In the mid-1800s, the city of Cleveland began using nonrenewable resources to build businesses and help grow the economy of the local area.
John D. Rockefeller was the leader of oil refinement at that time. The different refineries would send pollutants into the air that would cause harm to the Cuyahoga River. At that time however, oil was used to convert it into kerosene or paraffin therefore, Rockefeller disposed of the oil that he did not use by putting it into the river. This could be what inevitably caused the Cuyahoga River to become a dirty body of water filled with waste. A lot of Rockefeller’s machinery was made of wood, so this added more waste to the river and the ecosystem. Michigan State University researcher Jonathan Wlasiuk explained in an interview that Rockefeller believed that this pollution was the cost of doing business. Many people who were living in the Cleveland area reported that they could taste petroleum in the water. It is very unfortunate that one man’s greed possibly jeopardized the health of thousands of Clevelanders throughout the city.
The history of the Cuyahoga River before it burned in 1969 is really important because it helps us understand the river more. William Donahue Ellis had an amazing quote in his book called The Cuyahoga. The quote is important because it questions us as to whether we should blame ourselves for the shortcomings of the river: “Many a man is made by a river. But the Cuyahoga was made by men. It does not flow through oil fields, rubber plantations, nor iron-ore regions, but men made it the capital of oil, coal, rubber, and iron. Men who built refineries along its banks pulled the crude oil in from Pennsylvania, and the Cuyahoga became petroleum headquarters.”
It is interesting that Ellis made this comment in the book because humans are reforming the river today. On October 4 there was a ceremony where the surrounding community crowned the Cuyahoga River as the latest Ohio water trail. There were even poems that were written about the Cuyahoga River that were read at the ceremony.
Therefore, kayaking and recreation in the Cuyahoga River will be safer and more accessible than ever before.
Here is a video that showcases five good places to kayak in the Cuyahoga River.