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NATIONAL PARKS: Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Story and photographs by Jerry Ginsberg

By August 14, 2014May 10th, 2022No Comments
Lovely Bridalveil Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.

Bridalveil Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Now that our long languorous summer is beginning to wane, particularly in the northern states, it is time to start thinking about fall photography. Let’s try something a little different.

Cuyahoga Valley, wedged between the urban areas of Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, is not your typical national park. Carved out of multiple semi-urban areas, several great tracts of land are now protected within the boundary of this relatively compact 33,000 acre park. Just two of the many highlights included here are wonderfully restored stretches of the historic Ohio & Erie Canal and the Cuyahoga River, once so badly polluted by chemical waste that it regularly caught fire.

Having been cobbled together from several disparate elements, when this park was established in 2000 it was part of an effort to bring the national park experience to more people. Located within a day’s drive of perhaps 40% of the American population, Cuyahoga Valley offers a wide variety of fun and great photography. This is particularly true around early-mid October when the woods are ablaze with brilliant autumn color.

Lovely Bridalveil Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.

Bridalveil Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Among the many great subjects here are the very accessible waterfalls. For some reason all of their names seem to begin with a ‘B’. There are Brandywine, Bridalveil, Blue Hen and Buttermilk. Most are reached via very gentle trails and easy walks. As the one exception to this, getting to Buttermilk Falls can be just a bit more tedious, but not really difficult. Sloshing around a bit in a few inches of water will afford you greater flexibility when composing your shots of Buttermilk Falls so wearing waterproof boots will be a definite plus.

Each and every one of these pleasant cascades is surrounded by wonderful forest backdrops. When Fall paints the trees in its warm autumnal hues, the combination is irresistible.

Luckily, both forest and waterfalls photograph best in the same light: nice soft overcast.

Then there are some actual locks still remaining from the bygone days when the Ohio and Erie Canal was the main highway of commerce here. As with all such canals, these locks were the means by which boats were raised and lowered to compensate for the change in elevation. One restored canal house alongside just such a lock today serves as a modern day visitor center.

Quaint Boston village with its charming barn and other historic buildings can provide some great compositions, as does the blazing red Everett Road covered bridge.

Everett Road covered bridge

Everett Road covered bridge

The Ledges area a bit farther south offers easy trails through a deeply eroded sandstone wonderland that is almost completely covered with deep green foliage. Make time to hike at least the main trail through the beautiful Ledges. Some of the best images here can be made when looking up from below the rim.

One experience to be enjoyed by railroad buffs is the picturesque Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. The best place to photograph the historic train, the conductors and engineers is the Peninsula Depot. The classic engine and passenger cars arrive slowly and can be photographed while still moving slowly and again when stopped. Once the train comes to a halt, you will have several minutes to shoot the railroad personnel and their activities before it departs again.

On my visits to Cuyahoga Valley NP I have always found it convenient to stay in one of the several modern motels along Rt. 8 in Macedonia. This same area also offers a selection of passable eateries. For those who will be flying in, your destination will be Hopkins Airport, Cleveland. Rent any passenger car: all of the roads in this park are well paved.

Jerry Ginsberg is a widely published freelance photographer and co-founder of Master Image Workshops. He is the only person known to have has photographed all 59 US National Parks with medium format cameras. E mail

More of Jerry’s work can be seen at