are easily distinguishable in CVNP. In the fall, the three look nearly alike, and views of the back for stripes or the legs/feet for color are nearly mandatory to confidently ID them—which is, of course, difficult thanks to autumn colors and falling leaves. 

Migration Pathways

Speaking of the Blackpoll Warbler, we would be remiss if we didn’t address its remarkable migration pathways. In the spring, this species moves from northern South America through the Caribbean and the eastern half of the U.S. to lands further north and west, finally nesting from Nova Scotia to Alaska. But its fall migration is remarkably different and complex. 

Most of this species fly to the east coast, where they spread out from Nova Scotia to New Jersey. Then, they wait for the appropriate westerly winds, fly out over the Atlantic Ocean to pick up northwesterly trade winds, and finally head toward home using tailwinds. This path is a 40-hour, 2000-mile, non-stop ocean flight until the Blackpoll reaches northeastern South America! The bird will have lost about half its body weight in the process. From nest to winter home, this migration is the longest of any North American songbird. 

Where do birds acquire this energy for migration? It's all about berries! Insects are the feast in spring and summer, but berries become increasingly important to a bird's diet in the fall. 

Gray dogwood berries (Photo: Ann Chasar) 

Not all berries are the same, though. Different kinds of berries have different food value; they are not all available at the same time, or even every year, and their longevity through the season varies. Early-season berries contain more sugar (carbohydrates), and late-season berries have more lipids (fat). Birds have to cue in on quality fruit, ignoring those of lower nutrition (such as invasive honeysuckles).

This need to stock up helps us find birds in CVNP. A good bet for finding fall songbirds is to look in places where berries and insects are found—such as forest edges and shrubby fields. Likely spots are the Towpath Trail, Oak Hill Trail, and the Virginia Kendall Lake area. 

Fall birding isn't easy, but it adds to a life-long learning experience about birds. It certainly makes us thankful that these birds will return to CVNP next year in spring garb!

For further reading about bird migrations, we recommend How Birds Migrate (2nd Edition) by Paul Kerlinger. This book includes a great discussion of how songbirds, flying mostly at night, find their way. 



September 29, 2016

On these crisp fall afternoons in the national park, you might be focused on the cooler weather and the hint of frost in the air. There are some people, however, who are thinking beyond the arrival of winter, into the next season: volunteers for the park’s seed collection program.

Collecting wild bergamot seeds, a common native wildflower in CVNP

This time of year, the native plants of CVNP are going to seed: Their flowers have mostly bloomed and dried, and they’ve started to form seeds. Autumn is the perfect time to collect seeds for redistribution around the park the following year.

For the next several weeks, you can find volunteers out in fields around the Cuyahoga Valley, gently plucking seeds from dried native plants and placing them in saddlebags around their waists. The seeds are carefully harvested, sorted, cleaned, and stored until the following spring.

Black Eyed Susan
Black-eyed susans will provide a bright pop of color when re-planted in CVNP 

Volunteers collect seeds from many native plants and wildflowers, such as black-eyed susans and wild bergamot. 

When the weather warms, the seeds can either be planted in the park’s native plant nursery, or they can be sowed directly in the ground. In either case, the native plants eventually end up blooming in CVNP as part of habitat restoration efforts.

Later in the season, native grass seeds will also be collected.

For instance, in the Wetmore area, NPS staff and volunteers have been busy restoring a section of the park. Where fields were once clear-cut for farmland and horse pastures, volunteers and staff are removing invasive species and planting native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. Some of these shrubs and wildflowers have been collected and grown right here in the park’s own native plant nursery. 

CVNP’s volunteer program is co-managed by the Conservancy and the National Park Service. If you’re a member of the Conservancy, that means your membership is directly supporting volunteers in the Cuyahoga Valley and one of the biggest volunteer programs in the country—6,700 volunteers last year. 

Many thanks to the park’s seed collection volunteers! 

It’s thanks to the efforts of our dedicated volunteers and park staff, as well as donations from members and donors, that native plants are continuing to thrive and expand across our national park. Thank you for thinking of our future!

Want to get involved? Sign up to collect native seeds in CVNP >



September 15, 2016

There’s only one more week of summer: How will you spend these last few days of the season? This week, we’ve put together some ideas for a last summer hurrah in your national park. Check out our suggestions for seeing late summer wildflowers, watching the fall songbird migration, and hearing katydids as night falls.

1. Watch the fall bird migration. 

Yellow-rumped warbler (Photo: Joan Gelletly

Each year around the end of summer and beginning of fall, migrating songbirds make their way back through the Cuyahoga Valley on their way south to warmer climates. Although their plumage isn’t as bright as during the spring migration, these visitors are still a great find. Look for blackpoll warblers, yellow-rumped warblers, black-throated green warblers, and migrating waterfowl like wood ducks. 

Visit Station Road Bridge Trailhead, Oak Hill Trail, Red Lock, Beaver Marsh, or the Ledges Trail area for a good chance of spotting some of these late summer visitors. 

2. Find late summer wildflowers.

Check out the colorful asters on Cross-Country Trail

Stop by Cross-Country Trail to see a variety of wild asters, including New York, New England, and the small white frost aster (named for its ability to survive the first heavy frosts). 

The Towpath Trail is also a colorful spot to visit, with purple tall ironweed and goldenrod lining the path. Make a stop at the Beaver Marsh to look for orange jewelweed, staghorn sumac, and spatterdock, a yellow pond lily. 

3. Look for monarch butterflies. 

Monarch butterfly in CVNP (Photo © Sue Simenc) 

One of the most recognizable butterfly species in the park, monarchs are bright orange with black veins on their wings. They’re most common near open habitat in meadows or farmland, such as Howe Meadow and south of Boston Store Visitor Center.

Fun fact: Each year, monarchs east of the Rockies migrate thousands of miles to overwinter in Mexico. However, no single monarch ever makes a round trip, as the average lifespan of a butterfly born in early summer is just two months. Instead, during the migration, females lay eggs for the next generation on milkweed plants along the migration route.

4. Check out a new trail. 

East Rim Trail (Photo: Alex Stewart)

Have you visited the new East Rim Trail yet? It’s a great time of year to try out mountain biking, or just take a stroll on this unique trail. Currently, the trail measures over two miles, but several more miles are in the works for this fall. Check the East Rim Twitter feed daily to see whether the trail is open. For regular updates about trail construction on the new sections, visit our East Rim webpage

5. Listen to the night symphony of insects.

A male green katydid (Photo: Bruce Marlin, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The green katydid is outdoing itself during the evenings in CVNP, with the loud “katy-did” song of the male. Also called bush crickets, the speed of their chirps can be used to estimate the temperature outside! Here in North America, count the number of chirps in 15 seconds, add 37, and you’ll have a close estimate of the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit. 

We hope you enjoy these final days of summer! And don’t worry—fall is gorgeous and wonderful all in its own right. 

Send us your best photos or post them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #forcvnp. 



September 1, 2016

Happy first day of September! This month is a great time to check out ferns in the cooler areas of the park, especially in the Virginia Kendall area of CVNP. As summer turns to fall, many ferns are releasing their spores and showing off their bright summer color before the seasons start to change. 

There are over 16 varieties of ferns in the Ledges area of the park. We hope you’ll take some time to get outside and “feel the fern” this week—whether they are long and willowy or small and delicate! Here are a few of our favorite ferns native to CVNP: 

Cinnamon Fern

Cinnamon ferns: Named for their cinnamon-colored fertile fronds

The cinnamon fern is named for the reddish-brown color of its fertile fronds. As these fertile fronds develop over the season, they slowly turn cinnamon-colored and then drop their spores when mature. 

Cinnamon ferns form large colonies in wet, swampy areas. You can see them growing along the steep slopes of the Ledges Trail, where colonies form large rootstocks with densely matted, wiry roots. These rootstocks are frequently used by mosses, lichens, and other similar plants as fertile places to grow.    

Christmas Fern

Christmas ferns typically stay green through the holidays! (Photo: Wasp32, CC BY 4.0)

One of the most common ferns in North America, the Christmas fern gets its name from its evergreen fronds, which are often still green during Christmas in December. It grows in a circular shape, with all leaves arising from a single point.  

Christmas ferns have a unique characteristic that helps conserve soil and control erosion in steep areas: After the first hard frost, their fronds fall flat on the ground and hold fallen leaves in place so they can decompose and become rich soil. Now that’s a resourceful fern! 

Fiddlehead/Ostrich Fern

Ostrich ferns resemble ostrich plumes (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The sterile fronds of the ostrich or fiddlehead fern grow almost vertically and feature broad, tapering fronds that look like ostrich plumes. Its sterile fronds are shorter and brown when “ripe,” developing in the fall and releasing spores in early spring. 

The “fiddleheads” of this frond (i.e., its tightly wound immature fronds) are sometimes cooked and eaten as a delicacy—but please do not harvest or disturb any ferns found in the national park! 

Maidenhair Fern

The maidenhair fern (Photo: Homer Edward Price, CC BY 2.0)

Also known as “five-fingered fern,” the maidenhair fern has slender, shining black stalks, or “stipes,” that support the plant. Its leaf tissue is delicate and bright green. This type of fern grows in rich, well-drained soil, as well as on rock faces and ledges like the Ritchie Ledges. 

Read more about Ohio’s ferns & fern identification from Trek Ohio >

Have you seen any other types of ferns in CVNP lately? What’s your favorite variety? Send us your thoughts at or post on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with the hastag #forcvnp. 



August 11, 2016

You’ve probably seen them flitting around our national park: With their bright yellow and shiny black coloring, American Goldfinches are a favorite among many birdwatchers. These small finches are especially active late in the summer, when they start nesting—much later than other birds. Learn why below, as we highlight these acrobatic birds this week: 

Goldfinches use thistle down in their nests (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

1. American Goldfinches breed and nest much later in the summer than other birds. This is because they wait until plants like milkweed and thistle have starting producing their fluffy, fibrous seeds. The birds can then incorporate the soft down into their nests and feed the tiny seeds to their young. 

Illustration of American Goldfinch by Robert W. Hines

2. Goldfinches are strict vegetarians. Most birds eat at least some insects as part of their diet, but goldfinches rely almost entirely on seeds, only eating an occasional insect by accident. Favorite food sources include sunflowers, thistles, asters, birch trees, and elms. 

Goldfinches eat a strict vegetarian diet of seeds (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

3. Because of their strict vegetarian diet, goldfinches are more resistant to brown-headed cowbird parasitism. Brown-headed cowbirds are notorious for laying their eggs in other birds’ nests, but cowbird nestlings in goldfinch nests rarely survive because of the stringent all-seed diet they receive there. 

Female American goldfinch (Photo: Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

4. The contact or flight call of the American Goldfinch has an easy-to-remember mnemonic: po-ta-to-chip! They typically make the call on the “upswing” of their bouncy, undulating flight. Listen to the flight call >

Male American Goldfinch (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

5. American Goldfinches are the only finch to molt twice a year. In late summer, they molt their body feathers, ending with a new set of drabber colors as they head into the winter. They repeat the process in late winter, transforming into their bright yellow breeding plumage. 

You can see American Goldfinches throughout the Cuyahoga Valley this summer, especially on woodland edges and in semi-open areas with plenty of thistle and milkweed. 

Do you have a favorite native songbird or animal you’d like us to highlight on the Conservancy’s blog? Have you snapped any great photos of CVNP birds lately? Send us an email or post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #forcvnp. 




August 4, 2016

The Towpath Trail is the best-known trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park—and for good reason. End to end, the trail will ultimately span 101 miles from Cleveland to Tuscarawas County, with a 20-mile section serving as the backbone of CVNP.

The Towpath’s transformation into a byway for bikers, runners, and hikers didn’t happen overnight, though—and the trail is still evolving. During the centennial year of the National Park Service, the history of the Towpath takes a unique spot in our national park story.

The Canal Era

A canal boat being pulled by mules along the Ohio & Erie Canal

The Towpath Trail follows the route of the historic Ohio & Erie Canal, which transported people and goods during the 19th century.

Before the arrival of the canal system, Ohio was frontier land, sparsely populated with settlers and Native Americans. After the Erie Canal opened in 1825, a national transportation system began to take shape, as ports on the Great Lakes were connected with eastern markets.

Construction began on the Ohio & Erie Canal shortly after, and in 1827, the new canal opened for business from Cleveland to Akron. Flour, oats, coal, pork, cheese, and wool could now be moved through the state and sent east at much lower costs than before. Conversely, previously unavailable items were imported back along the canal, including foods like baking powder, fabrics, and news from around the country.

Lock 29 in Peninsula

To move boats along the canal, mules were hitched up to a canal boat and walked along a “towpath.” As you can probably guess, this path became today’s Towpath Trail.

Ultimately, the canal closed following the arrival of the railways and a major flood in 1913. Its impact, however, was enormous, setting the stage for a national market economy and establishing the U.S. as a major economic powerhouse. Of course, it also provided the foundation for one of CVNP’s most popular national park trails.

The Towpath’s Transformation

Photo: Abe Robinson, Blind 7 Photography

After the creation of Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area in 1974, the National Park Service began eyeing the old towpath as a flagship trail for the park. Serious planning for the restoration work began in 1989, with construction spanning from 1990 to 1993.

As one of the park’s first major projects, the Towpath Trail restoration was ambitious. To start, the overgrown path had to be cleared of debris and vegetation. The trail also needed to follow the original towpath as much as possible—at least where the original route could be found.

Of course, the trail also needed to preserve the rustic beauty of the Cuyahoga Valley. There was much debate about whether to pave the trail. Ultimately, the park decided to use compacted limestone wherever possible to preserve more of the historic character of the towpath.

Photo: NPS/DJ Reiser

Finally, in October of 1993, the 20-mile section of the Towpath Trail within CVNP opened. At Lock 29 in Peninsula, a mule was led across the bridge on a beautiful fall day to mark the reopening of the historic path along the Ohio & Erie Canal.

Following the Towpath Trail’s popularity in the national park, additional support began mounting for its extension. In 1996, the length of the Ohio & Erie Canal from Cleveland to Zoar was designated a National Heritage Area. The Ohio & Erie Canalway Association, Canalway Partners, and Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition partner with the National Park Service to steward the area.

Today, nearly two decades later, the trail has expanded to 85 miles in northeast Ohio. More than 2.5 million people travel the Towpath annually—a testament to the hard work that led to this point.

Vision for the Future

The completion of the full length of the Towpath Trail has been a decades-long project, but there’s good news: By 2020, the final stretches of the 101-mile trail are scheduled to be finished.

The last additions to the Towpath Trail—managed by Cleveland Metroparks—will be through Cleveland. A combination of bridges, underpasses, and other creative pathways will take travelers through the heart of the city to the historic terminus of the canal.

Photo: © Sue Simenc

In addition to new sections outside of the Cuyahoga Valley, the park is continually striving to improve its own 20-mile section of the Towpath.

In 2015, distributions from the TRAILS FOREVER Legacy Fund, an endowment fund dedicated solely to CVNP trails, helped rehabilitate key sections of the Towpath. Trail crews added new riverbank reinforcements, erosion control, and other features to reduce flooding and protect natural and cultural resources. With help from TRAILS FOREVER donors and volunteers, we can ensure that the trail will live on for generations to come.

From its beginnings as a functioning towpath along the Ohio & Erie Canal to its popularity as a recreational trail today, the Towpath’s story is long and rich. Whether you bike, run, snowshoe, or simply stroll along the Towpath Trail, you’re taking part in history.

Love trails? Learn how you can support the Towpath and other park trails > 
Read more stories like this one in the Conservancy spring-summer magazine >



July 28, 2016

Insects are one of the most diverse groups of creatures on the planet. Just think: Humans have identified over a million insect species, which make up more than half of all known living organisms! 

Here in CVNP, insects play a vital role to the health of the Cuyahoga River watershed. For instance, bees and wasps help pollinate flowers, while ladybugs feed on plant pests like aphids. Here are four of our favorite CVNP insects: 

Big Dipper Firefly

Photo: Art Farmer, Evansville, IN [CC BY-SA 2.0]

There are about two dozen species of fireflies in Ohio, but the big dipper firefly is one of the most common. Three chemicals— luciferase, luciferin, and ATP—work together to produce the firefly’s characteristic glow. 

Each species has a unique flashing pattern, which the males use to advertise their availability to nearby females. Big dipper fireflies are named for their tendency to fly in a J-shaped pattern. When a female sees a mate she likes, she’ll flash in response, steadily guiding the male to her location.

