Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Tips for Birding

Cuyahoga Valley National Park spans two counties. North of Sagamore Road the park is in Cuyahoga County. Approximately south of Columbia Road the park is in Summit County. Between these two roads, the county line runs along the Cuyahoga River; Cuyahoga County is west of the river, Summit County is east of the river.

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park, midway between the cities of Cleveland and Akron, has been designated an Important Bird Area by Ohio Audubon. It consists of about 33,000 acres and its borders encompass some units of both the Cleveland Metroparks and Metro Parks serving Summit County. It is bordered on the east by OH-8 and on the west by I-77. The major north-south roads within the park are Canal, Riverview, and Akron-Peninsula Roads; all are paved. Major east-west entries are from Rockside, Pleasant Valley, and Bath Roads and OH-82 and OH-303, although a number of smaller roads serve as well.

The park is about 22 miles long (north-south) and 5 miles wide at its greatest point. Its central feature is the northward flowing Cuyahoga River accompanied by the historic Ohio and Erie Canal, the well-maintained towpath, and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway. This riparian habitat is productive for birding. The valley walls just beyond the floodplain rise on each side of the river valley, providing extensive contiguous deciduous forest peppered with some stands of evergreens. There is limited maintained grassland and old farm fields and a number of small ponds. Wetlands are distributed throughout the valley. There is private and leased property interspersed throughout the park and on its variable borders so care should be taken not to infringe on people’s privacy.

Marked and maintained dirt hiking and bridle trails, including the Ohio Buckeye Trail, provide easy entry into bird habitats. The canal towpath is the most visible and easily accessed trail with entry points throughout the park. The most productive birding areas for either rarities or numbers of birds are the trails at Station Road, the Ritchie Ledges trail at Happy Days Visitor Center, and the boardwalk at Ira Road. Note that the railroad tracks used the Cuyahoga Valley Railway are closed to entry. In addition, the flood plain and marsh area at the Jaite Headquarters at Riverview and Vaughn Roads provides its own rarities from time to time. The Brecksville Reservation and Deep Lock Quarry can provide pleasant surprises. Other popular birding areas include the trails at Horseshoe Pond, Oak Hill Road day use area, the Wetmore Road bridle trails, and the towpath north and south of Boston Store. Birding is less productive north of Pleasant Valley Road.

There have been 240 species documented in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. About 110 species nest in the valley and up to 60 species can be found in the winter. A printed checklist is for sale at the visitor centers.

The park is open year-round for birding but the visitor centers are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

Easily accessible parking areas throughout the park, most of which are paved; some parking lots south of OH-303 are gated between dusk and 7:30 am.

The Cuyahoga National Park offers bird walks throughout the year at various locations within the park. These bird walks are announced in the Schedule of Events (the park’s newsletter), which is available at all visitor centers or online. In addition, there are Sunday morning bird walks at Station Road in the Cuyahoga National Park for six weeks in the spring to tally the spring migration. There are spring, fall, and Christmas bird censuses open to the public. The Cuyahoga National Park, typical of any national park, provides a diversity of programs throughout the year.

There are many biking trails in the area, with the towpath trail extending into Cleveland; two downhill ski resorts and cross-country trails; four golf courses; Blossom Music Center, the summer home of the Cleveland Orchestra; Hale Farm and Village. Canal Way Scenic Byway runs through the park. The Cuyahoga River is designated a Heritage River. The CVNP reflects the era of the Ohio Canal and has a number of historic buildings to visit. Several bed and breakfasts and one youth hostel exist and major hotels are abundant in nearby areas.

Also, see Cuyahoga Valley National Park website
BirdWatchingDaily website

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a stop on the Lake Erie Birding Trail.

Birds of Interest

Bald Eagle, Northern Shrike, Common Merganser, American Tree and White-throated Sparrows.
Olive-sided Flycatcher, Mourning Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Wilson’s Snipe, American Woodcock.
Hermit Thrush; Pine, Cerulean, Yellow-throated, Chestnut-sided, Canada, Kentucky, Blue-winged, Hooded, and Prothonotary Warblers; Yellow-breasted Chat, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Grasshopper and Savannah Sparrows, Bobolink, Sora, Virginia Rail, Orchard Oriole, Broad-winged and Red-shouldered Hawks, Acadian Flycatcher, Brown Creeper.
Fox Sparrow, Bald Eagle.

Station Road: Prothonotary Warbler, Hooded Merganser, Red-headed Woodpecker, Brown Creeper, Great Blue Heron (Rookery), Wood Duck, Cerulean and Yellow-throated Warblers.

Brecksville Reservation: Pine Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Acadian Flycatcher, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Broad-winged Hawk, Veery.

Happy Days Visitor Center, Ritchie Ledges: Blue-headed Vireo, Hermit Thrush, Wood Thrush, Canada Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Acadian Flycatcher, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, Winter Wren.

Ira Road boardwalk: Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Virginia Rail, Sora, Marsh Wren, Green Heron, Wood Duck.

Jaite: Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-breasted Chat, Brown Thrasher, Willow Flycatcher, American Woodcock.

Wetmore Road (Langes Run trail): Yellow-breasted Chat, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Alder, and Willow Flycatchers.

Horseshoe Pond: Blue-winged Warbler, Purple Finch, Barred Owl
Richfield, at the NW intersection of I-271 and OH-303: Bobolink, Savannah and Grasshopper Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlark, Sedge Wren

Bath Road, between Riverview and Akron-Peninsula Roads: Great Blue Heron colony along side of road, paved pull-off.

Note that some of these species are present in small numbers and may be difficult to find.

About this Location

Though a short distance from the urban areas of Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley National Park seems worlds away. The park is a refuge for native plants and wildlife and provides routes of discovery for visitors. The winding Cuyahoga River gives way to deep forests, rolling hills, and open farmlands. Walk or ride the Towpath Trail to follow the historic route of the Ohio & Erie Canal.

Warning: All areas of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park are prone to deer ticks from the early spring until late fall, so prepare accordingly before birding.

Restrooms at locations identified on Cuyahoga Valley National Park map. Most areas have non-flush toilets; there are flush toilets available at the Pine Hollow parking lot on Quick Road and the Virginia Kendall Lake lodge building.

Notable Trails

There are many day hike options in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Cuyahoga County
Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail

Summit County
Brandywine Gorge Trail
Boston Run Trail
Everett Road Covered Bridge Trails
Ira Road Beaver Marsh Towpath Trail
Oak Hill Trails
Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail
Ritchie Ledges Area Trails
Station Road Trails
Virginia Kendall Lake Trails
Wetmore Tails

Content from Cuyahoga Valley National Park website and Ohio Ornithological Society