Most locals associate Cuyahoga Valley National Park, in northeastern Ohio, with the annual appearance of a nesting pair of Bald Eagles at Brecksville Reservation, a western section of the park. But as an Important Bird Area, Cuyahoga Valley is so much more. The park covers 22 miles of the winding Cuyahoga River between Cleveland and Akron. You’ll find forests, wetlands, fields in various stages of succession, ravines, and steep-sided valleys among other habitats. The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail runs through the heart of the park, providing easy access to prime birding areas.
Large numbers of warblers, tanagers, and other songbirds migrate through in spring and fall. Owls and raptors occur year-round, including Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, Barred and Great Horned Owls, and both red- and gray-morph Eastern Screech-Owls. In summer, look for Virginia Rail, Sora, and Bobolink and other grassland species. One of the more renowned areas for grassland birds used to resound with cheers for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Coliseum Grasslands, the former site of the Richfield Coliseum, which was demolished in 1999, is now filled with the songs of Henslow’s Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks. — Joshua Clark
Joshua Clark is a nature photographer. His work has been published by Audubon, the American Bird Conservancy, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. His images are also posted in our galleries.
Rolling hills, forests, grasslands, wetlands, marshes, river, and lakes.
Steep hills to flat grasslands. Paved towpath mainly flat, wheelchair-accessible.
About 200 species. Bald Eagle, Red-headed Woodpecker, Green and Great Blue Herons, Virginia Rail, Sora, Wood Duck, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, American Woodcock, Eastern Meadowlark, Bobolink, Henslow’s Sparrow, Barred and Great Horned Owls, Black-billed Cuckoo, Osprey, Hooded Merganser, Wood Thrush, Northern and Louisiana Waterthrushes, Wilson’s, Cerulean, Yellow, Hooded, Yellow-throated, Prothonotary, and other warblers, Scarlet Tanager.
When to go
Spring through fall.
Visitor center, nature centers, bookstores, trails, boardwalks, educational programs, scenic railroad, and restrooms throughout park. Bird walks on select Saturdays in spring. Park map on website.
Most of park open 24 hours a day; a few areas close at dusk. No entrance fee; donations to friends group Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park encouraged.
Bring bug spray and sunscreen in summer. Wear a hat and bring water. Cuyahoga Valley Railway uses railroad tracks several times a day; use caution.