Look for big groups of fireflies in bottomland woods near the Cuyahoga River, such as along the Towpath Trail near Stumpy Basin.

Praying Mantis

Photo: NPS/Jim Schmidt 

The praying mantis is typically green or brown, with its forelegs folded in the characteristic "prayer" position. These insects are fantastic at blending in with their surroundings and imitating leaves, stems, and sticks. 

The praying mantis is a formidable predator, with powerful front legs and a triangular head that can swivel 180 degrees. They typically eat crickets, moths, grasshoppers, flies, and other insects, but they've been known to prey upon small lizards, frogs, birds, rodents, and even members of their same species.

You can find praying mantises in open, vegetated areas like meadows and grasslands, such as Indigo Lake or just south of Boston Store Visitor Center. 

Great Spangled Fritillary 

The great spangled fritillary is a butterfly commonly found in CVNP. With a wingspan ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 inches, it’s a burnished orange with five black dashes near the forewing base, as well as several other irregular black dashes at the base of the hindwing.

Males of this species “patrol” their habitat to find mates, sometimes even following set routes around fields as they flutter within a couple meters of the ground. 

Great spangled fritillaries are common in open woodlands and moist meadows, such as near Kendall Lake, Indigo Lake, and Howe Meadow. 

Carpenter Bee

Photo: Alvesgaspar [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Carpenter bees are large, shiny, and predominantly black with yellow markings on their heads. Although they do sting if provoked, they are typically fairly docile.

These bees construct their nests by tunneling into wood. They do not eat the wood, but instead discard it or re-use it to build partitions between "rooms" in the maze of the nest's wooden tunnels. During the cold winter months, carpenter bees hole up inside these cozy nests to stay warm.

You’ll see these bees near manmade wood shelters, such as the Ledges and Octagon Shelters. 

Do you have a favorite insect that we missed? Did you snap a great photo of an insect in the park? Let us know by sending us an email or sharing via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #forcvnp! 



July 21, 2016

In the center of CVNP lies the village of Peninsula, a small town steeped in Cuyahoga Valley history. Because of its prime location halfway between Akron and Cleveland, Peninsula was once a hub for canallers traveling through the area. During the mid-1800s, Peninsula was known for its boat building, boasting double the production of other towns.

This central village gets its name from the shape the Cuyahoga River once made as it cuts through the area, creating several narrow fingers or peninsulas. When the Valley Railway came through town, one of the peninsulas was cut off, thus saving the cost of building another bridge. 

In 1863, Peninsula’s peak boat-building year, 33 boats moved from local yards for the Civil War trade. Imagine walking through the noisy, bustling boatyard in that era: you’d hear the clang of hammers and the persistent crunch of saws cutting through wood. The smell of wet wood and steam would fill the air, immersing you in the boat-making process. 

A boat on the Ohio and Erie Canal (Photo: Ohio & Erie Canalway)

As one historian wrote, “A boatyard was not a spectacular place… It consisted merely of an open space with a partially completed boat or two ranged beside the canal bank. A stick of timber might be perched high on a couple of supports with two men whipsawing it into planks… Carpenters, calkers, painters would be busy about the hulls, depending on the stages of completion.” 

“The yard would be littered with chips, shavings, and bits of wood and a few small board-laden saw horses,” he wrote. “It is said that the side panels were sawed from logs, hardwood pieces for frames and bottoms came from local saw mills, and the pine lumber for cabins and decks was boated out from Cleveland.” 

The Peninsula boatyard; the water you see is the Cuyahoga River, just south of Riverview Road (you would be standing in Fisher's lot to get this image back then.) The boatyard is on the other side of the river near the building with piers. (Photo: NPS Historic Photo)

Just south of Peninsula along the Ohio and Erie Canal was a dry-dock, where boats could be repaired. From there, travelers could continue toward Cleveland or Akron—a full day’s journey in either direction. 

The Moody and Thomas flour mill in Peninsula (Illustration: John de Vries, More Cuyahoga Valley Tales)

Peninsula was also home to a flour mill built in the 1800s, producing flours such as Peerless Patent Flour. Its proximity to the canal and railroad provided easy modes of transportation to neighboring cities. 

The Cuyahoga River was also a helpful tool for the mill, as a dam diverted water to provide power need to grind the grain into flour. On the day after Christmas, 1931, however, the mill burned down, ending the era of flour product in Peninsula. 

The modern-day Peninsula (Photo: Explore Peninsula) 

Today, Peninsula is filled with shops and restaurants for both locals and visitors to the national park. Particularly during the summer months, you can always see people exploring the streets of the bustling town, and in this way, Peninsula continues to be a central hub for the people of the Cuyahoga Valley. 

Visit the Conservancy’s Trail Mix store in Peninsula to see the historic town and pick up snacks, sandwiches, and park gifts >



July 7, 2016

Many birds in CVNP are busy raising their young or laying low in the heat of midsummer this time of year. If you head out around sunrise or sunset, though, you may spot some of our favorite birds: water-loving herons, ducks, and shorebirds. This week, we’ve picked out a few you can see around the Cuyahoga Valley.

Green Heron

Photo: Rick McMeechan

You might be familiar with the green heron’s cousin, the great blue heron, but these smaller birds are usually more difficult to spot. You’ll typically find them hunched at water’s edge, waiting patiently to spear fish with their dagger-like bill. 

Where to spot in CVNP: Wooded ponds and marshes, including Beaver Marsh, Kendall Lake, and Indigo Lake.

Cool fact: Green herons are one of the few bird species in the world that use tools. To entice small fish to come closer, they’ll drop “fishing lures” onto the surface of the water, including insects, earthworms, twigs, feathers, and even bread crusts. 

Wood Duck 

Photo: Rick McMeechan

These gorgeous waterfowl are more plentiful during the spring and fall migration seasons, but you can still spot them hanging around the ponds and lakes of the valley during the summer. Look for their crested heads and gorgeous coloring on the males. 

Where to spot in CVNP:  Wooded swamps, marshes, ponds, and small lakes, including Beaver Marsh, Station Road Bridge trailhead, Red Lock, and Kendall Lake. 

Cool fact: Wood ducks, unlike many other waterfowl, are comfortable perching in and flying through woodlands. They even nest in trees, so that after the ducklings hatch, they must jump down from the nest tree and make their way to water—sometimes jumping over 50 feet without injury. 


Photo: Alan D. Wilson [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Although they’re classified as shorebirds, killdeer are actually “the least water-associated of all shorebirds,” according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They can be found in a variety of habitats, from small streams to gravel roofs and open fields.  

Where to spot in CVNP: Open ground with low or no vegetation, including the restored Richfield Coliseum fields, Lock 29 in Peninsula, and along the Hines Hill Road wetlands. 

Cool fact: To dissuade predators, killdeer enact a broken-wing display, pretending to be injured to lure the predator away from a nest. For large animals like cows or horses, though, they take a different tack, fluffing themselves up, displaying their tails over their heads, and running directly at the animal. 

Great Blue Heron

Photo: Rick McMeechan

What’s a list of water birds in CVNP without the iconic great blue heron? These majestic birds have wingspans up to seven feet across. Look for them fishing alongside rivers and streams, or flying overhead with their necks tucked into a characteristic “S” shape. 

Where to spot in CVNP: On riverbanks, lakeshores, and streams, including anywhere on the Cuyahoga River, Beaver Marsh, Indigo Lake, Station Road Bridge trailhead, Bath Road heronry, and more. 

Cool fact: Great blue herons have specialized feathers that grow on their chest called “powder down” feathers, which can be crumbled into a powdery substance with their middle toes. They can then spread the powder onto feathers on their underparts, which protects them from fish slime and oils in the wetlands and swamps where they hunt. 

Want to see where recent bird sightings have occurred in CVNP? Check out the eBird Range Map, a database of bird observations from Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 

Learn more about the places where you can see birds in the Cuyahoga Valley on our Outdoor Adventures page >



June 23, 2016

Summer is off to a busy start on CVNP trails! Trail crews and volunteers are already hard at work on several trail projects this season. From a new loop on the East Rim mountain bike trail to restored bridges and trail rehabilitation, our members, donors, and advocates are supporting every corner of the trail system.

Here’s what’s happening on the trails now: 

East Rim Trail

Photo of the East Rim Trail by Alex Stewart

Last fall, 2.3 miles of CVNP’s first mountain biking trail opened. This summer and fall, plans are in the works for the next section of the East Rim Trail, measuring almost seven miles.

The trail design contains a main outer loop, with an inner line connector trail. NPS staff and contractor crews are still determining the flow of traffic and other details, so stay tuned for more information throughout the year. 

Currently, trail crews are staging materials and preparing the site for construction, which will begin in earnest this summer. Depending on weather, the outer loop is planned to be complete later this fall, and the inner line in 2017

Funding for this next East Rim section comes from a $120,700 Recreational Trails Program grant, which the Conservancy secured from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Additional funding comes from Knight Foundation and NPS centennial funds. 

In addition, volunteers from the Cleveland Area Mountain Biking Association (CAMBA) are already working on a short expert section off of the existing trail. The 0.3-mile expert line will take experienced mountain bikers through a rocky, bouldering section. Completion on this trail segment is still to be determined, depending on how construction on the new seven-mile section goes this year. 

We’re grateful to ODNR and Knight Foundation for funding this project, as well as to the dedicated CAMBA volunteers who are helping to make the full East Rim Trail a reality—we couldn’t do it without you! For regular updates about the status of the East Rim Trail project, visit

Langes Run & Butler Trail

NPS crews are working on a major project this summer to improve trail conditions on Langes Run and Butler Trail in the Wetmore trail system. The crews will be improving the trail tread and adding new drainage features to prevent flooding and muddy areas. 

Most importantly, the new trail features and improvements will be designed in a sustainable way. That means they’ll require less maintenance going forward, and they’ll better preserve the ecosystem around the trail. 

Several new seasonal workers are coming on board to help with the project, which is on track to be completed in early fall. 

Brandywine Bridge

Photo of Brandywine Creek by Andrew Gacom Photography

Early this spring, the national park received funding to replace the Brandywine Bridge, which was washed off its foundation during a heavy storm in 2014. 

The 165-foot bridge will be repaired and placed on a stronger foundation, currently planned for completion late this summer. Hikers can then enjoy the full loop on the scenic and popular Brandywine Gorge Trail

A contractor has been brought on board for the bridge repairs and has begun drilling the helical piers for the bridge foundation. The piers are steel foundation pins driven into the ground for the concrete foundation to be built upon, stabilizing it during heavy storms. 

Keep in mind: While construction is actively underway this summer, the construction area will be closed to ensure visitor safety. Check the CVNP Conditions page for trail closures and updates. 

Old Carriage Bridges

2006 photo of Old Carriage Trail bridge by Joanne (Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

The three bridges on the beloved Old Carriage Trail also received funding earlier this spring from the National Park Service. $2.2 million in federal funds will replace the pedestrian bridges, which have been closed since 2009 due to rust damage and structural issues. 

The three bridges were originally built in 1989 and all span at least 150 feet over deep ravines. When open, visitors will be able to complete the full 3.25-mile trail connecting to the Towpath. The park is currently meeting with contractors to determine when design and construction work can begin. 

National Trails Day

Getting ready for National Trails Day (Photo by Mike Kosmyna)

Earlier this month on National Trails Day, over 130 volunteers gave their time to restoration on Butler & Langes Run trails, Pine Grove Trail, East Rim Trail, and the Buckeye Trail. Together, these TRAILS FOREVER volunteers are ensuring that future generations can continue to experience the wonder of the park from its trails! 

After the hard work of the day was finished, National Park Service staff demonstrated trail-building techniques, tree-climbing, and other unique tasks. We’re particularly grateful to the Cleveland Area Mountain Biking Association, Cuyahoga Valley Trails Council, and Medina Chapter of the Ohio Horseman’s Council for sending donations and volunteers to support National Trails Day this year! Find volunteer opportunities >

Additional Projects & Updates

Other recently completed projects include repairs on the Hillside pedestrian bridge over the Cuyahoga River near Canal Exploration Center and a new bridge on Furnace Run Trail. A troop of Boy Scouts also worked to replace rounded trail steps with more sustainable box steps on Furnace Run. 

And finally, some fun news: Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Conservancy accepted an award from the Greater Cleveland Trails Conference earlier this spring for the East Rim Trail project! The award acknowledged the persistence and success of the national park’s first mountain bike trail, as well as the partnership between the National Park Service and the Conservancy. 

Conservancy Capital Projects Manager Patty Stevens and NPS trail crew member Pat Kane accepting an award for the East Rim Trail (Photo from Greater Cleveland Trails Conference) 

We’re proud to be represented at the conference and to be a part of such a strong trail community here in northeast Ohio, where trails are such an integral part of many people’s lives.  

Thanks to all of the Conservancy members, TRAILS FOREVER donors, and TRAILS FOREVER volunteers (including CAMBA and the Cuyahoga Valley Trails Council) who help sustain over 100 miles of trails in CVNP! 

Looking for a place to explore? Find an Outdoor Adventure >



June 9, 2016

Building new trails. Pulling autumn olive. Planting trees—with a real shovel. 

Instead of binge-watching Netflix or counting Facebook likes, this is how many young people spent their days last year: as volunteers in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP).

In 2015, 6,700 volunteers gave their time to CVNP. Of that group, over a third were under age 25.

As the National Park Service enters its next century and we think about the future of parks, it is the youth of today that will play a key role. Here in CVNP, the Volunteers-in-Parks program—co-managed by the Conservancy—helps young people forge a connection to the Cuyahoga Valley.

Reaching Out to Youth

Photo: Abby Minnick

CVNP’s Day of Service events are increasingly attracting younger volunteers, who might not be able to commit to a regular position because of school, family, or work. To make sure there were plenty of single-day opportunities like this, the CVNP volunteer program added a new Day of Service last year, for a total of six days from spring through fall.

At Days of Service, volunteers stop by the park for a few hours to build or maintain trails, remove invasive species, and plant native trees and shrubs. Habitat restoration is typically a major component of CVNP Days of Service.

Photo: Melanie Nesteruk

This past year, for example, volunteers played a key role in a riparian restoration project in the Wetmore area of the park. Youth worked hard to remove harmful invasive shrubs and grasses and replace them with thousands of native oaks and sycamores. In this way, they help preserve park habitat and ensure it can be sustained for the next generation.

Service learning is another major avenue for youth volunteerism in CVNP. In 2015, over 1,800 youthparticipated in service learning projects. Eagle Scout projects are also a way for youth to get involved with the park. In the past five years, 24 young men have completed their final Eagle Scout projects in CVNP.

Path to the Park

Photo: NPS/DJ Reiser

For some young people, volunteering in CVNP is a pathway to a national park career.

Take Ryan Ainger’s story. Ryan grew up in Brecksville and spent his childhood exploring the park. He even attended a program at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center (CVEEC) with his fifth grade class.

“I always knew I wanted to work outside,” he said. Initially, he went to Kent State University (KSU) to study aviation, but he quickly realized it wasn’t for him. He had heard about KSU’s excellent park management program and decided to check it out, knowing how much he loved being in nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

He hopped on the CVNP website and called the phone number listed. It just so happened that the person on the other end of the line was Park Ranger Josh Bates, CVNP’s youth volunteer coordinator and a former CVEEC intern himself.

Ryan began volunteering with the park whenever he could. Josh would let him know about drop-in events or other volunteer opportunities that a college kid would be able to attend. He came to the second-ever Alternative Spring Break, helping remove invasive species and perform trail maintenance with other college students. Josh also made a point of letting Ryan shadow him on his duties in the park.

Park Ranger Ryan Ainger got his start in CVNP as a park volunteer

Slowly, between his volunteer work and exposure to park staff, Ryan was learning the ins and outs of working in a national park.

“I just wanted to give back to the park I was raised in,” he said. “Volunteering helped open my eyes to the possibility of working outdoors with the National Park Service.” 

During college, Ryan was hired as a seasonal park ranger in CVNP. After graduating from KSU this past December, he was brought on as a full-time park guide. He now spends his days offering interpretive programs and guided hikes to park visitors. 

From a fifth-grader at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center to a volunteer and then a park ranger, Ryan is a great example of the impact CVNP can have on a life. 

“I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” he said passionately. “There are plenty of big parks out west that I would love to see someday, but I’m so glad I started here in my home park.”

Engaging young people to be volunteer stewards of the land will help pave the way for the next century of national parks. Volunteer work inspires future park rangers, park users, stewards, and advocates. Thank you to all—the young and young-at-heart—who help preserve and protect the Cuyahoga Valley for future generations. 

