Cuyahoga River
American Heritage Rivers

The Cuyahoga flows for 100 miles, through the cities of Akron and Cleveland before emptying into Lake Erie. The river supports one of the most densely populated and industrialized urban areas in America. In 1969, the Cuyahoga became a stark symbol of water pollution when oil slicks on the river's surface caught fire. The burning river captured the attention of the nation and became a rallying point for passage of the Clean Water Act. Through new laws and new partnerships, water quality on the river has improved dramatically, and today the Cuyahoga River and the communities it supports are experiencing a rebirth.

River Resources

The Cuyahoga River's accessibility by ship, train, and truck helped make Cleveland a major manufacturing and shipping center. The Port of Cleveland is the third largest port on the Great Lakes and one of the nation's largest overseas ports, moving cargo to and from 100 ports worldwide. The cleanup of the Cuyahoga has provided significant opportunities for economic development, most notably along Cleveland's waterfront, now home to the Great Lakes Science Center and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Land along the Cuyahoga ranges from lush marshes at the headwaters, to rolling hills of beech, maple, oak and hemlock, to the urban neighborhoods of Cleveland. The Cuyahoga River valley is a unique biological crossroads in the transition zone between the Central Lowlands to the west and the Appalachian Plateau to the east. The many city, county, and national parks located along the river and its tributaries include the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area and the 19,000-acre Cleveland Metroparks system.

Community Action Plan

The Cuyahoga River Action Plan is focused on balanced planning of economic and environmental uses of the river and the surrounding landscape. Currently four partnerships, which include community-based organizations, nonprofit organizations, water quality agencies and local governments, are operating to restore the watershed. Each concentrates on different aspects of the river, dealing with such issues as water quality and habitat restoration, expanded recreation, historic preservation, land conservation, and economic development. Designation as an American Heritage River will support efforts to bring these four partnerships together in a coordinated effort to restore and revitalize the watershed.


Theodore Esborn, Cuyahoga River Remedial Action Plan, Cleveland, OH (216) 241-2414

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