In the late 1960s, industrial pollution and use of the Cuyahoga River had left the river toxic and recreation had virtually vanished. With the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, the river began to rejuvenate and recreational use began to balance with industrial use of the river.
Matthew Fredmonsky with the Keelhaulers Canoe and Kayak Club says that balance has shifted again.
“I think there’s an imbalance now. I think there’s more recreational use than there is industrial use of the river.” Fredmonsky said, “I’ve paddled every stretch except for the very mouth where the river dumps into Lake Erie, but I have a lot of friends who paddled that section.”
Fredmonsky said the mouth of the Cuyahoga near the Flats in Cleveland sees the most industrial use, but even that section is becoming more appealing to canoers and kayakers.
“Whether it’s the rowing teams and clubs down there, people who are using motorized boats on the river there. But every other stretch of the river is purely recreational.” He said.
While recreational use of the river has risen, there are still some challenges for the river to overcome, including the removal of the Gorge Dam slated for 2023 and sewage plants which Fredmonsky said still dump into the river.
“I think there are far more people fishing, paddling, even swimming, tubing, boating. Finding all those different fun uses for the river more so than people are using it for commerce.” Fredmonsky said.
Stewards of the Cuyahoga like the Keelhaulers, Friends of the Crooked River and Share the River all promote paddling on the river and host events to encourage people to use the Cuyahoga for recreation.