CVNP’s volunteer program is co-managed by the National Park Service and the Conservancy. Together, we give people of all ages ways to give back to the national park. Find volunteer opportunities for you and your family >

Did you enjoy this story? Read more in the Conservancy Spring-Summer member magazine >



June 3, 2016

The National Parks BioBlitz in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) was a great success, thanks to the many volunteers and citizen scientists who came out for the 24-hour event. You helped the park find and identify plants, birds, fish, butterflies, reptiles, mussels, bees, salamanders, frogs, spiders, insects, algae, mosses, lichens, moths, and bats!

As of noon on May 21, CVNP recorded 3,440 observations and 657 unique species—the most of any of the 126 participating national parks around the country. Nationwide, preliminary statistics show that national parks recorded 39,950 observations and 5,477 species. 

EnviroScience scientists looking for species in Indigo Lake (Photos: Mike Bell)

Scientists will need some time to validate and analyze the BioBlitz results. An observation count and species list will be available from the park by July 31, and the final results will be announced on August 25, NPS Founders’ Day. 

You can see the preliminary data from the Cuyahoga Valley BioBlitz, including photos of the recorded species, on CVNP’s iNaturalist project page

Looking for insects in the park during BioBlitz 2016

Some highlights of the CVNP results include the following: 

  • Spiders: A spider survey found 24 species. The survey occurred after dark, and participants used flashlights to locate spiders by looking for their eye shine.
  • Bats: A group used an acoustic sensor to listen for the echolocation of bats. They found 105 big brown bats, as well as a silver bat and a hoary bat. The big brown bat species is doing better than others in the face of white-nose syndrome, a disease that is devastating bat populations. Silver and hoary bats are less common.
  • Birds: Surveyors conducting a bird census at Virginia Kendall Lake found 66 species of birds, including the less common black-billed cuckoo.
  • Fish: EnviroScience staff conducted electrofishing at Indigo and Virginia Kendall Lakes. This involves stunning fish to allow for identification. One uncommon species that was identified was the black bullhead catfish.
  • Lichens: Scientists working at the Ritchie Ledges identified a rare species of lichen. Because lichens are sensitive to air pollution, a healthy population is a sign of improved air quality.

The National Parks BioBlitz was co-hosted by the National Geographic Society. Cuyahoga Valley National Park received generous local support from EnviroScience, as well as media sponsorships from Akron Beacon Journal/ and WKSU



May 26, 2016

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” – Nelson Henderson

A healthy woodland ecosystem is a special mix: a variety of native trees, shrubs, and grasses, with minimal edges and clearings. Birds and animals must have space to move, hunt, forage, and make their homes, but under cover of friendly trees. Clear streams are home to fish and a water source for other residents. 

Achieving this balance is an ongoing goal of Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) and the Conservancy. In many areas of the valley, though, disturbed woodlands have given way to monotonous stands of invasive species. Through habitat restoration projects, park volunteers and staff are helping restore CVNP’s diverse, native ecosystem—one tree at a time.

Battling Invasive Species

Early in 2015, the Conservancy secured a $124,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation(NFWF) to restore native habitat in the Wetmore area of the national park. With a good start last year, the project will be completed by this fall.

The Wetmore area is home to Dickerson Creek, a major tributary flowing into the Cuyahoga River. A key part of the watershed, the landscape was once home to dense, continuous woodlands. However, after being clear-cut for farmland and horse pastures in the late 1800s, many areas remained unforested and had been overtaken by non-native, invasive plants.

Reed canary grass is an invasive plant known for forming single-species stands along stream and lakeedges. Especially in disturbed areas, like the Wetmore area, it can completely eliminate native grasses and shrubs, destabilize the streambed, and destroy animal habitats.

Autumn olive is another non-native species found in this area. Together with other invasive plants like hawthorn and bush honeysuckle, this aggressive shrub prevents native tree seedlings from growing and producing new, mature trees.

Photo: Melanie Nesteruk

In the edge habitat along Dickerson Creek and near open pastures that had never been reforested, theseinvasive plants had choked out many native species. Over the decades, the Wetmore area had beenstruggling to sustain a healthy, diverse ecosystem for native plants and animals.

The Wetmore restoration project will ultimately fund reforestation of 30 acres and invasive species control on 100 acres. It will also help stabilize 7,000 linear feet of the Dickerson Creek bank.

To date, volunteers have cleared 50 acres of invasive species and planted trees on 15 acres. This summer, they’ll help complete the project during large-scale Days of Service, planting around 2,000 more native trees.

What’s in a Tree?

By planting trees along “edge” habitat and closing gaps in the woods, volunteers are helping restore and protect habitat for migratory songbirds and other animals in CVNP. (Photo: NPS)

After removing invasive species, a major goal of the Wetmore restoration project is to re-establish native, hardwood trees. The trees must meet two criteria: They have to be native species that were historically present, and they have to be resilient to changes in climate.

Red oaks, for instance, are strong, hardy trees native to the eastern and central parts of the country. They are well-adapted to restoration projects because they can grow in a variety of soils, even in previously unproductive areas. The acorns of the red oak also provide food for small mammals and birds, and their dense foliage is perfect for animals looking for a home. Sycamores, red maples, and cottonwoods were also chosen for their hardiness and adaptability to wet habitats.

After invasive species are removed with saws and loppers, the area is ready for re-planting. Volunteers will help transfer trees from their three-gallon pots into the ground, adding a staked protective sleeve to prevent deer from grazing on the young buds.

Volunteers will also plant several native grasses and shrubs, all collected in CVNP and grown in the park’s own native plant nursery. Wingstem and prairie cordgrass, sown from seed, help provide habitat for birds and mammals, as well as stabilizing the creekbed and reducing runoff. Volunteers will also plant shrubs like silky dogwood, red-osier dogwood, elderberry, and sandbar willow.

For the Birds—and Beyond

The impact of habitat restoration might not be apparent in the months or even years afterward, but its long-term effects can be tremendous and long-lasting.

One of the most dramatic impacts will be on migratory songbirds in the Cuyahoga Valley. Each year, dozens of species of neotropical birds travel north to our national park for breeding and nesting in the Wetmore area. These songbirds face a crafty enemy here in CVNP, though: the brown-headed cowbird.

Brown-headed cowbirds are small blackbirds with an unusual approach to raising their young. Instead of building their own nests, cowbirds lay eggs in the nests of other birds. They then abandon the eggs, leaving the “foster” parents to raise the young cowbirds—usually at the expense of some of the other chicks.

Cowbirds prefer open habitat, like fields, meadows, and forest edges. As woodlands were cleared and towns and roads grew near the Cuyahoga Valley, cowbird populations increased as well. A single cowbird can lay more than 30 eggs each season, so their impact can be dramatic. Cowbirds also hatch earlier and develop faster than other songbirds, giving them an unfair advantage over their “siblings” in the nest. Especially for smaller songbirds, it can be exhausting to feed a growing young cowbird much bigger than their typical youngsters.

Research in CVNP has shown that up to 60 percent of songbird nests in some areas of the park are parasitized by cowbirds. Here’s the key piece: This parasitism takes place mainly in “edge” habitat, where old fields meet woodlands—as in the Wetmore area.

This summer, volunteers will plant thousands of native trees in the Wetmore area of CVNP. Each tree is planted with a protective plastic sleeve to prevent deer from nibbling on the young buds. (Photo: Melanie Nesteruk)

By planting new trees and eliminating edge habitat— about 6,000 linear feet total—the project will restore and protect sensitive nesting habitat for migratory songbirds. When the new trees have matured, these birds will have a safer refuge where they can raise their young away from predatory cowbirds.

Birds aren’t the only ones who’ll benefit from the habitat restoration. By eliminating invasive species and boosting the diversity of native plants along Dickerson Creek, the project helps stabilize the creekbed, reduce erosion, and prevent chemical runoff. In turn, fish living in the creek benefit from the improved water quality and can grow to be more abundant and diverse over time.

Other woodland animals like squirrels, voles, mice, and turkeys will also benefit from restored habitat, with more spaces to nest, forage, and make a cozy home.

Finally, by restoring “missing” pieces of CVNP’s woodlands, the national park can be more resilient to changes in climate. CVNP’s 2013 Climate Action Plan identifies reforestation as one of the top priorities to address climate change. Contiguous, native forests—and the resulting diversity within—will capture and store greenhouse gases and help address increased flooding in the coming decades.

Over the past five years, thousands of volunteers have helped control invasive plants on nearly 2,000 acres of the national park, including in the Wetmore area. They’ve also planted over 40,000 native plants—and counting. The Wetmore restoration project is one more example of the impact that passionate volunteers can have in their national park.

It’ll be years before the trees planted in the Wetmore area will offer enough shade to sit beneath. But the goal of habitat restoration isn’t immediate gratification: It’s giving future generations the opportunity to experience native songbirds, glittering streams, and towering oaks in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Did you enjoy this story? Read more in the Conservancy Spring-Summer member magazine >



May 12, 2016

Over 80 scientists are signed up for the National Parks BioBlitz here in CVNP on May 20-21. Over the course of 24 hours, they’ll help people like you find and identify as many species as possible in our national park.

This week, we caught up with some of the local scientists who will be helping out: 

  • Scientist: Jamie Krejsa
  • BioBlitz Project: Fish electroshocking at Virginia Kendall Lake (Friday from 9 AM until noon and 12:30 to 2:30 PM) and Indigo Lake (Saturday from 7 - 9 AM and 9:30 - 11:30 AM) 
  • Day Job: President & Chief Operating Officer of EnviroScience. I’ve been an aquatic biologist for the past 23 years and have sampled over 10,000 sampling sites throughout the country.
  • Hobbies: Fishing (saltwater and freshwater), running, road biking, going to his kids’ events
  • Why you should sign up for my project: Electrofishing is pretty unique and something that people don’t ordinarily see on a daily basis. We put pulsed DC current into the water body, and the fish will float to the surface (unharmed). As they are waking back up, they are measured, weighed, and checked for overall health.

  • Scientist: Sonia Bingham
  • BioBlitz Project: Amphibians
  • Day Job: CVNP National Park Service, Wetland Biologist
  • Hobbies: Growing native plants, gardening, canning, juicing, camping
  • Why you should sign up for my project: It’s a chance to learn about an elusive group of animals that spend much of their lives below ground or in water.

  • Scientist: Claire Weldon
  • BioBlitz Project: I'm co-leading aquatic macroinvertebrate sampling on Chippewa Creek from 1-4 p.m. and leading an amphibian survey at the Ledges from 5-7 p.m., both on Friday, May 20. 
  • Day Job: Aquatic Research Coordinator for Cleveland Metroparks Division of Natural Resources
  • Hobbies: I've volunteered at a wildlife rehabilitation center that specializes in birds of prey since I was 17, so I get to spend my Saturdays working with all kinds of amazing hawks, falcons, owls, eagles, vultures, and the occasional songbird.
  • Why you should sign up for my project: Aquatic macroinvertebrates and amphibians are both excellent indicators of ecosystem health and habitat condition. Sampling for them generally involves getting your hands dirty and your feet wet, so doing an inventory for either group gives us a lot of information and is a lot of fun, too. Aquatic macroinvertebrates are a group that many people haven't had much exposure to, since they are so small and spend their lives hanging out underwater, but they are fascinating and can tell us a lot about how healthy Chippewa Creek is. And the Ledges are a unique type of habitat that will hopefully be home to a whole range of interesting frogs, toads, and salamanders.

  • Scientist: Walt Sturgeon 
  • BioBlitz Project: Fungi
  • Day Job: North American Mycological Association 
  • Hobbies: Mycology (the study of fungi)
  • Why you should sign up for my project: To learn about some spring macro-fungi!

  • Scientist: Nichole Houze
  • BioBlitz Project: Reptiles, Insects, Birds, Wildflowers
  • Day Job: Naturalist for Medina County Park District
  • Hobbies: I love all things nature and particularly find wildflowers, insects, and fungus fascinating. In my free time I like to do DIY projects and play video games. 
  • Why you should sign up for my project: Join me at the BioBlitz to be a part of an important inventory of species in our parks. My projects will be fun, hands-on hikes where we will explore nature of all shapes and sizes. A sense of curiosity and love of the outdoors is all that is needed. You're sure to see something intriguing and learn something new.

The National Parks BioBlitz is a signature event of the NPS Centennial this year. The main event is a major BioBlitz in Washington, D.C. Simultaneous BioBlitzes will occur in all seven NPS regions, with CVNP being the featured park in the Midwest.

Locally, you can join scientists on their inventories of CVNP. About 80 scientists from local universities and organizations will lead counts of amphibians, bats, birds, fish, fungi, insects, lichens, mollusks, plants, reptiles, spiders, and more. CVNP will also host a free Biodiversity Festival at Howe Meadow during the BioBlitz, featuring hands-on science, food, crafts, and family-friendly entertainment. 

Sign up for an inventory & learn more >

The National Parks BioBlitz is co-hosted by the National Geographic Society. Cuyahoga Valley National Park has received generous local support from EnviroScience, Inc, as well as media sponsorships from the Akron Beacon Journal/ and WKSU



May 5, 2016

Have you ever wanted to be a scientist? Now’s your chance: At the National Parks BioBlitz on May 20-21, you can join other volunteers and scientists to identify and record as many species as possible. You’ll be using an app call iNaturalist, which lets you record real-time information about life in the park.

What’s iNaturalist, & How Does It Work? is a public database where you can record information that you observe about animals, plants, fungi, and more. Anyone can enter data to the site from a mobile app or website.

It starts with making an observation. Typically, you begin by taking a photo on your smartphone. You can then add information about your photo, like details about the location and other relevant data points. 

Then, you submit your observation to a project. For the BioBlitz, the park will have its own project—more information about that below. 

If you don’t know what species you’ve found, the iNaturalist community of scientists can help you identify it. Two or more people must agree on the species for it to be classified as “research grade,” which gives the project greater integrity. All identifications can be corrected by project curators before being accepted into the larger database.

When you add a photo, your post will be tagged with the GPS coordinates of your location. (If you’re watching a rare or protected species, there’s also an option to screen your location to prevent disturbances.)

If you like, you can “subscribe” to a project to be alerted to new observations. This way, you can get real-time updates, or you can even contribute your own knowledge to identifying species. 

National Parks BioBlitz – Cuyahoga Valley

The iNaturalist database is organized by projects. The CVNP BioBlitz has its own project, which you and the BioBlitz scientists will use to record your data. Find it here: 2016 National Parks BioBlitz – Cuyahoga Valley 

During the National Parks BioBlitz later this month, the results from iNaturalist will be broadcast on the National Park in Washington, D.C. Imagine how cool it’d be to have YOUR observations broadcast at our nation’s capital! 

What will you find in the streams, woodlands, and wetlands of CVNP? 

Entering your observations in iNaturalist will be a great asset to CVNP, even beyond the BioBlitz event this spring. With your help, the park can:

  • Find and confirm new species in the park. 
  • Track the distribution and occurrence of plants and animals across Ohio.
  • Be alerted to new invasive species or other potential issues. 
  • Form closer relationships with other scientists around the region. 
  • Connect with younger generations and inspire future scientists. 
  • Move CVNP into the next era of technological advancement.

Scientists can also use your observations to track the health of a population and any changes to their migration or other habits. Ultimately, your observations will be helpful to predict how certain species react to climate change and other modern issues.

Get Ready to BioBlitz

Beaver Marsh boardwalk (Photo: © Sue Simenc) 

The National Parks BioBlitz is a signature event of the NPS Centennial this year. The main event is a major BioBlitz in Washington, D.C. Simultaneous BioBlitzes will occur in all seven NPS regions, with CVNP being the featured park in the Midwest.

Locally, you can join scientists on their inventories of CVNP. About 80 scientists from local universities and organizations will lead counts of amphibians, bats, birds, fish, fungi, insects, lichens, mollusks, plants, reptiles, spiders, and more. CVNP will also host a free Biodiversity Festival at Howe Meadow during the BioBlitz, featuring hands-on science, food, crafts, and family-friendly entertainment. 

Registration is now open for BioBlitz participants—that’s you! To sign up for an inventory or to learn more about the CVNP BioBlitz, visit our BioBlitz page

The National Parks BioBlitz is co-hosted by the National Geographic Society. Cuyahoga Valley National Park has received generous local support from EnviroScience, Inc.



