There are few things as satisfying as a summer day spent swimming and sunbathing on the mile-long sands of Mentor Headlands Beach State Park. Beside the mouth of the Grand River, the beach has remained a favorite summer destination for generations of Clevelanders.
Though seen as simply a spot for a respite by most, the area around the Grand River mouth has a rich history. The Erie Native American tribe used it as a seasonal gathering place. In August 1796, several months after he landed in what would become Cleveland, Moses Cleaveland wrote of the spot that “the land on which we went is as good as I ever seen in any country. On this river is an Indian corn [sic], etc., growing luxuriantly.” After white settlers claimed it, the area became known as one of several principal stops for cargo and passengers sailing along the bustling Lake Erie shoreline.
The canals and railroads brought that era to an end in the mid-19th century. By the early 1950s, the state government began acquiring land for a public beach, which opened as Painesville Beach State Park in 1955. Later renamed, Mentor Headlands still draws Clevelanders to splash in the water, walk the sand dunes, picnic beneath the cottonwoods and bask in the sun.