The Cuyahoga River has recently become a very appealing river to people looking for a place to canoe or kayak. Matthew Fredmonsky is with the Keelhauler’s Canoe and Kayak Club and he’s been paddling the river for over six years. He said the river is becoming a favorite among paddlers.
“A lot of our members live in Northeast Ohio. We either grew up learning on the Cuyahoga or we’ve come into this area and we’ve kind of adopted it as our hometown river,” said Fredmonsky, “We spend a lot of time not just paddling and enjoying it but doing things to serve as stewards.”
Fredmonsky said there’s a lot that goes into stewardship, including cleanups, paddling sessions, hiking trips and advocating for the river at meetings. Many other groups have emerged as stewards of the Cuyahoga.
Friends of the Crooked River advocate for the removal of dams, like the Gorge Dam set to be removed in 2023. Share the River promotes increased recreational training and use along the river and this summer hosted Paddlefest, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the river catching fire in 1969 in which canoers and kayakers paddled across the same stretch that was engulfed in flame 50 years before.
Fredmonsky also mentioned the Cuyahoga River Water Trail, a proposition from several stewards of the Cuyahoga that could increase public access to the river and promote economic development and boost tourism in communities along the Cuyahoga. The trail is divided into five sections which run from the headwaters all the way to the mouth where the river empties into Lake Erie in Downtown Cleveland. But Fredmonsky said he hasn’t made it up that far yet.
“Being a white water paddler, the section that my friends and I like to paddle the most is the section through Cuyahoga falls there’s what’s called the upper falls which are from Portage trail Bridge all the way down to essentially where the dam pool lake is now, which is where the Gorge Dam is,” Fredmonsky said. The lower Gorge is Fredmonsky’s other favorite part of the river, but the two are disconnected by the Dam.
Fredmonsky said removing the dam will connect the upper and lower sections of Cuyahoga Falls and he’s excited. “We’ll have a longer trip, possibly a more challenging trip. We’ll also have the original great falls of the Cuyahoga restored to a runnable nature,” Fredmonsky said.
Fredmonsky also likes to hike around the Cuyahoga with his family and he said new hiking opportunities will be showing up along the river soon. “Once the dam pool is gone people will be able to hike again along that stretch of the river that right now is underwater and explore some of the features there,” he said.
Fredmonsky said stewardship is essential to making sure these changes happen to the river and keeping the river clean and free for everyone who wants to use it.