April 28, 2016

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is getting ready for the National Parks BioBlitz on May 20-21. This 24-hour event is a quest to discover and record living things in national parks across the country. Scientists and volunteers will work together to compile a snapshot of biodiversity. 

But what IS biodiversity? Why does it matter? Jennie Vasarhelyi, Chief of Interpretation, Education & Visitor Services here in CVNP (pictured below), helped us understand it a bit more.

“Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on our planet, including all living creatures, their habitats, biological processes, and the connections between these things. Biodiversity has a ‘cool’ factor, inspiring curiosity and wonder. 

“Each species has its own survival story that reflects how it finds food, water, and shelter and manages to pass its genes to the next generation. Living organisms have economic value as sources of food, medicine, and industrial products. Wild species are part of natural systems that regulate climate, air quality, and water cycles.

River otter (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

“For park managers, biodiversity is a primary window into understanding the health of the natural environment and a means to monitor change. We will compare BioBlitz results to existing species lists. If we find changes, we can ask why. Has there been a change in the quality of the environment? Have our habitats changed? 

“We hope to record species that reflect improved health of the natural ecosystem of the Cuyahoga River and its watershed. The long human history of the valley means that the ecosystem has been highly altered. Its habitats have been fragmented into small patches that are in varying stages of maturity. This variety adds to biodiversity because we have a lot places for species to live. 

Snapping turtle (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

“On the flip side, we do not always find species that prefer high-quality habitats, because those species require less fragmented and more mature habitats. Through restoration, removing non-native species, and other activities, we are working to improve the ecosystem. Biodiversity gives us something to track our success. 

“We will also contribute to knowledge about change occurring at a larger geographic scale than this single national park. Climate change is reflected in biodiversity. So are the impacts of pest species. The bat survey, for example, will help us understand the impacts of white-nose syndrome. Over the past ten years, this syndrome has caused populations of some bats to drop precipitously, while others are showing a greater ability to survive.

“We also hope to find species not previously recorded in the park. We currently do not have a comprehensive inventory of all species in the park. The scientists who have agreed to help with the BioBlitz bring expertise that will certainly fill some of the gaps in knowledge about the park’s biodiversity.”

Belted kingfisher (Photo: Rick McMeechan) 

The National Parks BioBlitz is a signature event of the NPS Centennial this year. The main event is a major BioBlitz in Washington, D.C. Simultaneous BioBlitzes will occur in all seven NPS regions, with CVNP being the featured park in the Midwest.

Registration will soon be open for you to join scientists on their inventories of CVNP during the National Parks BioBlitz. About 80 scientists from local universities and organizations will lead counts of amphibians, bats, birds, fish, fungi, insects, lichens, mollusks, plants, reptiles, spiders, and more. 

CVNP will also host a free Biodiversity Festival at Howe Meadow during the BioBlitz, featuring hands-on science, food, crafts, and family-friendly entertainment. People who would like to explore the park’s biodiversity without being part of a formal inventory can join a drop-in “Biowalk.”

Save the date: CVNP BioBlitz & Biodiversity Festival, May 20-21, 2016! Learn more >

The National Parks BioBlitz is co-hosted by the National Geographic Society. Cuyahoga Valley National Park has received generous local support from EnviroScience, Inc.



April 14, 2016

Sun, snow, rain, wind… This April has been unpredictable in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. As the weather begins to warm again this week, we’re starting to look for early spring wildflowers in the valley. Learn about five of our favorite native Ohio wildflowers below and where to see them in CVNP. 

Remember: Wildflower picking in the national park is strictly prohibited. Take only pictures, and leave only footprints! 

1. Marsh Marigold

Also known as kingcups, marsh marigolds are cheerful yellow flowers with five vibrant petals. These plants have a unique method for spreading their seeds using a “splash cup.” When a raindrop strikes a flower, the seeds are expelled, thanks to the shapes of the petal walls. The seeds also sport a spongy tissue that allows them to float on water, so they can float through puddles or downstream until they reach a spot to grow.

Where to see in CVNP: On the Towpath Trail, especially from Hunt House to Botzum Trailhead, as well as Haskell Run Trail

2. Purple Cress 

Photo: Fritz Flohr Reynolds (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Purple cress (and a similar species, spring cress) can be found growing in the early spring in wetlands and woodlands. Compared with other spring plants, it’s one of the taller wildflowers you’ll see this month—about a foot tall. At first, the flowers droop like bells, then bloom and open as the season progresses. 

Where to see in CVNP: Brandywine Gorge Trail, Haskell Run Trail, and on the Towpath Trail from Hunt House to Botzum Trailhead

3. Virginia Bluebell

Photo: © Sue Simenc 

These unmistakable wildflowers feature bright, bell-shaped, sky-blue flowers. When bluebell buds first form, they are pink, but when they start to bloom, the flowers change their red pigmentation to blue—a color much more likely to attract pollinators. 

Where to see in CVNP: In the Hunt House area, especially along Furnace Run Trail

4. Squirrel Corn

Photo: Fritz Flohr Reynolds (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons 

A close relative of Dutchman’s Breeches, squirrel corn can be distinguished by its more heart-shaped flower (rather than the elongated shaped of breeches). It gets its name from its yellow underground tubers that resemble corn kernels. 

Where to see in CVNP: On the Towpath Trail from Station Road Bridge Trailhead to the Pinery Narrows, as well as Brandywine Gorge Trail

5. Spring Beauty 

Spring beauty is one of the most common native wildflowers in North America. It grows in many different habitats including woodlands, roadsides, wetlands, and ravines. 

Where to see in CVNP: Many places, including Brandywine Gorge Trail, Haskell Run Trail, and on the Towpath Trail throughout the park. 

Find more ways to experience your national park on our Outdoor Adventures pages >



March 31, 2016

The Prettyman family has an impressive collection of photographs in their family game room. In each of the 50 frames, the family smiles from a different national park. By the end of 2016—the centennial year of the National Park Service—they’ll have added nine more photos to their collection, and they’ll have visited every national park in the country

Last week, the Prettymans stopped in Cuyahoga Valley National Park as part of their quest. DeeDee and Dan, along with kids Josh (19) and Jessica (17), made the trip from their home in Sacramento, California.

During their stay in the area, they hiked the park’s trails, visited Brandywine Falls, and stayed in the historic Stanford House. They particularly enjoyed learning about the history of the area, exploring the valley’s farmhouses, and learning more about the Ohio & Erie Canal.

It was a good time to visit: This year, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is celebrating the NPS Centennial along with other national parks around the country. All Americans are being encouraged to discover, explore, and share their park experience as they celebrate 100 years, and the Prettyman family is setting a great example.

“We didn’t intend to finish the list during the centennial year, but it worked out well!” said DeeDee. Their daughter, Jessica, is also thrilled to be completing the list before her 18th birthday next February.

The Prettymans have always been “outdoors-y” people. In the early years of their marriage, DeeDee and Dan would make regular trips to nearby Yosemite and Redwood national parks for hiking and camping. As their kids got older, their parents simply brought them along, passing along their love for the outdoors. 

Before they knew it, the family had visited 10 or 20 national parks. The goal of visiting all 59 national parks seemed like a fun idea, and as DeeDee puts it, “We just decided to keep going!” When the kids were about 12 or 13 years old, the family set a goal of visiting every national park in the country together. 

For each trip, the family packed into their mini-van or flew across the country to visit a new place. They hiked new trails, met new people, and explored the wonders of America’s national parks—coastlines, mountains, forests, and all. 

Before their stay in Ohio, the Prettymans had visited 50 national parks. On this trip, they crossed off Cuyahoga Valley, Congaree, Mammoth Cave, Great Smoky Mountains, and Shenandoah national parks. Next up is a trip to Alaska, where they’ll visit a few more national parks. Then, finally, this September, they’ll complete the list with Glacier National Park in Montana. 

By the end of 2016, the Prettyman family will have completed their photo wall: 59 photos in 59 national parks. 

The NPS Centennial year is a perfect opportunity to shout about your love for Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Share your story on >



March 24, 2016

It might not feel very spring-like here in northeast Ohio, but we’ve officially passed the vernal equinox, and we’re moving closer to the warmth of summer each day. This week, we’re highlighting some of our favorite critters of early spring: amphibians! Did you know that newts use magnetic orientation to get their bearings? And did you know that salamanders breathe through their skin? 

Here are four kinds of amphibians that call the Cuyahoga Valley home. Remember: If you spot animals in the park, exercise great caution to avoid touching or disturbing them or their habitat.

Spotted Salamander 

Spotted salamanders can be easily identified by their bright yellow spots (Photo: Julie Kole)

Spotted salamanders are mole salamanders, which means they spend most of their lives underground. In early spring, as the days get longer and warmer, they'll emerge all at once, migrating en masse to temporary "vernal pools" where they will mate and lay eggs before disappearing again.

Salamanders breathe through their skin, which is thin and porous. Most salamanders also have lungs to breathe, but some species don't have lungs at all, like the red-backed salamander and four-toed salamander in CVNP. That means that they are particularly sensitive to chemicals and other pollutants in the air and water around them, because it goes straight into their bodies without any filter. 

You may spot spotted salamanders during the day along the Brandywine Gorge Trail, at the base of the ravine near the east side of Brandywine Creek. 

Spring Peeper

Photo of spring peeper: U.S. Geological Survey

Spring peepers are light brown or tan chorus frogs with a distinctive "X" on their backs. They are very small: usually about an inch long. 

You can usually spot a spring peeper by its throat, which features a prominent vocal sac that expands and deflates like a balloon as it makes loud peeping sounds. You can hear their sleigh bell-like calls from miles away this time of year. 

You can hear spring peepers calling in woodlands around the park where there is plenty of damp ground or wetlands. One prime spot in CVNP is along the Towpath Trail, just south of Beaver Marsh

Eastern Newt

Red-spotted newt, a subspecies of eastern newt

Fun fact: Eastern newts use magnetic orientation to travel across their habitats—even to places they have never been! Scientists think this remarkable ability may come from a combination of an internal, sun-dependent compass and an inclination to follow the poles of the Earth. 

Young newts are bright orange-red, with darker red spots outlined in black. After two or three years, the newt will change to an olive-green, keeping the red spots as it ages. 

Western Chorus Frog

Photo of western chorus frog: Benny Mazur, CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

The loud "creeeek" call of the western chorus frog sounds like the noise a comb makes when you run your thumb over its teeth. The frequency of these calls increases as the temperature goes up (as many as 90 calls per minute on very hot evenings!). Walk near a calling frog, however, and he'll immediately dive underwater to avoid being caught. 

Western chorus frogs are also quite small (around 1.5 inches long), with smooth skin and a greenish-gray, olive, or brown color. They usually have three dark-brown stripes on their backs. 

Listen for their call near permanent, freshwater areas like Beaver Marsh, Indigo Lake, and Horseshoe Pond. 

Want to learn more about the wildlife of Cuyahoga Valley National Park? Subscribe to our email list using the blue box above, and receive weekly ConservancEnews emails. 



March 10, 2016

A hundred years ago, North American beavers were nowhere to be found in the Cuyahoga Valley. Thanks to the preservation of our national park and restoration efforts in the past decades, you can now see these industrious animals living in the aptly named Beaver Marsh. 

Late winter is a good time to spot beavers as the ice melts and they can emerge from their winter lodges. This week, learn more about these critters and how you can spot them in the park this month.

Get to Know the North American Beaver

Photo © Sue Simenc

North American beavers are the largest rodents on this continent, weighing in at 40 to 60 pounds. They are well-adapted to life in the water, with a paddle-shaped tail and large, webbed hind feet. Their eyes are covered by a membrane that allows them to see underwater, and their nostrils and ears seal while submerged. They also sport characteristically large front teeth, which allow them to cut down trees for their famous lodges and dams. 

As vegetarians, beavers typically prefer herbaceous plants, like cattails, water lilies, and other aquatic plants. During the winter, they store sticks and logs in a pile near their lodges and munch on the inner bark. 

Beavers typically mate for life, although they may choose another mate if the first one dies. Mating takes place in the water during the winter, with a new litter of three or four young beavers arriving in the late spring and staying with the family for 21-22 months. 

Disappearance & Return of Beavers in the Cuyahoga Valley

Photo: Rick McMeechan

There are few animal species that alter their habitat as drastically as the beaver. Drawn to the sound of running water, beavers construct their signature dams and canals using a mix of branches, rocks, mud, and other woody materials anchored to a streambed. A watertight beaver dam blocks the flow of water and can create a network of wetlands where a tidy stream once ran. 

This dramatic reshaping of their environment is likely one of the reasons that beavers were eradicated from Ohio during European settlement. Once abundant throughout the area, beavers earned a reputation of being troublesome and disruptive. Eventually, human-beaver conflicts—not to mention the high selling price of beaver pelts—led to extensive trapping and the complete decimation of the population by 1830. 

Photo: Rick McMeechan 

Since then, restoration efforts in CVNP have led to a thriving beaver population. These efforts have focused primarily on improving and preserving natural ecosystems to encourage the return of the native beaver population, rather than actively reintroducing individual animals back to the area. 

For example, park efforts have included protecting individual trees central to beaver habitat, controlling water level in key ponds or wetlands, and implementing special devices such as beaver pipes and designated culverts to support beaver life. 

Spotting Beavers Today

The Beaver Marsh is the best place to see beavers in CVNP (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Since the return of beavers in the early 1980s, other species have also been able to re-emerge. As beavers have increased the size and number of wetlands in the park, species such as great blue herons, muskrats, bald eagles, and even river otters have taken advantage of the new habitat. 

Today, park scientists estimate that there are around 100 beavers living in the park. You’re most likely to spot them at the Beaver Marsh in CVNP. Park at the Ira Trailhead and walk a half-mile north along the Towpath until you arrive at the boardwalk. If you continue to the north end of the marsh, you may spot some beavers near their lodge in the area. 

Beavers are most active at night, so the best time of day to see them is in the early morning or around dusk (about an hour before sunset). In the late winter and early spring, they are just starting to emerge from under the melting ice and getting used to longer daylight hours, so you might stand a chance of seeing them during the day as well. 

We hope you enjoy looking for these critters in your national park this month. If you spot any beavers during your adventures in CVNP, we’d love to hear about it



February 25, 2016

It’s Leap Year! This coming Monday, February 29, you’ll have an extra 24 hours in the year—how will you spend your time? For instance, what do the waterfalls look like this month after melting and re-freezing? Have the great blue herons started their mating rituals down at the Bath Road heronry?

Leap Year occurs every four years to help synchronize our calendar year with the solar year (i.e., the length of time it takes the earth to complete its orbit around the sun). Without that extra day, our calendar year would be off by several hours, eventually throwing off the timing of our seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall. 

Here are a few ideas for exploring CVNP this Leap Day: 

Waterfalls in the park can melt and then re-freeze in dramatic formations, especially after a warm period like we’ve had recently. (Photo: Claus Siebenhaar)

1. Visit a CVNP waterfall. Remember when temperatures hit 70 degrees last weekend? The early spring preview melted lots of snow and ice at CVNP’s waterfalls before the weather turned chilly again. That makes for some crazy shapes on the falls and surrounding rocks, as the ice refreezes. Visit Brandywine Falls or Blue Hen Falls to see what unique sculptures the falls have created this week. 

Look for great blue herons carrying sticks back to their mates in the nest. This past weekend, 25 birds were spotted at the Bath Road heronry! (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

2. Go birding. Grab your binoculars and field guide, because birding is especially fascinating this time of year. Stroll the Tree Farm Trail, southern Towpath Trail, or Beaver Marsh for glimpses of wintering birds like the purple finch, great blue heron, and golden-crowned kinglet. Did you know CVNP is home to more than 200 bird species? Let us know how many you spot! 

Beavers are most active in the early morning or around dusk. At this time of year, they are more likely to emerge during the day, though, as they adjust to the longer daylight hours. (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

3. Keep your eyes open for spring. We’re still a few weeks away from the first official day of spring—March 20—but you can start looking for small signs of the end of winter. Watch for tiny sprigs of American pussy willow, bloodroot, and various tree species rehearsing their springtime show. You may also spot mammals like river otters and beavers emerging from their winter dens in the Beaver Marsh as they adjust to longer daylight periods. 

Cross-country skiing is a fun way to see CVNP trails in a different season. (Photo: NPS/Ted Toth)

4. Play in the snow. If we get enough snow in the coming days, shake up your winter workout with a snowshoe hike or cross-country ski along CVNP’s many trails. Don’t have your own equipment? CVNP’s Winter Sports Center is open when snow depth is four inches and greater, and offers rental equipment for a fee. 

