LENGTH: 48 miles
SOURCE: Bass Lake, Munson Township
MOUTH: Lake Erie, EastlakeA natural attraction among suburban restaurants and boutiques, the Chagrin River’s waterfall cascades through the heart of Chagrin Falls’ walkable main street. But other than Jekyll’s Kitchen, a restaurant overlooking the falls, two main reservations — South Chagrin Reservation and North Chagrin Reservation — and various small preservations line the scenic corridors, including the rustic trails at Whitesburg Park and the steelhead fishing at Daniels Park.
EXPLORE: Twenty miles from downtown Cleveland, the Hach-Otis State Nature Preserve Sanctuary in Willoughby Hills is a dense, 81-acre forest of beech, maple and oak trees painted by pink lady’s slipper orchids and red trilliums. Here, visitors can see how the glacial clays above the shale along the hillsides have been eroded by the traipsing bend of the Chagrin.
FIN, FEATHER, FUR: When a remnant population of native Ohio brook trout, a species throught to be threatened, was found in a small stream near the Bass Lake preserve, the Geauga Parks District eventually reintroduced the yellow and reddish fish throughout the river. “The native Ohio brook trout was thought to be gone,” says Christina Znidarsic, associate director of the Chagrin River Watershed Partners. “They were actually in the cold water habitat streams of the Chagrin.” The brook trout need those streams to survive, and the Chagrin has more in its watershed than anywhere else in Ohio.
EXPERT TAKE: The river’s east branch transects Kirtland’s Holden Arboretum. Home to the Chagrin’s most captivating tributaries, the crown jewel is Stebbins Gulch, a deep ravine with its own microclimate. “It’s so high quality that it’s only [accessible] by guided tours,” says Linda Moran, administrative manager of Chagrin River Watershed Partners. “If you have a chance to get in on it, you won’t forget it.”