If the Cuyahoga County river could talk, it’d gurgle of bygone days, when mules and horses tugged boats along its canal and union soldiers trained at Camp Cleveland. The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail seeks to follow the canal towpath as accurately as possible, preserving the history of what was once an ingenious mode of transportation.
In 2021, the more than 100-mile spine saw three connectors reach completion: Red Line Greenway, Wendy Park Bridge and Whiskey Island Trail. Here are a couple of spots where the Towpath hosts its finest treasures.
Bald Eagle Nest at the Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation
Roughly a mile south of the Harvard Avenue Trailhead, the Towpath Trail snakes along the Cuyahoga River, arching around Bald Eagle Bend in the Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation. Every year since 2017, an active nest brings back a convocation of eagles. November through early February sees an influx of returning juveniles. “We can have upwards of 20 eagles in the park,” says Cleveland Metroparks naturalist Jake Kudrna. “Yesterday, one of my coworkers came in and one of the eagles flew over her car.” Sightings increase in late fall during morning and evening.
Camp Cleveland Interpretive Area
In the Camp Cleveland Interpretive Area, an inviting swing overlooks downtown Cleveland on one side of the Towpath. On the other side, a replica Civil War cannon beams north. Once Cleveland’s largest training camp for Union soldiers and a hospital, the space is now a blissful patch of green with picnic tables and grills. “You could stand at the railing and watch a cargo ship navigating the twists and turns of the Cuyahoga River,” says Cleveland Metroparks historical interpreter Doug Kusak. Beyond, benches representative of barrack beds lay beneath a metal framework mimicking the size of the barracks.
The Towpath’s Scranton Flats section is thriving. In 2014, the area was restored to a nine-acre meadowland and 2,800 feet of natural shoreline. More than 60 fish species have benefited from the restoration, along with Clevelanders. “There’s a little pier that juts out that I see people fishing [on] — a couple years ago there was a gentleman who was there almost every day,” says Kusak. “[When] it’s close to sunset [you can] watch the city light up.” In the daylight, there’s a clear view of the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, the Guardians of Traffic and the Terminal Tower complex.