For an easy- to-moderate hike, Tree Farm Trail offers gentle hills, open fields, and spectacular views of coniferous trees. For more of a challenge, check out routes like Boston Run Trail, Cross Country Trail, or Plateau Trail. Even without the snow, the trails of CVNP are a great way to explore a new place. 

Do you have other ideas for ways to spend your extra Leap Day in CVNP? Let us know and send us your photos at



February 11, 2016

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we humans aren’t the only ones with love on our minds. In Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the courtship rituals of two iconic birds—the bald eagle and great blue heron—are getting underway. 

Just last week, a pair of bald eagles began tending to a nest in the Pinery Narrows area of the park. And earlier this week, great blue herons began returning to their nesting trees at the Bath Road Heronry. Can you guess how they attract their mates? Read on to find out! 

Bald Eagles

Bald eagles have returned to CVNP for 2016! (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Bald eagles first returned to CVNP in 2006, after an absence of 70 years. The clean-up of the Cuyahoga River and surrounding habitat welcomed these striking birds back to an area that was once too polluted for nesting. Since then, eagles have nested in the Pinery Narrows area every year, fledging nine young eagles to date. 

Last week, park visitors spotted a pair of bald eagles actively tending to their nest in the Pinery Narrows, north of Station Road Bridge trailhead. To avoid disturbing the eagles, the area surrounding the nest tree will be closed until July 31, 2016—please respect all closures and observe this remarkable pair from a distance. More information >

An eagle feeds its young back in 2014 (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Before they actually get around to sitting on their eggs, bald eagles perform a remarkable courtship display that you might spot this month. Rolling in large loops and diving spectacularly from over 200 feet in the air, talons locked, they sometime separate only feet above the ground. 

Where to spot: Your best chance of seeing bald eagles in CVNP this month is on the Towpath Trail around the Station Road Bridge trailhead. In particular, their potential nest is north of the trailhead, looking west across the river. However, they have been spotted in other area of the park, so keep your eyes open! 

Great Blue Herons

Great blue herons typically start courting around Valentine’s Day (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Great blue herons have been nesting in the Cuyahoga Valley since around 1990. Their biggest nesting site is just off of Bath Road, where thousands of young herons have fledged over the decades. 

These enormous birds are monogamous throughout the season, but they choose new mates each year. Their courtship rituals are one of our favorite signs of winter’s end and the coming of spring in the Cuyahoga Valley. 

Photo: Rick McMeechan

Each spring, males gather nest material, including large sticks, and present them to a female. If she has accepted the male as her mate, she will take the stick and weave it into the nest. You might also see the pair perform other bonding rituals, such as preening, raising the plumes on top of their heads, or locking their bills. 

Volunteers spotted 11 herons standing on nests at the Bath Road Heronry earlier this week. The herons haven’t yet begun collecting nest material or performing their courtship rituals, but they’re expected to begin soon.  

The Bath Road heronry is home to many great blue herons each year (Photo: © Sue Simenc)

Where to spot: The best and easiest place to see great blue herons is in the southern end of the park at the Bath Road Heronry. There is also a smaller site north of the road, just barely visible in the winter before the trees leaf out. Look for herons flying overhead in the coming weeks as their mating season begins in earnest. 

From all of us here at the Conservancy, we wish you a very happy Valentine’s Day with your loved ones. Take a hike this weekend and let us know if you see anything neat! 



January 28, 2016

Pine trees make us think of days spent snowshoeing through the woods, hot chocolate after a cold hike, and the fresh smell of winter. Here in the Cuyahoga Valley, the woodlands are primarily broad-leaved, but there are a few native conifers to be found if you know where to look. 

This week, learn about hemlocks, white pines, and larches, as well as where to see them in our national park.

Eastern Hemlock

Snow on hemlock branches at the Ritchie Ledges (Photo: Tom Jones)

Healthy eastern hemlocks can live a very long time—hundreds of years. The oldest-known hemlock (found not far away in Tionesta, Pennsylvania) is at least 554 years old. The leaves of the hemlock are flattened and attached singly to the twig, with small seed cones. They typically grow near rocky ridges, ravines, and hillsides with relatively high levels of moisture. 

In recent years, the woolly adelgid—a non-native, sap-sucking bug—has proven a devastating pest in the northeastern U.S. and southern Appalachian Mountains, where hemlocks are a key forest species. Scientists are continuing to look for a way to eliminate the adelgids, including using natural predators like beetles and non-toxic insecticides. 

Where to see hemlocks in CVNP: Primarily around the Ritchie Ledges, where the cool ravines and acidic soil are a perfect hemlock habitat. Map >

Eastern White Pine

White pine needles always grow in bundles of five

The eastern white pine is one of the largest species in the park, growing around 80 to 100 feet tall. Between ages 15 to 45, a white pine can grow about a meter per year. Its leaves grow in bundles of five and are flexible and quite soft—much softer than other pines. 

The white pine is known to the Native American Iroquois nation as the “Tree of Peace.” It provides food and shelter to numerous animals and forest birds, such as black-capped chickadees, pine warblers, white-breasted nuthatches, red squirrels, voles, and mice. 

Where to see white pines in CVNP: A variety of habitats throughout the park, particularly along the Buckeye Trail from Boston Store to the Pine Lane trailhead. Map >

Eastern Larch 

The eastern larch drops its needles every winter (Photo: Tim & Selena Middleton)

Eastern larches are unusual in that they are both deciduous and coniferous. That means they have needle leaves and seed cones, like other pines, but they drop their needles each winter, like a broadleaf tree. 

In the fall, larch needles turn bright yellow before falling, leaving pinkish-brown shoots bare until next spring. Its cones are very small—only a half-inch to an inch long—and a bright reddish-brown. Eastern larches are also sometimes called “tamaracks,” which is an Algonquian word for "wood used for snowshoes."

Where to see larches in CVNP: Along the Towpath Trail, north of the Beaver Marsh at the river overlook. Map >

Enjoy your winter adventures in CVNP this month! Let us know if you snap a great photo of a pine tree or your winter hike at

Editor's Note, 1/29/16: A reader wrote in to ask about the use of the term "pine" to describe all three of these species included above. Hemlocks, white pines, and larches are all called "pines" in this post because they are part of the larger family Pinaceae, which includes many conifers like cedars, firs, and spruces. The genus Pinus is a smaller group, which is limited to "true" pines like the eastern white pine here in Ohio and does not include larches or hemlocks. 



January 14, 2016

It might be hard to believe that any animals are active in all this snow. Even so, it’s a busy season for some of CVNP’s most beautiful inhabitants: owls. January is the height of nesting season for owls in the Cuyahoga Valley. 

Owls are remarkable creatures, with extraordinary powers of hearing and sight. Put on your snow boots and go for a winter hike in the park this weekend to see if you can spot one yourself.  

The Owl Advantage

Photo: NPS/Jim Peaco

Owls are hugely beneficial for keeping CVNP’s ecosystems in balance. Most importantly, they are responsible for keeping mammal populations in check, eating everything from mice to rabbits and skunks. 

Most owls have excellent eyesight, but their hearing is also exceptional. In labs, some owls have been known to catch mice in complete darkness, which translates to finding mice hidden between plants or snow in the wild.

As you might be able to tell from their fierce eyes and sharp beaks, owls are expert predators. Here’s some food for thought: If humans had eyes that were proportionally as large as owls’ eyes, our eyes would be the size of oranges! 

Fluffy feathers serve a dual purpose: keeping them warm during the winter, and helping them fly very quietly in pursuit of their prey.

In CVNP, you can see Eastern Screech Owls, Great-Horned Owls, and Barred Owls swooping overhead in open fields or forests. Read on for a few tips about where to spot them in the park. 

Great Horned Owls

Great horned owl (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Great-horned owls are quite large, with two prominent feathered tufts on their head, like fluffy ears. They are generally a mottled gray-brown with reddish faces. Their call is a distinctive "hoo, hoo-oo, hoo, hoo.

You can find these iconic owls in young wooded areas, especially near open fields. Look for them nesting along the trails surrounding Happy Days Lodge. 

Fun fact: When clenched, a great horned owl's talons require a force of 28 pounds to open. The owls use this deadly grip to sever the spine of large prey, including ospreys, peregrine falcons, and other owls. Now that's a bird you don't want to mess with!

Barred Owls

Barred owls are large and stocky with rounded ears and a mottled brown and white color pattern. Their song is an instantly recognizable "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?

Barred owls don't migrate, and they don't usually move around very much. Many stay within the same few miles for their entire lives. These elusive owls are usually easier to hear than see, although a quiet walk through the woods might lead you to a roosting owl during the day.  

Barred owls often nest within patches of evergreen trees. Look and listen for them along the Tree Farm and Oak Hill trails. 

Eastern Screech Owls

Eastern screech owl (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Eastern screech owls are short and stocky with large heads and almost no neck. Their most common songs are a soft, descending whinny and an even-pitched trill.

These tiny owls are more often seen than heard, being no bigger than a pint glass. Their two- to three-second trilling song is typically used by families and pairs to keep in touch, while the descending whinny is usually used for territory defense or courtship.

Look for screech owls in woodlands near water, such as north of the Beaver Marsh near the beaver dam. They typically nest in large sycamore trees and like to capture warm sun rays from their nesting cavities on bright sunny days. 

So when’s the best time to go looking for owls? Head out early in the morning before dawn, when they are most active, or in the evening when they’re first leaving their nests for the night. You can also listen for loud commotions from other birds, like blue jays or crows, for a chance to spot them.

Remember to always observe owls from a distance, and be sure to stay at least 75 yards from an active nest. Happy winter exploring! 



January 7, 2016

With frigid temperatures one day and warm breezes the next, it can be hard to keep track of the weather in Ohio this time of year. In any case, we’re happy to have finally seen snow here in the Cuyahoga Valley earlier this week. 

To celebrate, we’ve done some research about the different types of snow you may see as the winter progresses. Below, learn about the difference between fluffy snowflakes, crunchy graupel, and more. 


Photo: Wilson Bentley 

A snowflake is a single ice crystal that forms as cloud droplets freeze. Like all snow, snowflakes are made of clear ice but appear white as they reflect light on their small crystal facets. Although it’s not impossible for two snowflakes to be identical, it’s very unlikely, leading to the popular expression that “no two are alike.” 
After they’ve fallen, snowflakes pile up in loose, powdery drifts. In warmer weather close to the freezing point, the flakes may partially melt when they hit the ground, forming a slushier, denser pile that’s usually called packing snow—perfect for snowmen or snow forts. 


Hoarfrost forms when ice crystals are deposited onto exposed objects like tree branches or leaves. On clear, cold nights, hoarfrost forms when objects cool below the frost point of the surrounding air—and well below the freezing point of water—so that moisture in the air goes directly from vapor to solid. This creates a stunningly beautiful effect when each tree branch and shrub is outlined in crystal white. 

The name “hoarfrost” comes from an Old English adjective that means “showing signs of old age,” referring to the frost that makes trees and bushes look like white hair. 


Graupel occurs when drops of supercooled water (i.e., below freezing but still liquid) form onto a falling snowflake, creating a rounded, opaque ball. These lumpy, crumbly pellets are sometimes mistaken for hail. 

This type of snow typically isn’t the most pleasant, sometimes forming as part of a wintry mix that includes sleet or rain. Even so, graupel can be fun to hold in your hands, like tiny Styrofoam balls or ball bearings. 


Photo: Ed Toerek 

Polycrystals are snowflakes made up of many individual ice crystals. Usually, you’ll see these falling as big, loosely connected lumps. This kind of snow typically forms in wet snow conditions and includes lots of liquid content, falling apart easily as it hits the ground.

Even if you’re not a big fan of Ohio winters, we hope you can take some time to appreciate the beauty of the falling snow in Cuyahoga Valley National Park this season.

If you have any photos or favorite snowy memories you want to share with us, we’d love to hear from you at For opportunities to experience winter in CVNP, check out the park’s Schedule of Events for hikes, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and more. 



December 30, 2015

Here at the Conservancy, we’re counting down the last days of 2015 and taking a deep breath before we plunge into 2016. Next year promises to be full of exciting new projects for Cuyahoga Valley National Park. 

From the National Park Service Centennial to the next phase of the East Rim mountain biking trail, there’s a lot to do next year! Read about upcoming projects below, and know that we’re immensely grateful to all our supporters who help make these projects possible.

What’s Coming to CVNP in 2016

National Park Service Centennial


Throughout the country, national parks will be celebrating 100 years of the National Park Service. You can look forward to special Centennial events all year long, as we reach new audiences in northeast Ohio and help foster the next generation of national park stewards. Share your story about the Cuyahoga Valley at

East Rim Mountain Biking Trail: Phase 2

Photo: Alex Stewart

Following the opening of the first phase of the East Rim Trail in the fall, Phase 2 construction is already under way. The next section, due for completion in 2016-17, will measure approximately seven miles and continue to provide mountain bikers, hikers, and runners a top-notch experience on the trails. Keep track of the trail’s progress >


One of CVNP’s major Centennial events will be a “BioBlitz” on May 20-21 2016. A BioBlitz is a 24-hour event where you work side-by-side with scientists and other volunteers to compile an all-species “snapshot” of an area’s biodiversity. Next spring, the National Park Service will host BioBlitzes at national parks around the country, and CVNP has been selected as the “showcase” park for the Midwest region! Look for more information about participating in this unique event in the coming year. 

Every Kid in a Park

As part of the National Park Service Centennial, Every Kid in a Park aims to give every fourth grader in the country access to national parks. Fourth graders can get a free national park pass for themselves and their families to explore natural and historic sites around the country. As part of this initiative, the Conservancy’s Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center is aiming to bring all fourth graders from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Akron Public Schools to CVNP for a no-cost day program. Learn more >

Continued Fundraising for Central Visitor Center

Photo: NPS/Ted Toth

The Conservancy will continue to take the lead on fundraising for a new centralized visitor center in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Currently, we’ve raised $2.3 million of the $6 million project and hope to begin construction in 2017. The project will fund the transformation of a historic building, interactive exhibits and electronic media, new parking, and improved riverside access. Learn more > 

Cuyahoga Valley Institute

Photos: Barry Underwood

We look forward to continuing expansion of the Cuyahoga Valley Institute in 2016, a new program for placed-based adult programming in CVNP. Participants will be able to attend unique workshops, meet new people, and center themselves in the history and culture of the Cuyahoga Valley.

Streamlined Volunteer Hour Tracking

Photo: Melanie Nesteruk

This year, CNVP’s volunteer program (co-managed by the Conservancy) will implement a new online system for tracking volunteer service hours. Instead of monthly timesheets on paper, this online program will reduce error, simplify the process, and allow staff to spend more time connecting with volunteers. 

We look forward to sharing more with you about these projects in the coming year. Enjoy a safe New Year’s holiday, and we’ll see you out in the park in 2016!  



December 24, 2015

2015 was a big year in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP). Three new trails, record-setting volunteer days, expanded environmental education programs… There’s a lot happening! The successes of this past year wouldn’t be possible without Conservancy members, donors, volunteers, and advocates like you. 

We’ve put together our favorite moments of 2015 below. We hope you’ll enjoy reading about all that you made possible this year! From all of here at the Conservancy, we wish you very happy holidays with your family and friends, and we thank you for supporting Cuyahoga Valley National Park. 

Top 10 Highlights of 2015

Photo: Alex Stewart

1. The construction of the East Rim trail system: The first phase of CVNP’s first mountain biking trail was completed this fall, supported by funding secured by the Conservancy. This project is part of the TRAILS FOREVER initiative, a partnership of the National Park Service and the Conservancy. Learn more >

Photo: Melanie Nesteruk

2. Volunteers in CVNP: 6,700 volunteers gave their time and talents to our national park this year, planting trees, building trails, helping visitors, and helping create a world-class national park. NPS Founders’ Day, one of six Days of Service this summer, was the largest-ever single-day volunteer event ever—252 volunteers! 

3. Expanded programming at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center: The CVEEC’s Summer Environmental Education Academy welcomed two new districts this summer: the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Lorain City School District, in addition to Akron Public Schools. All told, over 10,700 children and adults participated in CVEEC programs. Learn more about the CVEEC >

4. Young adult engagement: CVNP’s volunteer program, co-managed by the Conservancy, helped recruit 50 interns from local colleges and schools this year for positions with the National Park Service and Conservancy. Together, they helped build trails, perform research, collect scientific data, and much more for our national park. 

Photo: Mike Kosmyna

5. More new trails in the park: A new section on Furnace Run Trail was constructed and funded by the Cuyahoga Valley Trails Council, and CVNP TRAILS FOREVER volunteers built another new trail connecting the Hines Hill campus to the Stanford House and Towpath Trail. 

6. Ice cream! Park visitors enjoyed 8,934 cups of Mitchell’s ice cream at our Trail Mix stores this year—yum!  

7. Celebrations of love, surrounded by history: 107 couples were married in one of CVNP’s Extraordinary Spaces, featuring historic spaces in the park. Together, they brought hundreds of first-time park visitors to CVNP to experience the magic of the Cuyahoga Valley. 

8. Visitor Center planning: The Conservancy partnered with the National Park Service to execute and manage a proposed new visitor center schematic design. When complete, the new visitor center will provide local and out-of-state visitors with a one-stop location to plan their visitor to the national park. Learn more >

Photo: Melanie Nesteruk

9. Music and art in the valley: Visitors enjoyed dozens of concerts and cultural arts programs in the national park this year, including Lyceum lectures, Heritage Series concerts, Music in the Meadow, Music  By Nature, and house concerts. 

10. Countdown to the National Park Service Centennial: We’re thrilled to be gearing up for the 100-year birthday of the National Park Service next year! 2015 set the stage for an exciting year of national park events that will introduce CVNP to new audiences and engage the next generation of park stewards. 

Once again, thanks to all our supporters who helped make 2015 a great year for our national park! 



December 17, 2015

Because of you—our members, donors, volunteers, and advocates—the National Park Service and the Conservancy can work together to steward our world-class national park. Children can experience wonder in nature. Music-lovers can enjoy live bands in the valley. Volunteers can plant trees and build trails. And Cuyahoga Valley National Park can be preserved for future generations. Thank you!

Take a journey through the year with us as you celebrate the holidays and look back on the seasons in Cuyahoga Valley National Park with our special holiday video: 



December 10, 2015

Quick: Think of a butterfly! Did you picture a monarch butterfly, with its tiger-striped wings? Or perhaps a bright yellow tiger swallowtail popped into your mind. Or was it a little wood satyr, unassuming and shy?

Every week during the summer, a team of citizen scientists counts dozens of varieties of butterflies like these in CVNP. Each wing stripe, color morph, and flight pattern is familiar to them as they hunt for these tiny, fluttering creatures in woodlands and meadows. 

Despite their informal training, these volunteers’ findings are indispensable to scientists and naturalists around the country.

The Rise of Citizen Science

Each fall, monarch butterflies travel thousands of miles to overwinter in Mexico, passing through CVNP on their way south. (Photo: © Sue Simenc)

Citizen science—the collection and analysis of data by members of the public—is gaining traction nationwide. Instead of a few scientists scattered across the country collecting tiny amounts of data, CVNP can harness the power of thousands of eager volunteers. 

For example, through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, over 200,000 volunteers submit data to track birds, including several volunteer groups here in CVNP. Another national program, the Galaxy Zoo, has drawn half a million people to help catalogue galaxy shapes. And there are more than a thousand sites across the U.S. tracking monarch butterfly populations.

Citizen scientists help track butterflies throughout CVNP (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Smartphone apps, online forums, and instant communication around the globe create a vast network for scientists and researchers to draw upon. A simple count of birds or butterflies from CVNP can turn into a data point for climate change research almost instantaneously. 

Citizen science might be easier today with current technology, but it’s not necessarily a new concept. Carl Linnaeus, the father of biology’s modern naming system, relied heavily on submissions from amateur researchers for his work. Even Charles Darwin worked with a network of amateurs to gather observations about the natural world for The Origin of Species

Today, we continue the tradition of citizen science in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Chasing Butterflies

Each week during the summer, CVNP citizen scientists collect butterfly data that’s instrumental to researchers and scientists around the country.

The park’s butterfly monitoring program is one of the longer-running citizen science projects in CVNP. Since 1997, a group of passionate volunteers has been keeping track of the butterfly population with park biologist Meg Plona.

Twice a week from May to October, Plona leads a team of volunteers, interns, and students into the park to look for butterflies.

The team walks the same routes each week, following a pre-determined “transect” line. As they walk, they look for butterflies within 15 feet of the transect and identify as many as possible. Afterward, they submit their data to a statewide database run by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

From there, scientists from The Ohio State University use the data in their research and post findings to an Ohio butterfly tracking group, The Ohio Lepidopterists. Along with hundreds of other submissions from around the state, these observations are key to butterfly research.

For instance, in a 2014 study led by Sarah E. Diamond from Case Western Reserve University, scientists used this data to analyze the effects of climate change on Ohio’s butterfly population.

“This analysis would not have been possible without the huge data set generated by the [butterfly] monitoring program,” said Dave Horn from The Ohio Lepidopterists.

The CVNP team currently monitors transects in Terra Vista Natural Study Area, Indigo Lake, and Pine Hollow. The Terra Vista transect is the longest-running project, with data going back to 1997.

A few years ago, the team also started monitoring sites near the Stanford House and Boston Store Visitor Center specifically for monarch butterflies. This group submits their data to the national Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, based out of the University of Minnesota.

All told, CVNP’s volunteers have collected countless data in the name of scientific research.

Reading the Data

Female tiger swallowtails can be distinguished from males by the blue spots on their hind wings. (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

CVNP volunteer observations are just one slice of a much bigger pie. Researchers use these observations to look for trends, draw conclusions, and predict the future.

In the 2014 climate change study mentioned earlier, scientists discovered that the combined effects of climate change and urbanization were causing delays in the early life cycle of Ohio butterflies. Essentially, butterflies were emerging later in the season and shortening their larval development process.

For many native butterfly species, these findings weren’t good. Tiger swallowtails, red admirals, and pearl crescents all suffered from the shift. In short, their future in Ohio is uncertain.

Non-native species, on the other hand, were less affected—and in some cases, they even benefitted from the shift. Does this mean that the future of butterflies in Ohio means a less diverse, non-native population? It’s hard to say at this point, but you can bet that citizen scientists will contribute to future research.

Another study from Karen Oberhauser at the University of Minnesota confirmed that parasitism is a threat to the monarch butterfly population. “A study of this magnitude would have been impossible without [volunteer] contributions,” she concluded.

Each year, hundreds of ordinary people journey into CVNP as citizen scientists. Their observations are crucial to butterfly studies, not to mention other plants and animals. Like the “big data” of Google and social media, citizen science lets us make big connections across the natural world.

Interested in becoming a citizen scientist yourself? The CVNP volunteer program, co-managed by the Conservancy, is always looking for more help. Learn more >

This story was originally published in the Conservancy's Fall 2015/Winter 2016 magazine. Read more stories like this one >



By guest author Karen Grindall, retired fifth-grade teacher
December 3, 2015

During my time as a teacher at Portage Path Elementary School, I met hundreds of remarkable students. Three brothers stand out to me, though, thanks to their passion for learning in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Years ago, Cornelia and Gary Hearst sent all three of their sons to Portage Path Elementary School in Akron, where I taught until my retirement. The boys—Gary Jr., George, and Garrison—are two years apart in age and enjoyed a fulfilling childhood with their parents, who taught them to value and learn all that they could.

A key part of their education was their experience at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center (CVEEC), operated by the Conservancy. There, they all discovered a love for natural science in their national park. 

Hearst Family, Meet CVNP

Gary, George, and Garrison all received their Eagle Scout badges in 2014 after their time at the CVEEC sparked a lifelong interest in science and outdoor learning (Photo: Phil Masturzo, Akron Beacon Journal)

When Gary, the oldest, was in my fifth grade class, we took our usual week-long trip to the CVEEC. During the week, Gary’s mom also joined the class to help out during lessons. Together, we explored CVNP, performing science experiments and learning about the Cuyahoga River watershed. 

After the CVEEC trip, Gary’s curiosity was saturated with outdoor learning—something he had not experienced before. He was also enthralled with his first introduction to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. 

Just before the next school year, I saw the boys’ mother at the grocery store. She walked right up, looked at me with a very serious face, and said, “Girl, I am so mad at you!” 

I quickly turned red and asked what I had done to upset her. She made me wait for a moment, then burst out laughing. “You got the boys and I addicted to the national park!” she chuckled. “We’ve spent countless days out there this past summer, and we just love it.” 

As the boys headed back to school, they began their second year in a school-based Boy Scout troop. After school one day, my own son Colin, an Eagle Scout, told them that he had spent many hours in the national park, volunteering at the CVEEC and going on scouting adventures. 

The Hearst boys were intrigued. They asked Colin to tell them how they could become Eagle Scouts, too. 

The Hearst brothers' mother was instrumental in encouraging the boys' interest in CVNP (Photo: Phil Masturzo, Akron Beacon Journal)

Shortly after that, I saw Mrs. Hearst again, and she teased me more about her boys’ “addiction” to the national park. “Now, they want to be Eagle Scouts!” she exclaimed. “I’ll be learning in the park forever.” 

Indeed, she was thrilled with her sons’ desire to do more science in the national park. For the next seven years, Mrs. Hearst continued to volunteer whenever I brought students to the CVEEC, even when her own sons weren’t there. 

Three Eagle Scouts

Soon, with their mother and father at their side, the boys began their journey of attaining Eagle Scout ranking. As I watched them work hard to reach their goals, they became like a second set of sons to me. 

Throughout school, the Hearst brothers excelled. They maintained honor roll consistently, participated in national track competitions, and spent many weekends in the park and at Camp Manatoc, a Boy Scout camp in CVNP. They often came to my classroom after school or called me to share their latest accomplishments.

November Lodge on the CVEEC campus in our national park (Photo: NPS)

On April 23, 2014, all three boys were awarded the Eagle Scout rank together. This highest honor of the Boy Scouts of America was the fulfillment of the boys’ dreams, as well as evidence of their solid upbringing and foundation in outdoor education. 

At the time, the boys appeared on the front page of the Akron Beacon Journal for the unusual accomplishment of three brothers at the same time receiving this rank—and also because so few African American boys achieve Eagle Scout rank. They were honored by the Akron Board of Education and the Akron City Council for their success. 

Carrying on the CVNP Legacy 

Last spring, George finished his freshman year at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Shortly after he left for Atlanta last fall, his mother was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She fought a hard battle but passed away on December 23, 2014. 

At her funeral, we spoke of her love for her boys, her delightful times spent at the CVEEC watching her boys fall in love with science, the stimulation of learning how to ask questions of the natural world, and her countless hours exploring the trails, plants, animals, and beauty of CVNP. 

The boys are definitely headed for success with realistic and attainable goals. Gary is studying to be a doctor, George wants to be in the field of law, and Garrison aspires to a career in engineering. 

Giving students from urban schools the opportunity to spend a week at the CVEEC has so often ignited a new love of science learning. The Hearst family is one shining example of the impact that an outdoor education in CVNP can have. 

This story was originally published in the Conservancy's Fall 2015/Winter 2016 magazine. Read more stories like this one >



November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving! This time of year always makes me reflect on all that we have to be thankful for in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP). From the peace of the trails to the bustle of the visitor centers, the Cuyahoga Valley makes my heart sing with gratitude. 

Most of all, I’m tremendously thankful for you: our members, donors, volunteers, and park advocates. Your passionate support of the national park and the Conservancy is what keeps us driving forward. Without you, CVNP wouldn’t be what it is today.   

This past year, you helped the national park construct its first mountain biking trail. You gave over 10,000 children and adults a chance to experience environmental education in CVNP. You ensured thousands of visitors could enjoy live music in a historic national park setting. You supported volunteer Days of Service where more than 1,000 native trees were planted. These accomplishments are built on a foundation of past successes—and you are part of that. 

I can’t say it enough: Thank you. From all of us here at the Conservancy, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving!

Deb Yandala
Chief Executive Officer




Guest author: Jennie Vasarhelyi, Chief of Interpretation, Education, and Visitor Services for CVNP
November 19, 2015

Vibrant fall colors draw us outside to enjoy nature in Northeast Ohio. As fall fades into winter, many of us become tempted to stay inside. Yet, the big attraction of October does not disappear—it just takes a closer look to find vibrant colors.

A careful observer will be rewarded not only by enjoying the color, but also by becoming more aware of nature’s diversity. This article explores the spectrum of colors that can be found outside in November in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Black raspberry stems (Photo: Josh Fecteau

Purple: Once plants shed their leaves, we have the opportunity to seek color in places that we may miss other times of year. The long, arching stems of black raspberry bushes add purple to the landscape. The stems also have a white, waxy coating that aids identification.

Eastern bluebird (Photo: Rick McMeechan) 

Blue: Birds add flashes of blue to the late fall landscape. Blue jays and eastern bluebirds are both year-round residents, with blue jays found in forested habitats and bluebirds in more open areas. Their blue color has a surprising source. It is caused by light rather than by pigments. Particles in their feathers bend light so that only blue wavelengths return to our eyes. 

Wood duck (Photo: Rick McMeechan) 

Green: Feather structure also can cause iridescence, something that we see in male mallards and wood ducks that have iridescent green heads. Mallards are common, year-round residents; wood ducks are primarily warm-season residents. In late October and early November, wood ducks can congregate in larger numbers in the Beaver Marsh; only a few remain for the winter.

Even though most native plants in CVNP lose their leaves, a few contribute green to the scenery year round. Christmas fern, named for providing color in winter, grows in the understory of forested hillsides near streams. Eastern hemlock trees grow in cool, moist areas such as the Ledges and deep ravines. Look for white lines on the underside of their short, flat needles.

American witch hazel blooms (Photo: USDA Forest Service/Larry Stritch)

Yellow: The eastern larch (also called tamarack) is a less common Ohio tree that adds yellow to the November landscape. It is a deciduous conifer, meaning it has needles like many evergreen trees, but loses them each year. Larches grow in wet areas; you can view them from the Towpath Trail between Hunt House and the Beaver Marsh. Look for them along the Cuyahoga River near a trailside exhibit about the river. Larches tend to reach peak color in mid-November.

A late fall flower is another source of bright yellow that can linger into November. Witch hazel is a small tree that blooms after it sheds its leaves. Look for witch hazel along the Ledges Trail and take time to enjoy its strong fragrance.

Birds also offer flashes of bright, cheerful yellow. Golden-crowned kinglets are small, active birds that migrate through the area this time of year, with some staying for winter. Look for the yellow-orange patch on the tops of their heads. Once spotted, golden-crowned kinglets are relatively easy to identify; however, their habit of staying high in trees can make them difficult to track down. During summer, kinglets prefer coniferous forests. Luckily for us, they are less selective about their habitat in winter, so they can be found in deciduous forests and river bottomlands.

American robin (Photo: Ed Toerek)

Orange: The familiar robin is a source of orange. Many stay here year-round but show different behavior in late fall and winter. They gather into flocks and shift their diet to rely more on berries.

Staghorn sumac (Photo: Flickr/Rachel Kramer

Red: Staghorn sumac contributes a bright red to the landscape. Sumac is a shrub with distinctive berries that are small, hard and covered with hairs. The berries grow in compact clusters that resemble hairy cones. While a variety of birds eat the berries, they are not a favorite food and their splash of color can last through winter.

I hope this article gave you some tips for exploring CVNP on your own to view the intricacies of nature that change with the park’s different habitats. You can also explore with a park ranger—check out available programs in the park’s Schedule of Events



November 12, 2015

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a national park ranger? Just ask long-time CVNP Ranger Lois Neff. 

Ranger Neff began her career in CVNP before the Towpath was rebuilt as a recreational trail, at a time when the park was still a national recreation area—and certainly before it became one of the top-visited parks in the nation. She knows CVNP’s nearly 33,000 acres inside and out, and she considers it her duty not only to protect the park, but to help others connect with it as she has. 

Now a month into her new role as Safety and Occupational Health Manager, Ranger Neff is among the longest-serving CVNP rangers. This week, she shared some of her thoughts with us in a Q&A interview. 

Lois Neff, one of CVNP’s longest-serving park rangers

Q: How many years have you worked as a park ranger in Cuyahoga Valley National Park? What roles have you held? 

I’ve been working with the National Park Service since the summer of 1987. In 1991, I accepted a permanent position with Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area at the time). I’ve had some wonderful opportunities here and have seen this park dramatically evolve. 

The first half of my career here I was field ranger, which was probably one of the most fun and exciting jobs I’ve ever held. What stands out in my mind is being out in the field, connecting with and helping people better enjoy the park. In those days, we did a lot of “backcountry” hiking, and rangers knew the park inside and out. 

For almost 11 years, I supervised the visitor and resource protection team, at the field level. This offered an entirely new perspective to my career and I’ve had the opportunity to work with and supervise some amazing people. I think it was in this position where I had one of the best mentors of my career and was truly able to develop and grow. This was rewarding on so many levels. 

Q: Describe your workday. What are your duties and responsibilities? How do you spend your days?

Just a few days ago was the one-month mark into my new job as CVNP’s Safety Manager. Therefore, my duties today are dramatically different than they were just a month ago, and after nearly 28 years, there is definitely an adjustment period. 

In my last job as a law enforcement supervisor for the field rangers, it was a lot of behind-the-scenes work like reviewing reports, personnel activities, and working more on investigations. Like with any well-oiled machine, it takes care and feeding to keep things running smoothly, and I like to think that I helped keep the wheels turning forward. 

Although it might sound boring compared to, say, helping stranded visitors, my position had its own set of rewards that can’t compare, for which I’ll always be thankful. 

The current Towpath Trail at Lock 28 (Photo: Abe Robinson)

Q: Our national park is relatively young. How have you seen CVNP change over the years? 

Wow. Where do I start? It seems to me like Cuyahoga Valley NP was still in its infancy when I arrived and has now grown into a mature young adult. The changes have been dramatic and incredible. 

When I first started here, the only Towpath Trail was the actual historic canal “towpath,” just a barely discernible path along the canal, with no parking lots where visitors could stop and discover. At the time, it was fascinating to explore that from a historic perspective, but seeing the thousands of visitors that enjoy it each day now is so wonderful.   

One of the other great developments is the creation of the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center. I had been here a year or so when the CVEEC first opened its doors to local schoolchildren. It’s a great way to connect more people to our natural world, the park, the impacts we have, and how we can all help. 

Q: On a larger scale, how have you seen the National Park Service change over time?

Since the year I joined the service in 1987, the National Park Service has grown in leaps in bounds. Not only has the number of Park Service sites that are protected and managed grown, but the number of visitors has increased dramatically. It’s so wonderful to see so many people, from around the world, experiencing these wonderful places.  

So, in some ways there have big very big changes, but when you simmer it down, the NPS focus—the mission—is still the same: protecting our national treasures so that future generations can also enjoy them. The rangers working today are doing the same job I did twenty years ago—it’s just that the tools have changed a lot. 

Seasons of change in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Photo: Jeff Musick)

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job? What energizes you? 

For me, the word that calls to me most in “National Park Service” is the word “Service.” We are public servants, and I am humbled, honored, and privileged to work with the National Park Service to protect our national parks and to serve our visitors. Parks and people—I feel it’s why we’re here.  

Additionally, I have really enjoyed mentoring new rangers, helping them learn and understand the great responsibility to which they have agreed. It is an amazing “job” and career, and I’ve always felt it was both my responsibility and my privilege to help build the next wave of rangers that will carry the mission forward.  We are a team. 

Q: Think ahead to the next generation of national park goers. What advice do you have for today’s youth? 

With new gadgets, it is true that kids (and adults) are more tied to electronic devices than we’ve ever been before, but these also bring new opportunities to learn about nature and parks. No longer are national parks  just a number in the phone book—we can now get information out to people around the country—and the world—in a matter of seconds. What better way to connect great parks with people? 

From my perspective, I see kids getting involved in organized activities at a younger age. To me, this is a good way to encourage engagement, which can serve them well their entire life. I would encourage kids to find their place in exploring nature wherever they are, and in whatever their interest might be. 

Cuyahoga is a great place for kids of all ages and the activities you can get involved in here at CVNP are too numerous to list. As the Centennial tag goes, “Find your Park”. 

View of the valley at the Ledges Overlook (Photo: Tom Jones)

Q: CVNP has so many wonderful places. What is your favorite spot and why?

Wow, this is a tough one. I’ve hiked extensively in the park and there are hundreds of out-of-the-way places that are beautiful and intriguing.  Some of these are like tiny nuggets of gold that have not been brought to the light of day. Hiking to the top of a ravine that overlooks the valley… There’s just nothing like it. 

In addition, I’m a history buff at heart, so I’m fascinated by the canal era and the infrastructure related to that. Imagining the workers in the 1800s who hand-dug the canal from Cleveland to Portsmouth continues to captivate me. There’s always more to explore! 

Many thanks to Ranger Neff for her thoughtful words! If you have any questions you want to ask a park ranger, let us know at



November 5, 2015

Have you been lucky enough to spot a fox in Cuyahoga Valley National Park? Extremely secretive, super speedy, and exceedingly solitary, red and gray foxes are one of our national park’s more elusive mammals. 

It’s easy to picture the red fox—the park’s more common species—with its trademark rusty-red coat, black legs, white underbelly, and white-tipped tail. But what about the uncommon gray fox?

Red Vs. Gray Foxes 

A red fox shows off his long, bushy tail and red coat (Photo: ODNR/Jim McCormac)

Red foxes have distinctive silky red fur, elongated bodies, and long, fluffy tails with a white tip. Look for their black legs and ears, as well.  

Gray foxes have salt-and-pepper fur and a black stripe on their tails (Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

In contrast, a gray fox’s coat is a salt-and-pepper gray with a distinctive black stripe running from the base to the tip of his tail. Gray foxes also have another black stripe crossing their faces from nose to eye, orange ears and legs, and deep gray feet. 

You can most easily distinguish a gray fox from a coyote using its tail. Foxes have very bushy tails that are nearly as long as their bodies, whereas coyotes’ tails are shorter and less fluffy. 

Get to Know CVNP’s Foxes

Foxes inhabit a variety of habitats in our national park, including grasslands and woodlands such as in the Wetmore and Oak Hill trail systems or near Indigo Lake. As the weather turns cooler, you’re more likely to spot these critters as they hunt for their food among the fallen leaves—or snow. 

A fox spotted in the dark in CVNP (Photo: Doug Marcum)

Foxes aren’t known to be picky eaters. They munch on insects, vegetables, fruits, and small mammals. And forget any fear of heights—gray foxes can climb trees thanks to sharp, semi-retractable claws. 

Our upcoming winter season is the fox’s most active time. If you happen to be on a trail snowshoeing or hiking, you may come across their tracks in the fallen snow. During the winter, foxes mark their territory and emit a musky smell similar to a skunk. They will also mate in the winter.

Look for fox prints in mud on the trails—or in snow during the winter (Image: ODNR)

Unfortunately, foxes are becoming more and more uncommon in our national park. The intelligent, cunning, and ever-increasing coyote poses the largest predator threat to our red and gray fox population—but only if they can catch them. 

Have you spotted a fox in the park? Doug Marcum, a CVNP biological technician and graduate student studying wildlife ecology at Kent State University, is updating the park’s mammal inventory and wants to hear from you! Email him at to share your observations.

Content for this post comes from Doug Marcum and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  



October 29, 2015

Happy Halloween! In celebration of the spooky holiday this weekend, we’re taking a look at critters that some might find scary: bats. 

These remarkable animals are the only mammals capable of flight. They also play a huge role in keeping our insect populations in check. In the summer, some bat species eat more than 1,000 mosquitoes an hour! Despite their creepy reputation, bats are remarkable creatures that we hope you’ll learn to love.  

Bats typically emerge at dusk (Photo: NPS)

There are seven species of bats found in the Cuyahoga Valley. Here are some cool facts about bats in our national park: 

Bats use echolocation to catch insects (Photo: Pocono Environmental Education Center)

  1. Bats navigate in the dark by using objects to reflect sound. This process, called echolocation, helps bats avoid obstacles and catch insects in total darkness. To find their way, bats send out calls or clicks (mostly beyond the range of the human ear) and listen for the echoes bouncing off nearby objects. When searching for prey, they send out clicks at a relatively low rate—about 10-20 clicks per second. When they get close to catching their meal, they increase the rate, ending with the “terminal buzz”—up to 200 clicks per second!
  2. The hoary bat is the largest bat in Ohio—and in CVNP—with a wingspan measuring up to 17 inches. The second-largest is the aptly-named big brown bat. Even these larger bats are quite light and agile, and not the fearsome predators that many perceive them to be. (And don’t worry: Of the three species of vampire bats in the world—that is, bats who feed solely on blood—none are found in North America.)

    The Indiana bat is a federally endangered species (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
  3. The Indiana bat is the only federally endangered bat species found in the park. These bats tend to hibernate in large numbers in only a few caves, making them susceptible to human disturbance, pesticide use, habitat loss, and White-Nose Syndrome (see below for more information). Currently, work is being done throughout the nation to protect and expand critical habitat for these fuzzy critters.
  4. Some CVNP bats—including hoary bats and red bats—migrate to warmer climates for the winter, just like birds. Although little is known about their migration route or range, some red bats may fly all the way to Central America! Other bats hibernate through the winter, typically clustered together in caves.

    Red bats migrate long distances for the winter (Photo: ODNR/Chris Harshaw)
  5. Bats are insect-eating machines. A big brown bat can eat 1,200 mosquitoes each hour, and up to 8,000 insects each night! They catch bugs by swooping through the night sky and eating their dinner mid-air. Instead of swatting at bats, we should be thanking them: Without their help, we’d be overwhelmed by all of the pesky bugs at the Beaver Marsh, Ledges, and other places in the park.

Bats are suffering grave declines in CVNP and throughout the U.S. because of a deadly fungal infection called White-Nose Syndrome. The disease has been devastating to bats in North America, with some populations declining by more than 90 percent. Humans are not affected by the disease but can spread it by tracking fungal spores into caves or other bat habitats. Learn more >

You can help prevent the spread of White-Nose Syndrome by avoiding going into caves where bats hibernate, like Ice Box Cave along the Ledges Trail. While it may be disappointing to pass up a spelunking expedition, you’ll feel good knowing you’re helping to protect these extraordinary creatures. 

Have a safe, spooky, and fun Halloween, and we’ll see you out in the park! 



October 22, 2015

It’s here: fall in Cuyahoga Valley National Park! This season is arguably the best time to enjoy the park—crisp autumn air, spectacular fall colors, crunchy leaves on the trails. 

This week, we’ve put together a collection of CVNP trails where you can see a diversity of trees in their autumn finery. Even after the leaves fall, the trees of the Cuyahoga Valley have plenty to offer: bark that can be furrowed or smooth, statuesque branches, and impressive trunks rising toward the sky. Take an afternoon to explore and see what you can find! 

Six Trails to See Fall Foliage in CVNP

Haskell Run Trail

Witchhazel leaves turn a bright golden yellow or orange in fall (Photo: Oregon State University)

Length: 0.5 miles
Trail information & map > | Mobile-friendly version > 
Trees to look for: Hazelnut, witchhazel, oaks (white, red), sassafras, tulip poplar, red oak, white ash, sycamore

Check out the hazelnut and witchhazel trees near the trailhead at Happy Days Lodge and scattered uncommonly along the trail. On the south side of trail about 100 yards from trailhead, there’s a large black oak followed by a few medium sized white oaks and sassafras. Tulip poplars and red oak are common in this area, as well as a few white ash stands, particularly near the creek. A few large sycamores are also present near the west bridge on the trail. 

Oak Hill Trail 

Sylvan Pond on Oak Hill Trail (Photo: © Bruce Winges)

Length: 1.4 miles 
Trail information & map > | Mobile-friendly version > 
Trees to look for: Dogwood, oaks (pin, black, red), red maple, tulip poplar, bigtooth aspen, sassafras, shagbark hickory, white pine, white ash 

The boardwalk near the trailhead is lined with dogwoods, and a small stand of pin oaks holds sentinel at the trailhead. Patches of silky and flowering dogwoods are scattered elsewhere along the trail, particularly near Sylvan Pond. Red maples are common throughout the area, as are tulip poplars and bigtooth aspen, including some big tulip poplars and bigtooth aspen on the northern section of the trail. 

Medium-sized black and red oaks dominate the southeast section of the trail, and there are a few stands of sassafras and shagbark hickory along the southern section of the trail. This trail also passes through some stands of white pine, as well as dead white ash scattered along the trail.

Butler and Valley Trail Loop 

Red maple leaves show off their deep scarlet color (Photo: ODNR)

Length: 1.7 miles 
Trail information & map > | Mobile-friendly version > 
Trees to look for: Oaks (red, white), bigtooth poplar, tulip poplar, black gum, sassafras, walnut, red oak, black maple, sugar maple, dogwood

The northeast section of this trail has plenty of red oaks, white oaks, and bigtooth poplars, with the north central section supporting black gum, sassafras, and walnut (including a few big ones). Tulip poplars, red oaks, black maples, and sugar maples are common along the west and southern sections of the trail, including some large trees, particularly on the west section of the trail. A few patches of dogwoods are scattered along the trail, especially along edges of fields to the north and west. 

Boston Run Trail  

Enjoying the changing of the seasons on Boston Run Trail (Photo: NPS Collection)

Length: 3 miles 
Trail information & map > | Mobile-friendly version > 
Trees to look for: Tulip poplar, oaks (red, black, pin, chinquapin), red maples, sugar maples, yellow birch, witchhazel, hazelnut, bigtooth aspen, sassafras, dogwood

On the western section of this trail loop, look for tulip poplars, red oaks, and black oaks. Red maples are also common throughout the area, particularly along the north and east section of the loop. A few monster tulip poplars line the trail descending north to the creek, with yellow birch and witchhazel also common near the creek. A few, small hazelnut trees are present just north of the creek. Keep your eyes open for a few stands of gnarly pin oaks on the northeast section of the trail, as well as a cool stand of chinquapin oak. Sassafras is scattered uncommonly along the trail, and the south section near Route 303 supports a lot of silky and flowering dogwoods. Sugar maples dominate a small area where the trail emerges into the field near Route 303.  

Furnace Run Trail

Golden leaves on the black walnut (Photo: Oregon State University)

Length: About 0.3 mile immediately north of Everett Rd
Trail information & map > | Mobile-friendly version > 
Trees to look for: Walnut, oaks (black, white), elm, sugar maple, black maple

In this area, there are plenty of enormous trees to see! This short section of trail supports some very big walnuts, red oaks, black oaks, white oaks, and elms (both American and slippery). There are also a lot of sugar maples regenerating in the understory, as well as some black maples. 

Buckeye Trail (between Riverview Rd and Blue Hen Falls)

Blue Hen Falls is a great spot to visit along this trail section (Photo: Ed Toerek) 

Length: About 1 mile 
Trail information & map > | Mobile-friendly version > 
Trees to look for: Oaks (white, black, red), tulip poplar, witchhazel, sassafras, black cherry, beech, sugar maple

There are plenty of gorgeous trees to see on this trail, particularly giant white oaks and large tulip poplars. Sugar and black oaks are common in the section closest to Riverview Road, with black oak and red oak common throughout the area. The trail section near Blue Hen Falls has a lot of sugar maples, as well as tulip poplars, black cherry, beech, red oaks, and black oaks, as well as a few sassafras trees. The view at the falls is at its best in autumn, surrounded by sugar maples and other colorful trees in the area.

We hope you enjoy getting out into the park this autumn! Need help identifying any of these trees? Check out this guide from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources >

Many thanks to Chris Davis, CVNP Plant Ecologist, for help with this blog post! 



October 15, 2015

For six weeks this fall, a group of young adults is making their way through the Cuyahoga Valley to help build trails, restore native habitat, and support other park projects in partnership with the Conservancy. 

The seven members of the “Maple 6” team are part of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), a national service organization. Hailing from around the country, from California to New York, these young people are passionate about serving their communities.

Photos: NCCC

NCCC’s Maple 6 team has been serving together for several months already, traveling around the Midwest region to partner with nonprofits and other organizations. 

On September 23, ‬Maple 6 began their final round together with the ‎Conservancy. Much of their service so far has been focused on the East Rim mountain bike trail system. The tasks for their first day included naturalizing the trails by smoothing, leveling, and removing invasive Phragmites, also known as common reed. 

The team also installed strategic armored drainage systems to prevent erosion and trail flooding. On their first half-day alone, the team serviced about a quarter mile of the new trail.

The creation of the East Rim Trails is part of the TRAILS FOREVER initiative, a partnership of the Conservancy and National Park Service to preserve, protect, and enhance the trails of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. 

This project will benefit local communities with a new system of trails, eventually giving park-goers nearly 10 more miles to explore along the east side of the park. This intermediate- to expert-level off-road bicycle trail will be especially attractive for cyclists. Learn more about the East Rim Trail project >

Maple 6 members on the in-progress East Rim Trail with Ranger Becky Schmaltz (Photo: NPS/DJ Reiser)

Team member Luke shares his enthusiasm for this project, saying, "I am really looking forward to making significant progress on the East Rim trails. The location is breathtaking and will be an outstanding addition by adding a new and diverse element to Cuyahoga Valley National Park."

Keep an eye out for the NCCC Maple 6 team members this month to thank them for their service on behalf of CVNP! 



October 8, 2015

There are more than 100 miles of trails to explore in Cuyahoga Valley National Park… and that number is growing. One of the first projects to emerge from CVNP’s 2013 Trail Management Plan was a new loop connected to Furnace Run Trail. Now, the project is nearly complete!

Volunteers from the Cuyahoga Valley Trails Council (CVTC) have been hard at work this summer and fall to complete the new section, scheduled to open later this month. Thanks to all CVNP TRAILS FOREVER volunteers who are helping build a world-class trail system for our national park.

CVTC volunteers haul supplies for the new trail loop

The new loop measures about 0.7 miles and is connected to Furnace Run from the Everett Covered Bridge trailhead. In 2013 and 2014, CVTC volunteers and NPS staff began scouting and flagging the new trail section, identifying potentially wet areas and finding the best route. 

This summer, construction began in earnest. At their most recent work day on September 19, CVTC volunteers completed the following work: 

Spreading “trail mix” on a potentially wet section of trail 

Installing four rock steps at the road crossing

Installing rock for bridge abutments and two log check dams in the drainage creek to reduce erosion

Prepping handrail and bridge for future handrail installation

Additional work included installing two rock steps at the connection of the new trail to the existing trail and renovating 50 feet of existing trail benching on the hillside.

CVTC has also generously provided funding for all of the materials for this trail project. Without the generosity and hard work of all of the park’s TRAILS FOREVER volunteers, the trails of CVNP simply could not exist. Thank you!

Photos: Mike Kosmyna, CVTC



October 1, 2015

Winding waterways, sprawling woodlands, rolling hills, and great views—Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the perfect backdrop for your next run, and fall is a great season to get out there. 

But if you’re a beginning runner, where do you start? And how do you build a successful running regimen? Try these tips for finding your footing along CVNP’s many trails:

Boston Run Trail (Photo: Sara Guren)

1. Tailor Your Training to Trails: The most important thing for new trail runners is to slow down. Plan on going at a slower pace than you would on a road, since you’ll be facing more varied terrain and obstacles. Going slow is especially important as you learn to keep your footing on trails, so pay attention to where you’re going so you don’t hit a root or rock and trip, fall, or sprain your ankle. You should also plan to hike uphill sections rather than run or sprint them so you don’t burn up all your energy before you’re done.

2. Dress for the Weather: You wouldn’t ski without goggles, gloves, and a warm hat. Take the time to find good running shoes and breathable, aerobic clothing. You don’t have to spend a fortune to find gear that works for you. Over time, running shoes do break down, so remember to replace them after about 400 miles to avoid injury. In the winter, wear layers to keep warm, and avoid bulky fabrics that will make you sweat.

Towpath Trail (Photo: Tom Jones)

3. Vary Your Workouts: Once you build up your endurance, keep things fresh by remembering to switch up your workouts. For a challenging hill workout, check out Plateau Trail or Salt Run. For less intense, “fun run” days, consider Pine Grove Trail or the historic Towpath Trail. Remember to have rest days, too! Consider a relaxing stroll in the national park on your off days.

4. Register for Races: There’s no turning back once you register for a local race. Participating in races is an excellent way to stay motivated, support causes, and add to your running wardrobe. The Conservancy’s annual Fall Running Series supports maintenance of running, biking, and hiking trails and is always a fantastic way to explore new areas of the park. Learn more >

Perkins Run (Photo: NPS/DJ Reiser)

5. Find a Running Buddy: Many runners enjoy the friendly competition (and motivation) of running with a friend or running group, like the Crooked River Trail Runners. Ask your local running shop for suggestions on finding a group that works for you. Many stores offer weekly group runs or can point you in the right direction.

6. Monitor and Reward Your Progress: Consider keeping a running journal or wearing a fitness monitor. Make sure to treat yourself after a job well done. Perhaps a snack at one of our Trail Mix stores like seasonal ice cream or a homemade granola bar? 

Boston Run Trail (Photo: NPS/DJ Reiser)

7. Be a Good Trail Steward. If it's wet or muddy, stay off the trails for the day. Leaving footprints in wet mud can damage the trails and require work to repair. Wet spots also force runners and hikers off-trail, which unnecessarily widens the path and flattens nearby plants and tree seedlings. If it's wet, take a day off and enjoy the rest!

8. Lock It Down: We make time for so many things in our busy lives, and exercise should certainly be one of them. Schedule your runs like you would any other appointment and make sure you stick to it.

9. Have Fun: Runner’s high is a real thing, so find the CVNP trail that works for you, fill up your water bottle, and get out there!



September 24, 2015

There's a lot of temptation for kids to spend most of their time indoors these days. Between their phones, Instagram, and Netflix, it's easy to forget about the wider world beyond the screen. 

Time outdoors is not only physically healthier for kids, though: It's a great way to lower stress, make stronger friends, and have old-fashioned fun. Luckily, there's a national park right around the corner here in northeast Ohio that makes it easy! Check out some of the benefits of getting kids outdoors and ideas for getting them there below. 

Why Go Outside? 

Photo: NPS Ted Toth

Spending time outdoors goes beyond maintaining a healthier body weight and stronger muscle tone—especially in children. Some studies have shown that children who spend at least 60 minutes outside each day have better eyesight and distance vision, largely due to taking their eyes off glowing phone, tablet, computer, and TV screens. Time outside also encourages higher levels of creativity, as well as stronger critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. 

Photo: Rick McMeechan

The benefits don't stop there. Swapping structured, indoor activity for imaginative play outdoors also aids in:

  • Increasing levels of Vitamin D, which helps ward off heart disease, diabetes, and other major health problems.
  • Reducing ADHD symptoms.
  • Achieving higher standardized test scores.•Lowering stress levels.
  • Enhancing social bonds and developing compassion.

Creative Ideas for Outdoor Family Fun in CVNP

Photo: NPS/Ted Toth

So how can you ensure the little ones in your life are reaping the full benefits of the great outdoors? Try one or more of these activities in Cuyahoga Valley National Park:

  1. Take a hike and spend time observing the sights and sounds around you, including flowering plants, scurrying creatures, falling leaves, and towering trees. Make up songs and rhymes about the things you are experiencing.
  2. Perform a scavenger hunt, but make sure to leave items untouched and left behind! 
  3. Bring along your field guide and seek out featured birds, plants, and animals. You can check out past blog posts for ideas about what to look for. 
  4. Engage in some good old fashioned make-believe. Pretend you’re early settlers, curious explorers, or working farmhands.
  5. Pick a spot in the national park and make it “yours.” Return to it frequently to see how the seasons affect the landscape. (You can even sponsor an acre of the national park with the Conservancy!)
  6. Keep a journal of your adventures together and add photographs and illustrations.

Above all, make outdoor time a priority and a special occasion. For more ideas and places to go, browse our Outdoor Adventures webpages and have your child plan your next big adventure. Or, check out the children's activities in the park’s fall Schedule of Events. See you out in the park!

Source: National Wildlife Federation 



September 17, 2015

Sweltering heat, chilly temperatures, rain, sunshine… What will be next for us here in northeast Ohio? Despite the daily weather roller coaster here in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, we’re starting to see signs of the annual fall bird migration. 

This fall, you can spot songbirds (including many warblers), shorebirds, and waterfowl throughout the park as they travel south for winter. Although their plumage isn’t quite as bright as during the spring migration, there are still plenty of gorgeous birds to see. Take some time to explore CVNP this month for these beauties! 

Here are a few of our favorite fall migrants and where to spot them: 

Blackpoll Warbler 

Photo: Sandy Teliak (USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)

A relatively small songbird, the blackpoll warbler has an olive-green crown, nape, and upperparts streaked with black. In the fall, they lack the black cap present during breeding season, so look for the broad white wingbars. 

Part of the blackpoll warbler's fall migratory route is over the Atlantic Ocean from the northeastern United States to Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles, or northern South America. This route can be nearly 2,000 miles over water, requiring a potentially nonstop flight of up to 88 hours! 

You can find these small birds in a variety of forest, woodland, scrub, and brushy habitats, such as Station Road Bridge, Oak Hill Trailhead, and the Wetmore Trail system. 

Wood Duck 

Photo: Rick McMeechan

Male wood ducks are chestnut and green with bright white markings. Females have a distinctive crested profile and delicate white pattern around the eye. These waterfowl are present in CVNP during the summer, but their numbers increase dramatically during the fall. Sometimes you can see as many as 20 wood ducks congregating in one spot!

Visit the park in the early morning to see flocks on their way south, especially in October. You’re mostly likely to spot them in wetland areas and ponds, such as around Indigo Lake, Beaver Marsh, and Stumpy Basin.

Black-Throated Green Warbler

Photo: Bill Thompson

The black-throated green warbler has a bright yellow face, black throat, olive crown and back, white belly, and two white wingbars. These bright birds feed primarily on insects and insect larvae, so you can frequently find them hopping around on tree branches, looking for food. They sometimes also hover in mid-air to pluck insects from leaves and branches. 

Look for black-throated green warblers in woodlands, particularly near wetlands, such as near Beaver Marsh and along the Towpath Trail toward Ira Trailhead. 

Yellow-Rumped Warbler   

Photo: Joan Gellatly

Yellow-rumped warblers are fairly large, full-bodied warblers with a large head, sturdy bill, and long, narrow tail. They are perhaps the most versatile foragers of all warblers. You're might see them fluttering out from a tree to catch a flying insect, but in the fall, they're quick to switch over to eating berries. 

You can see yellow-rumped warblers in open areas with fruited shrubs or scattered trees, such as along the Towpath Trail north of the Boston Store Visitor Center. 

The park hosts a number of fall bird walks where you can join a park ranger to view migrating warblers and other species in the Cuyahoga Valley, including the fall bird census this Saturday (September 19, 7:30 a.m. at NPS Headquarters Trailhead). Check out the park's Schedule of Events for more information. See you out in the park! 

Content adapted from



September 10, 2015

We’ve just begun a new school year at the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center (CVEEC)! As hundreds of students pour onto the campus in the next few weeks, we’re welcoming our newest field instructor interns for the 2015-2016 school year. 

From the sweltering heat through the bitter cold, field instructors brave all of elements to teach children about nature in our national park. This week, take a moment to meet these fantastic young educators:

Petra Augustinova 
College: Comenius University
Major: Biology, Environmental Education
Fun Fact: Born and raised in Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia 

Sarah Baehr
College: Kalamazoo College
Major: Environmental Studies
Fun Fact: Studied abroad in Austria and Thailand 

Sam Harsh

College: Ball State University
Major/Minor: Natural Resources, History
Fun Fact: Interned for a summer at Grand Canyon National Park

Jay Hillery

College: John Carroll University
Major: Environmental Science 
Fun Fact: Worked as a craft brewer for Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. this past summer

Emily Moore

College: Hiram College
Major: Middle Childhood Education
Fun Fact: Loves whitewater rafting, rock climbing, & backpacking in the Rocky Mountains

Melanie Templeton

College: Oakland University
Major: Biology 
Fun Fact: Most recently worked as a science educator at the Detroit Zoo

Kyle Tibbett

College: Lewis & Clark College
Major: Environmental Studies 
Fun Fact: Hails from Sacramento, California and loves fly fishing

Whitney Rappole

College: College of Wooster
Major: Political Science 
Fun Fact: Practiced law in Georgia before moving to Ohio

Mike Vermeulen

College: Pacific Lutheran University 
Majors/Minor: Geosciences, Environmental Studies, Anthropology 
Fun Fact: Hiked several months on the Appalachian Trail



September 3, 2015

Through October 31, you can vote daily for Brandywine Gorge Trail to win a new bridge! Michelob ULTRA and the American Hiking Society will give $25,000 for the two top-voted trail projects in the country—and we need YOUR votes. 

The people of northeast Ohio know how to band together for a cause—just think back to the creation of this national park in 1974. Today, we need your help in voting every day for this fantastic trail project in CVNP. Make the voting page your homepage, and let’s show the world how much we love our trails! 

Cast your first daily vote >

The Brandywine Gorge Trail project has been nominated for the Superior Trails grant program, sponsored by Michelob ULTRA and the American Hiking Society. Ten trail projects from around the country will compete for funding, driven by your online votes. 

Brandywine Creek meanders more gently in the fall (Photo: Andrew Gacom)

If Brandywine Gorge Trail is one of the top two projects, CVNP will receive $25,000 to complete the new bridge in the summer of 2016.  

CVNP welcomes over two million visitors each year. A popular first stop is Brandywine Falls, the tallest waterfall in the park. Brandywine Gorge Trail leads visitors to the falls and features some of the best spring wildflowers and exposed geology in the park. Read more about the trail >

Brandywine Falls: a 65-foot drop over Berea Sandstone onto layers of shale (Photo: Andrew Gacom)

As you near the falls boardwalk, the trail crosses Brandywine Creek. A bridge across the creek was originally built in 2009, but severe flooding in June of 2014 moved a foundational pier and caused the bridge to collapse. 

Several temporary bridge crossings have been installed during the past year, but they are also regularly washed out during heavy storms. Today, there is no temporary crossing, cutting off the popular hiking loop from Brandywine Falls. 

Temporary bridge crossings have been washed away during heavy storms 

By voting for Brandywine Gorge Trail during the Superior Trails campaign, you’ll help fund a much-needed new bridge for the park and save hikers from fording the creek. 

A hiker fords Brandywine Creek earlier this summer

Based on soil borings of the area, the new bridge pier will be a floating slab, firmly secured with pile drivings. The design of the new pier will ensure its longevity.

If the park receives funding, visitors can enjoy this essential piece of the beloved Brandywine Gorge Trail. Can we count on you to help?  

Vote now >

Make sure you bookmark the voting page to vote every day. Check out the Conservancy’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and to share the campaign with your friends, too. Thanks for your support! 



August 27, 2015

It’s early in the morning at the Beaver Marsh in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The sun is barely popping over the horizon when—splash—there’s movement in the lily pads! A sleek otter slides lazily through the water. You watch for a few minutes before he moves on, enjoying the warmth of the sun and looking for a cool spot to spend the day.

The return of river otters to CVNP is a remarkable sign of the park’s environmental health. Visit the Beaver Marsh and other wetland areas late this summer for a chance to spot one of these playful critters—we’ll show you how.

The Return of the Otters

The return of river otters to CVNP is a sign of the park’s improving health. Here, these two otters take a break from their escapades in the park. (Photo: Jeffrey Gibson)

River otters are native to Ohio and were plentiful centuries ago. By the early 1900s, however, they had completely disappeared from the state, due to habitat destruction and hunting. 

In 1986, the Ohio Division of Wildlife began re-introducing otters to major rivers around Ohio. The seven-year project transplanted otters from southern states to thrive once more throughout Ohio. 

A river otter breaks through thin ice in CVNP in the early spring (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

By 2002, their population had rebounded so much that they were removed from the state’s endangered species list. Today, river otters can be found in two-thirds of Ohio’s counties.

In November of 2013, a pair of otters was discovered within CVNP boundaries, and we’ve welcomed them with open arms ever since. Because of their sensitivity to chemicals in the water, their return is a wonderful sign of CVNP’s rebounding environmental health.

River Otters 101

A group of otters swimming together is called a “raft!” (Photo: Brandon Wiese)

River otters are talented swimmers, with long, tapered bodies and short, sleek, dense fur. While designed for the water, they are also agile on land, and build their burrows close to water’s edge near rivers, lakes, marshlands, or similar ecosystems.

In the early evening and throughout the night, otters are very active as they hunt for fish and other aquatic animals. In water, they’re so fast that they have few natural predators.

Two otters having a conversation in the Cuyahoga Valley (Photo: Rick McMeechan)

Otters are about four feet long, with dark brown or gray fur, a white “mustache,” and whitish cheeks. If you get close enough, you might be able to see their webbed feet, which help them maneuver expertly through the water.

The mink is easily confused with a river otter, but you can tell them apart primarily by their size: Minks are only about 1.5 feet long, with completely dark brown fur and a distinctive white patch under their chins.

How to Spot Otters in CVNP